In March 3, 1916, the US Congress founded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, only a 12 years after the Wright Brothers' first ever flight. In 1920, they built their first wind tunnel. And in 1958, it became NASA.
Initially, NACA was created because Europe got way ahead of the US after the Wrights flew the Kitty Hawk. They soon got up to speed, however. They built their first wind tunnel—above—at Langley Field, Virginia, in 1920. It was pretty rudimentary, but it served them to build their next big wind tunnel: the Langley Laboratory's Variable Density Tunnel, in 1923. Only four years later, they built the Propeller Research Tunnel:
A full-scale Sperry M-1 Messenger being tested in NACA's Propeller Research Tunnel, in 1927
Their engineers did a great job, publishing results of their research for everyone in the aeronautics industry. By World War 2, their work on aircraft engineering had directly influenced some of the greatest airplanes ever to fly the Earth's skies, and the United States were way ahead of everyone else in aircraft development, both for prop and jet engine-powered planes.
By the end of 50s, NACA was already figuring out spaceflight. The Russians were ahead, however. That's when it was dissolved only to be reborn as the NASA we all love today. [NASA]