What Dreams We Have
The Wright Brothers and Their Hometown of Dayton, Ohio
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Chapter 10
Orville Wright

The Wright family, especially Orville and Katharine, felt that Wilbur's death was premature. The enormous amount of time and energy that Wilbur dedicated to defending the brothers' patent had worn him out and lowered his resistance, making him more susceptible to typhoid fever. In response, Orville and Katharine dedicated themselves to continuing the patent fight. In a way, this helped them deal with their grief. They were able to battle those individuals responsible for the drawn out litigation, and that they felt were, at least in part, responsible for their brother's early death.

While the patent litigation and business matters took up much of their time, Orville and Katharine also continued with the plans for the house in Oakwood which they named Hawthorn Hill. The three siblings had worked together with the architect to design a house that appealed to them all. All being unmarried, this was the home where they planned to spend the remainder of their lives along with their father who lived with the three of them at 7 Hawthorne Street. After Wilbur's death, Orville and Katharine made a few changes on the second floor, but the completed house was essentially the home that the three Wright children had designed together. [1]

Construction began in August 1912 with the leveling of the lot. The contracts for the construction of the house totaled $39,600. Orville paid close attention to the construction progress, and he often visited the site. He frequently brought his father, Katharine, or Lorin's children, and stopped at Hawthorn Hill as part of an outing in the automobile for the day. [2]

Hawthorn Hill was completed in the spring of 1914. Orville and Katharine traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for four days in January to purchase household furnishings from Berkey & Gay Furniture Company to be delivered in March. As with the exterior construction, Orville also carefully oversaw the interior decorating. He and Charles Grumbach finished the interior doors when the workmen could not match the exact shade of red he wanted. [3]

Orville also incorporated many state of the art ideas, some that were available on the market and others that he invented, into Hawthorn Hill, in an attempt to improve many appliances and features within the home. Many additions, though, proved to be more problems than enhancements. For instance, he installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls, but Carrie never used it. She found it to be more troublesome than helpful. Orville also hooked a special wiring system to the furnace to regulate it. The controls came through the floor into the living room, and Orville was the only one able to operate it. At one time, Orville installed a motor on the ice cream freezer. Previously, if salt was placed around the ice cream, he found it froze too fast. [4]

With their new home finally ready for occupancy, the Wrights moved on April 28. Orville was on a business trip to New York, so only Katharine and Milton were present the first night in Hawthorn Hill. Since the electricity was not connected until the following day, they improvised with candles. Orville returned from New York on April 30 and assisted with the move. It was not until the first week of May that all the family's possessions were completely removed from 7 Hawthorne Street and the new home set up. [5]

Hawthorn Hill
(Courtesy of Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives)

When the Wrights moved from the West Side, the neighborhood was different from the street car suburb they moved to in 1869. "An Architectural and Historical Investigation of the Mound-Horace Area" analyzed the changes that occurred within the area bounded by the alley just south of West Third Street, Broadway Street, West Fifth Street, and the alley to the east of Horace Street between 1880 and 1910. [6] In 1880 the majority of the residents resided in the western two-thirds of the area and most were native-born from European descent. The residents represented a wide range of occupations from working class to professional. There was no concentration of European ethnic groups in or near the neighborhood, but there were notable African American populations near West Fifth Street on Baxter Street and Fitch and Summit Streets. [7]

By 1900 the area was fully developed except for Horace Street. There were 231 white households that were both owner and renter occupied. As in 1880, there was a mix of occupations represented although there was no stratification by economic level. A County Commissioner lived on Williams Street next to a street car conductor and a doctor close to house painters. In a change from 1880, five African American families lived in the study area. Three of these families were on West Fifth Street near the African American homes identified in 1880. The other two families resided in the middle of the neighborhood. [8]

The African American population continued to increase, and by 1910 there were seventeen African American households or five percent of the population. The number of white households in the study area also increased to 326. As with the earlier years, the population represented a wide range of occupations and the various representatives of each economic class were scattered throughout the neighborhood. [9]

During the residency of the Wright family in West Dayton, the area changed dramatically. A popular section of Dayton for all economic levels, the population rose each year. As one of the original families in the neighborhood, the Wrights were soon surrounded by the congested development characteristic of an urban area. Around 1890, West Third Street began to develop as a commercial corridor and many new two and three-story buildings were constructed, such as the Hoover Block where Wright & Wright, Job Printers was located from 1890 to 1895. In addition, the Booth Building, Enterprise Building, Gunkel Block and Walters' Block were constructed along West Third Street about the same time. The residential areas, consisting of closely constructed homes similar to the Wrights' home at 7 Hawthorne Street, stretched to the north and south of the West Third Street corridor. [10]

When they vacated the home at 7 Hawthorne Street in 1914, the Wrights chose not to sell but to lease the home to Lottie Jones, their laundress. Milton gave the house to Katharine in 1900, and in the early 1920s she decided to sell to Lottie for $4,000. This sale was either never finalized or recorded, for the deed was not transferred to Lottie until 1929, after Katharine's death. Since Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture, much of the old furniture was left in the Hawthorne Street home for Lottie and her family. [11]

Lottie began working for the Wrights in the 1890s doing laundry once a week. She only experienced one problem with them, and that was when Katharine included a blanket in with the weekly laundry. Lottie asked Katharine for twenty-five cents above the usual charge to cover the cost of the blanket. Katharine did not believe the job was worth that much and eventually gave Lottie ten cents. After this disagreement, Lottie never intended to return to the Wright home, but the next week when her nephew did not pick up laundry from their home, Katharine contacted her. Lottie was such a good laundress that Katharine wanted to continue as her client. After returning, Lottie continued working for the Wrights, even after they moved to Hawthorn Hill. A valued employee, Lottie did both laundry and housekeeping at Hawthorn Hill. [12]

Lottie was not the only employee at Hawthorn Hill. Carrie continued to work for the Wrights. Being a longtime employee and almost a member of the family, Carrie was in charge of all the other household employees. Other employees came and went, but Carrie worked for the Wrights the longest and was the most appreciated. [13]

While Carrie oversaw the other employees, Katharine was definitely in charge of the household. As she had on Hawthorne Street, Katharine functioned as hostess for Orville and made many of the household decisions. In her thoughts, they had a relationship that almost resembled that of a husband and wife. Since both had never married, and with Wilbur gone, they depended upon each other and were good companions for they had many of the same friends and interests. [14]

While Katharine oversaw the operations at Hawthorn Hill, Orville turned his attention to The Wright Company. When Wilbur died, Orville, against his desires, became president of the company. While Wilbur had not been fond of assuming a management position in the company, he worked hard to achieve success. Orville, like Wilbur, was not interested in management but, unlike Wilbur, he also had no desire to rise to the challenge. Tom Crouch described the differences between the two brothers as follows:

Orville had almost none of his brother's restless ambition nor the energy and drive to succeed that came with it. Alone with his friends he was a delightful conversationalist; among strangers he grew silent and withdrawn. He had few illusions about his capacity for leadership. The thought of attending a board meeting, let alone presiding at one, was abhorrent to him.

Despite Orville's desire not to become president of The Wright Company, he found it necessary. By accepting the position, he could control the bulk of his investments while continuing to support the patent suits at company expense. In fact, Orville's dedication to the patent litigation decreased his available time to continue aeronautical research and become further involved in the company operations. As had Wilbur, he spent the majority of his time fighting to preserve the brothers' patent. [15]

While Orville was president of The Wright Company, he only occasionally worked at his office in the manufacturing building. Instead, he chose to work at the old bicycle shop at 1127 West Third. He also retained Mabel Beck, who previously worked for Wilbur, as secretary. Within Orville's first year in management, he instigated change by firing the factory manager, Frank Russell, whom he had never particularly liked. Grover Loening, a recent graduate of Columbia University, was hired to replace Russell in July 1913. [16]

When he arrived in Dayton, Loening quickly discovered that Orville was more interested in research rather than the business end of The Wright Company. Letters needing prompt attention were forwarded from the factory to Orville's office in the old bicycle shop and then remained unanswered for up to several weeks. In response, Loening began answering some of the letters himself, at least with a brief acknowledgment. While initially expecting Orville to be furious at his intrusion, Loening believed that he appreciated the assistance. [17]

Loening found that Orville's personality became vastly different when conducting a flight test from when he was in the office. More in his element flying an airplane than in the office, Orville became more decisive and happier. His tendency to procrastinate that was so prevalent in his daily business activities and decision making processes disappeared. [18]

Another sign of how little Orville enjoyed taking over the business end of the airplane company was his reluctance to travel. Pained by sciatica from the Fort Myer accident, he found travel to be bothersome. The movement of trains tended to aggravate his injuries, and he preferred to stay in Dayton in the comfort of his own home and surroundings. Despite his wishes, as president of a company and a central figure in the patent litigation, Orville was required frequently to travel. [19]

After much effort on the part of the Wright brothers in order to prepare for the case, Judge Hazel handed down his final decision in Wright v. Curtiss on February 27,1913. He upheld the Wrights' position and Curtiss was barred from manufacturing, selling, or exhibiting aircraft. Curtiss immediately appealed the decision and the ban was rescinded until the Federal Appeals Court ruled on the case. The court's decision was handed down on January 13, 1914. In agreeing with Judge Hazel's ruling, the court finally brought an end to the five-year fight that Wilbur and Orville had concentrated on so intensely. [20]

With a favorable decision in Wright v. Curtiss, the stockholders in The Wright Company began discussing how to collect royalties and operate the company that now had sole authority to manufacture and sell airplanes. The decision opened the way for a legal monopoly such as had been awarded to the Bell Telephone Company, but differences developed between the New York stock holders and Orville. Against a monopoly, Orville announced that everyone, with the exception of Curtiss, would be free to operate their businesses as before as long as they paid a twenty percent royalty to The Wright Company. [21]

Now that the patent war was over and still discontent as a businessman, Orville began to purchase all the stock from The Wright Company stockholders in the spring of 1914. This was a risk for Orville to take, for most of his own capital was tied up in The Wright Company, and he had to borrow money to make the purchases. Finally, he bought them all out except Robert Collier who was a personal friend and supported Orville's business decisions. [22]

Once he held the majority of stock, Orville's indecision that had been characteristic of his management style over the last two years vanished. His first action was to file a suit against the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Curtiss had uncovered a loophole in the Federal Appeals Court decision and was manufacturing airplanes that operated with one aileron at a time. Orville had discouraged The Wright Company board from taking action against Curtiss, but once he was in command, he had no hesitations. Orville devoted the next several months to working with the company lawyers and preparing depositions for the case. In addition, Orville also devoted his time to applying for an additional patent that incorporated changes and improvements developed on the airplane since 1906. [23]

With action taken on these two projects, Orville took the final step in his plan and put The Wright Company up for sale. In what proved to be the best example of Orville's business sense, he expertly handled negotiations with a group of interested New York financiers, and a deal was signed on October 15, 1915. Although the amount of the purchase was not disclosed, the New York Times reported that Orville received about $1.5 million. In addition, he would serve as chief consulting engineer for the first year of the new company's operations for a salary of $25,000. Orville did little to earn his consultant salary over the next year and the contract was not renewed. The final connection between Orville and the company he and Wilbur founded five years earlier was now gone. No longer did Orville need to worry about patent fights or the business matters that he so disliked. [24]

No longer associated with The Wright Company, Orville was free to spend his days researching and experimenting, his main interests. In November 1916, he severed one more link with the past and moved out of the old bicycle shop at 1127 West Third Street and into a laboratory at 15 North Broadway near the northwest corner of West Third and Broadway Streets. Wilbur and Orville had often thought of developing a laboratory space where they could once again conduct research and experiments on projects that interested them. In fact, they purchased the property at the corner of West Third and Broadway Streets in 1909 with plans to build a laboratory on the site. [25]

The Wright brothers acquired the property from Joseph Boyd, a fellow member of Wilbur's in the Ten Dayton Boys Club, and his wife, Anna. In 1912, Wilbur and Orville began constructing a four-story building on the site. The plans included stores on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors. In honor of their friend who sold them the property, Wilbur and Orville named the new building the Boyd Building. [26]

The laboratory that Orville began constructing in 1916 was located to the north of the Boyd Building along Broadway Street and the nearby alley. The building was a one-story brick building that contained a large workroom and a small office space. When it was completed in November, Orville moved from the old bicycle shop. Changing offices with Orville was his secretary, Mabel Beck. When Orville sold The Wright Company, he retained Mabel as his secretary, and she continued to work for him until his death in 1948. [27]

Orville's Laboratory
(Courtesy of NCR Archives at Montgomery County Historical Society)

As his secretary, Mabel became Orville's protection from visitors to his laboratory, even his family. She strictly guarded both her employer and his business affairs. The first step in contacting Orville was Mabel. Wilkinson Wright, Orville's grand-nephew, remembers Mabel as "a very unpleasant lady. She wasn't nice to anyone, even to Orville... She seemed to be a very bitter and unpleasant lady, and she was always there... guarding Orville I think more than he even wanted to be guarded." [28]

To enter the laboratory, one walked up a couple steps to the main door. Mabel always answered the door by opening it about six inches and standing in front of it. Wilkinson remembers that even his grandfather Lorin, Orville's brother, had problems getting admitted to the laboratory. Mabel would always leave him waiting on the front porch while she went to ask Orville if Lorin could enter. After a while Lorin found a solution to this routine:

[Lorin] was always, with ladies particularly, he was just very gracious. But when Mabel would open the door, he would speak. He would say, "Good morning Mabel," or "Good afternoon, Mabel," but he would step forward immediately, and she either had to get out of the way or get walked on. [29]

Susan Wright experienced a similar situation. The wife of Lorin's son, Horace, Susan stopped to visit "Uncle Orv" one day while her car was being serviced at a shop near Orville's laboratory. Susan asked Mabel if Uncle Orv was at the laboratory, and Mabel responded, "you mean Mr. Wright. I'll see if he's in." When Orville heard that Susan was waiting to see him, he immediately invited her into the workshop. Susan found that Mabel "tried to buffer everybody that came and to keep him private as much as possible." [30]

Orville worked at his laboratory six days a week from Monday through Saturday when he was in town. Mabel only worked from Monday through Friday, so Wilkinson found it much easier to visit Orville at the laboratory with his grandfather Lorin on Saturdays. Then the two of them would walk down the alley along the side of the building until they reached the double doors that led to Orville's workroom. Lorin would take out his pocket knife and knock on the door with it. Orville would appear shortly to let them in. [31]

Orville's laboratory space was a large room that looked like a machine shop. Large benches filled with tools and experiments lined the walls while one side of the room contained machines run on a line shaft. Having distanced himself from most aeronautical research and development with the conclusion of his contract as a consulting engineer for The Wright Company, Orville's experiments ranged in scope. While he continued with a few aviation projects such as a split-wing design for airplanes, Orville also spent time on improving existing products. [32]

From his visits to the laboratory, Wilkinson remembers Orville working on an automatic automobile transmission, a code typewriter with a million different combinations, and a mechanical potato peeler. The Wright family often tells the story of Orville's experiments with an automatic record changer. He devised his own record player that had a mechanical arm that reached for records arranged in slots and then set them on the turntable. Not working as expected, the new record player was breaking most of Orville's records by flinging them on the floor instead of placing them on the turntable. In need of more records, Orville went to all his relatives' homes requesting old records he could use to fine tune the machine. [33]

In many instances Orville attempted to improve new objects, feeling he could make them work better than the manufacturer. When he purchased an IBM electric typewriter for his secretary, Orville immediately took it apart; she never even had a chance to use it. Once he had it in pieces, Orville was unable to reassemble the machine. He called an IBM repairman who, as Wilkinson remembered, "put it all in a box..., and carried it away, and IBM sent him a new typewriter." [34]

Orville traveled between Hawthorn Hill and his laboratory in West Dayton by automobile. His reputation as a great pilot did not transfer to his driving ability. In 1913, his father recorded in his diary that Orville was "threatened with arrest by a cop for rapid driving." Orville's high speeds continued, but the police of Oakwood tended to look the other way and hold their breath that a catastrophe would not result. They did not relish the thought of arresting one of their most prominent residents. [35]

Spending six days a week at his laboratory on the West Side enabled Orville to experience many of the neighborhood's changes as it grew and further developed. By the 1920s West Dayton, as Eugena Roof recalled her childhood in the neighborhood, was "almost all mediumclass or poor families...a lot of them were of immigrant background." This perception was true for the areas immediately surrounding West Third and the streets to the north. But in the 1920s, the area south of West Third Street, especially along West Fifth Street, became the center of African American life. [36]

Between 1920 and 1940, the number of African American-owned businesses along West Fifth Street increased from forty-three to seventy-one. This rapid growth began in 1926 when the Classic Theater opened in response to the 1923 policy barring African Americans from the downtown theaters. After attending church on Sunday, people might attend a show at the Classic or Palace Theaters, stop at Cox's Drugstore for an ice cream soda, or just stroll up and down the street. With the concentration of African American businesses in the area, many people also moved to the area. By 1940, eighty-four percent of the black residents in Dayton lived on the west side. [37]

North of West Third Street the residents were predominately of Hungarian descent who were recruited in 1898 to work at the Dayton Malleable Iron Works. John Wohlslagel, who grew up in the neighborhood, fondly remembered the area "as one of the greatest places to live, as far as I was concerned. And weather permitting, the doors were always open and you could smell nothing but garlic and sausage and onions, and you heard music all day, and people speaking their native tongue, mostly Hungarian." As when the area developed, the stores and businesses were concentrated along West Third Street with a few scattered throughout the neighborhood, and the houses were situated along the streets to the north and south of West Third Street. [38]

The boundary between the Hungarian and African American communities was essentially West Third Street, and it served as a divider between the two different populations. Robert Reese, Sr., recalled that when he was dating his future wife, her family was one of only a few African American families who lived north of the dividing line. In order to visit her, he had to "go across the track." This was safe for Reese since he knew many of the residents in the area, but those who were unknown were often involved in a fight for entering the neighborhood. [39]

Orville's Laboratory
(Courtesy of NCR Archives at Montgomery County Historical Society)

While Orville worked in the neighborhood and was friends with some of the residents, he did not actively participate in any of the events or the community. He would get his shoes shined in the Boyd Building and conduct other small business at the local stores, but he was not a visible person in the area. Many of the local children knew who Orville Wright was and that he invented the airplane, but they never spoke to him or visited his laboratory. One of the few who did meet Orville was Don Dugan. Don used to run between his Grandma's house and his home, and one day he ran around the corner of Orville's laboratory and literally bumped into the famous inventor. After their initial introduction, the two would occasionally visit for several minutes. Don found Orville to be interested in the local Hungarian community, and most of their conversations revolved around that subject. [40]

When Orville was not in his laboratory, he was often traveling. As the representative of the Wright brothers, Orville continued his involvement in aviation for the remainder of his life. Much of his time was spent attending ceremonies and banquets as an honored guest, but Orville did not enjoy this role. He was most comfortable in his own home among friends and family. While with individuals that he knew well, Orville was comfortable, but around strangers, reporters, or at ceremonies, he was painfully shy. Torn by his desire to lead a quiet life and the need to represent Wilbur and the Wright family, Orville reached a compromise. While he attended many ceremonies and banquets, he refused to speak to those assembled. He never said so much as a greeting or thank you into a microphone.

In 1943, on the fortieth anniversary of the first flight, Orville attended a black-tie dinner in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of President Roosevelt. The Secretary of Commerce, Jesse Jones, was designated toastmaster for the evening and had no intention of honoring Orville's stipulation that he not speak at the event. During the festivities, without any warning, Jones asked Orville to step forward to present the Collier Trophy to his former student General "Hap" Arnold. Incensed that the organizers of the dinner did not honor their agreement, Orville rose and handed the trophy to Arnold, but he did not utter one word. [41]

The conflict of Orville's wishes and sense of duty was further apparent in his involvement in many aeronautical boards and commissions. The most important and long lasting relationship was Orville's involvement with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) which President Wilson appointed him to in 1915. [42]

NACA, the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), was founded in 1915 to aid the American aircraft industry by conducting research and development. The role of the agency was to identify fundamental research questions whose solutions would help the American aircraft industry. This work was directed by the committee. [43]

Serving on NACA until his death in 1948, longer than any other member, Orville seldom missed a meeting. Yet, as Tom Crouch stated in his biography of the Wright brothers, "[Orville's] personal contributions had no special impact on the NACA program. He concentrated on those issues of greatest interest to him, such as championing the cause of the small inventors who wrote in search of advice or assistance. He participated in discussions but rarely exercised leadership." [44]

(Courtesy Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives)

Orville's participation as a member of the board overseeing the operation of the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics took a similar route. The fund was a privately financed effort to improve American aeronautics. It was founded in 1926 and dissolved in 1930. As with NACA, Orville's attendance at meetings was exemplary, but he was not an active board member who fought for programs he supported or stepped into a leadership role. [45]

The ceremonies that Orville attended focused on honoring his and Wilbur's aeronautical successes. The ceremonies covered a wide range, from the dedication of a memorial to being awarded honorary degrees. The one event that occurred annually was the anniversary of the first flight. As the birthplace of aviation, Dayton always honored the event in some manner. Orville was sometimes attending a function in another city, but he spent most of the anniversaries in Dayton.

In Dayton, the twentieth anniversary of the first flight was honored with fanfare. NCR handled the publicity of the event which included a luncheon at Hawthorn Hill. The out-of-town guests included General Patrick, Admiral Moffett, Howard Coffin, Glenn Martin, Grover Loening, and several European representatives. The guests from Dayton were Frederick Patterson, Edward Deeds, and Governor Cox. Lunch was interrupted by the pilots at Wilbur Wright and McCook Fields who paid tribute to Orville by flying one of every kind of plane at the fields over Hawthorn Hill. The guests remained at Hawthorn Hill for the afternoon and then went to Frederick Patterson's home for dinner. After dinner there was a ceremony at The National Cash Register Company. [46]

While much of his time was spent attending board meetings and ceremonies outside of Dayton, there was nothing Orville preferred more than staying in his familiar surroundings. In 1916, the boundaries of Orville's familiar territory expanded beyond Dayton to Georgian Bay in Canada. Recovering from a severe bout of sciatica, Orville took Katharine and his father on a two-month vacation to a cottage on Waubec Island in Lake Huron's Georgian Bay. Orville fell in love with the area, and before returning home, he purchased the twenty acre Lambert Island. [47]

Lambert Island was the one place outside of Dayton where Orville felt at home and relaxed. Katharine reported, "He is like a boy at the Bay. You can hear him singing anytime almost and he seems to forget all his troubles." The rocky island was improved by seven buildings: a main house, three smaller cottages, a pumphouse, an icehouse, and a tool shed. Orville returned to Lambert Island every summer until World War II. As he had with Hawthorn Hill, Orville remodeled the existing buildings to suit his taste and also incorporated many improvements. As with his additions at Hawthorn Hill, oftentimes Orville was the only one who could operate them with any success. [48]

The balance the Wright family found after Wilbur's death in 1912 was once again disrupted when on April 3, 1917, they experienced further grief when Bishop Milton Wright, eighty-eight years old, died. The services were held at Hawthorn Hill, and he was buried next to his wife in Woodland Cemetery. For the first time in the Wright children's lives, their father was not a constant presence. While Milton had often traveled on church business, he always maintained contact and involvement in the family through letters. Now Orville and Katharine were the lone residents of Hawthorn Hill. [49]

The family continued to change. Reuchlin died in 1920 and Lorin in 1939. Orville and Katharine's nieces and nephews were growing and leaving Dayton to attend college. As they married and began families of their own, Orville drew the new members into the family. As both Ivonette and Leontine's future husbands discovered, one of the first experiences for all seemed to be an introduction to Orville's love of practical jokes. [50]

Ivonette's new husband, Harold S. (Scribze) Miller, was the recipient of one of Orville's jokes at the 1919 Christmas dinner. Formal dinner on Christmas Eve at Hawthorn Hill was an annual tradition for the Wright family. At Scribze's first dinner, Orville set an envelope containing a new twenty dollar bill at each person's place at the table to serve as place cards. At his place, instead of an envelope, Scribze found a small box of candy. Thanking Orville, he set it aside. After awhile, someone suggested that there probably was a bill inside the candy box. Saying he was satisfied with the candy, Scribze did not open the box until encouraged by the other dinner guests. As Ivonette recalled,

He opened the box of candy and went all through it - no money. He was becoming more and more embarrassed by the minute. Uncle Orv was chuckling all through this procedure, but said nothing. Finally someone said, "why don't you take the box apart? I'm sure it's in there somewhere." That he did, and slipped in under the covering of the box was his twenty dollar bill. Uncle Orv had carefully taken the whole cover off and pasted it back together again. He enjoyed every minute of this prank. [51]

Orville and Scipio
(Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Leontine's husband, John Jameson, often told the story of Uncle Orv's inventiveness at his June 2, 1923, wedding at Hawthorn Hill. The day was very hot, and Orville used his ingenuity to keep the groom cool before the ceremony by placing cracked ice in a large tub with a fan behind it. John sat in front of the fan and tub, relishing the cool air that wafted over him. In describing the event, John recalled how Orville's eyes would dance when he successfully created a solution to a problem or pulled a practical joke. [52]

As Katharine and Orville's nieces and nephews began to start their own families, the Wright family unit grew. Both Katharine and Orville were close to their nieces and nephews, and they embraced their children. The grand nieces and nephews were frequent visitors at Hawthorn Hill and on outings. For instance, one day, Milton's two boys spent the day with Aunt Katharine and Uncle Orv, so that their parents could have a day to themselves. Both Katharine and Orville enjoyed the children's visits and spent time caring for them. [53]

On March 10, 1917, a new resident moved into Hawthorn Hill. It was a sixteen pound St. Bernard puppy that Orville named Scipio. Orville built a pen for the puppy that soon became like a member of the family. Ivonette believed that the presence of Scipio enriched both Orville and Katharine's lives. [54]

Edward Deeds and his wife were some of Katharine and Orville's frequent companions in Dayton. While Deeds met both Wilbur and Orville in John Patterson's office at The National Cash Register Company, the meeting was only an introduction, and it was not until Orville and Deeds were both members of the Engineers Club that they became friends. Throughout the years, Orville and Deeds were often both in attendance at the same meetings and also socialized together. [55] Katharine shared the memories of one evening spent with the Deeds,

We are going to the Deeds tonight to a "camp dinner." We are to wear our old clothes of last summer. Mr Deeds has had a "lazy Liz" made for the Canadian camp and we will have it on the table tonight. You know what it is-a moving piece in the center, on which you put the food and it can be swung around so that no one is needed to pass the dishes. I'll wear my knickers though I didn't have them last summer. After dinner we'll play roulette, I suppose. That's how we used to spend the evenings in camp, often. Mr. Deeds is always the "bank." [56]

The Deeds and Wrights also went on actual camping trips together as well as just getting together for a casual evening.

In remembering his friend, Deeds found Orville to be, "one of those great men who remain unspoiled by adulation. He is witty and has a keen sense of humor. While he never makes a public speech, he is an interesting and entertaining conversationalist, especially if the subject is a scientific one." Deeds' description of Orville was similar to those of many people who knew him personally and not the persona he adapted at the ceremonial events and interviews he dreaded. [57]

The Engineers Club, where Deeds and Orville cemented their friendship, was founded in 1914 by Deeds and Charles F. Kettering. The two conceived of a club where inventors would gather to discuss their ideas with other people of similar interests. Deeds and Kettering constructed the club's building at 112 East Monument Avenue which was dedicated in 1918. They also continued to financially support it until it became selfsupporting in 1924. Orville was a founding member and served as the club's fourth president from 1924 to 1925. Displayed in the headquarters are the Wright engine number three that was built in 1904 as an experimental model, as well as other Wright memorabilia that was donated to the Engineers Club by Orville. [58]

A constant battle that Orville faced was guaranteeing appropriate recognition due to him and his brother for the invention of the practical airplane. With the successful results of the patent litigation and the sale of The Wright Company, Orville hoped that he was finished with dealing with any further disputes. Instead he became involved in a controversy with the Smithsonian Institution that was the longest and most publicized dispute of his life. The feud lasted almost thirty years and focused on who was the true inventor of the airplane. [59]

The disagreement began with the Curtiss patent suit. In response to the final decision in favor of the Wrights, Curtiss filed another suit claiming it might be possible to fly with only one aileron at a time. This move forced Orville to file a new complaint, which he did November 16, 1914. In the previous decision, the broad interpretation on the Wright brothers' patent was the fact that they were the first to fly. If Curtiss could prove that they were not, then he might not lose the court battle. His strategy was to prove that someone else was capable of flight prior to the Wright brothers' success.

Curtiss chose to focus on Samuel Langley and his aerodrome experiments as a possible candidate to support his argument. Langley died in 1906, but his friend and supporter, Charles D. Walcott, had become Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Walcott had played a role in obtaining funding for Langley's 1903 experiments and was interested in redeeming the reputation of his friend.

Eight days after the U.S. Circuit Court announced its decision in Wright v. Curtiss, Lincoln Beachey, a well-known American stunt pilot, requested to borrow the surviving parts of the 1903 Aerodrome from the Smithsonian Institution. Beachey wanted to use the parts to reconstruct the craft and attempt to fly it. As a Curtiss stockholder and a former pilot with the Curtiss exhibition team, Beachey had a biased interest in the project. His request was the beginning of Curtiss's efforts to declare Langley's 1903 Aerodrome capable of flight.

The Smithsonian Institution did not grant Beachey's request, feeling the Langley Aerodrome was too valuable an artifact to use in an experiment. But when Curtiss spoke to Walcott several months later and expressed his wishes to see the aerodrome in flight, Walcott loaned Curtiss the remaining parts along with giving him $2,000 to fund the experiment. Working with Albert Zahm, who was in charge of the Langley laboratory, Curtiss set out to rebuild the 1903 Aerodrome.

While Curtiss and Zahm announced they would return the aerodrome to its original form, the reconstructed machine was not the same that Langley flew. The wings, trussing system, and kingposts all varied from Langley's original aerodrome. These were very important changes, for most knowledgeable authorities believed the wing structure failed, not a defect in the catapult system, during Langley's unsuccessful 1903 test.

On May 28, 1914, the reconstructed Aerodrome, with Curtiss as the pilot, flew 150 feet and several more short hops. The results of the tests were published in both the 1914 and 1915 Smithsonian Annual Report concluding that the 1903 Aerodrome invented by Langley was capable of flight. When the Aerodrome was returned to the Smithsonian Institution, Walcott ordered that it be returned to its original condition and placed on exhibit. The label when it went on exhibit in the Arts and Industries Building explained that this machine was the first aeroplane in the world capable of flight.

Orville was outraged with the Smithsonian Institution's response to the Curtiss tests of the Aerodrome. He had observed Curtiss's actions from afar during the reconstruction and experiments. His friend, Griffith Brewer, traveled to Hammondsport, New York, where Curtiss was working on the aerodrome. Brewer was from England, where in 1908 on a short flight with Wilbur, he became the first Englishman to fly. Brewer became good friends with both Wright brothers, and throughout the years was a frequent visitor in Dayton. As a representative of the British aeronautical community, he asked for a tour of the Hammondsport facility and hoped to find out further information on the Aerodrome while at the site. During the tour, Brewer took photographs, which he then sent to Orville. These photos documented that the Curtiss employees working on the Aerodrome were making alterations to the form of the machine. Orville also sent his brother, Lorin, to Hammondsport a year later, to check on the activities. Lorin was approached during the experiments and asked to hand over the film in his camera. While Lorin's trip did not result in any evidence Orville could use to document the changes incorporated by Curtiss, the photographs by Brewer and those published in the Smithsonian Annual Report sufficiently documented the alterations.

While Orville's feud with the Smithsonian Institution over who was the first person capable of flight continued to grow, the legal issues that started the controversy were resolved. The second Curtiss case was never heard in a courtroom, for in 1917 a patent pool covering the aeronautical industry was formed. Yet, the experiments with the reconstructed Aerodrome were sufficient for Walcott and Zahm to present Langley as the first man capable of flight and the Wright brothers as the individuals who were the first to fly.

Orville was unsure how to respond to the problem. Brewer continued to argue his case, and authored a paper in 1921 that outlined the 1914 tests on the Langley machine. Brewer's paper ignited an immediate reaction that questioned the aeronautical history presented by the Smithsonian Institution. Unfortunately, Walcott and the rest of the Smithsonian Institution staff ignored the issues and continued to present Langley's Aerodrome as the first machine capable of flight.

In 1925, Orville reached a decision on his response. He announced that he was sending the 1903 Wright airplane to the Science Museum of London for exhibit. [60] The move was strategic. By displaying the plane in a foreign museum, there would always be a constant reminder to Americans of the incorrect story presented by the Smithsonian Institution. In fact, in 1937, Orville inserted a clause in his will that the plane would stay in England until he, and only he, requested its return. Requesting that the plane be returned to the United States was contingent upon the Smithsonian Institution acknowledging that the Wright brothers were the first to fly and the first capable of flight. Prior to sending the plane to England, Orville reassembled it in his laboratory. He wanted to guarantee that it appeared in its original form. [61]

Walcott died in 1927, and his successor as the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution was Charles Greeley Abbot who altered the label on the 1903 Aerodrome, removing the statement that it was capable of flight. Also, in 1928, the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents passed a resolution that declared the Wrights were the first to fly with a man-controlled, power-driven machine. While the Smithsonian Institution was taking steps to rectify the situation, they were ignoring the cause. No one questioned whether the Wright brothers were the first to fly, the problem was the contention that the Aerodrome was the first machine capable of flight.

Several other attempts were made to solve the controversy, including appointing a committee headed by Charles Lindbergh to look into the matter, but no solutions were agreed upon. Most authoritative aeronautical engineers, after reviewing the changes made to the Aerodrome in 1914, supported Orville in defense of the Wright brothers. Yet, the reputation of the Smithsonian Institution was at stake. After claiming Langley's Aerodrome was capable of flight, they faced embarrassment if they changed their opinion. In 1935, Orville took his last step in reaching a resolution. He suggested to Abbot that the Smithsonian Institution did not have to admit the 1903 Aerodrome was incapable of flight. Instead, they only had to admit that the statements regarding the 1914 tests were untrue. The Smithsonian Institution did not respond, and the attempts to negotiate a settlement in the feud stagnated.

The battles that Wilbur and Orville, and then Orville by himself, fought to gain the appropriate recognition for their invention took their toll on Orville. In the midst of the Smithsonian Institution controversy, Katharine shared the effects of the constant strain on Orville with a friend,

I suppose none of us quite realize what a tremendous strain Orv has been under these last twenty years. It goes back of that really. But the severe shock to his whole nervous system in the accident at Fort Myer, the nerve-racking excitement of the years from 1908 to 1912, when Will died. The further strain of winning the law suits which Orv had to finish up. No lawyer could handle it all....The nervous shocks have reduced Orv's vitality and energy beyond belief. [62]

As with other family matters, Katharine supported Orville throughout the entire controversy and made the battle her own. She discussed the problem and various tactics as well as offering advice. One of the problems the Wrights faced was getting people to understand the technical reasons behind their claims that the changes made to the 1903 Aerodrome were instrumental in making it capable of flight. In order to get a response from the Smithsonian Institution, they hoped to keep the public aware of the issue, but in order to do this, the details must be understandable. Through their discussions and joint work on drafts, Katharine assisted Orville in formulating how he would deal with the problem. She vowed she would "do all I can to beat that gang down in the Smithsonian Institution." [63]

Even though the controversy was a major issue in Orville's life, Orville always made time for his family. At the family Christmas dinner in 1923, Orville showed his nieces and nephews a model of a toy he had played with as a child. The toy was, Ivonette recalled,

a contraption with a narrow base board about 18 inches long. On one end it had a spring board that could be put under tension and then be released by a trigger. It had a launching seat on it and a little wooden clown with wire hooks for arms. On the other end of the base was a revolving double trapeze with a counter balancing clown holding to the bottom side. When a similar clown was released from the spring board, it flew through the air and caught the top side of the trapeze to revolve. [64]

The toy immediately interested Ivonette's husband, Scribze, who was a stockholder in a toy factory. Scribze asked Orville if he would take the toy to the factory to see if it could be manufactured. After perfecting the design, Orville patented the toy, called Flips and Flops, and assigned it to the company, Miami Wood Specialty.

As the company began making profits on the toy, Lorin bought into the company. When one of the original partners left, Lorin purchased his stock and assigned it to his two sons, Horace and Milton. At this time, Lorin was named president and Horace the factory manager. When the demand for Flips and Flops decreased, the toy company turned to making Wright Flyer toy airplanes that were premiums for purchasing cereal. People would send in the required number of box tops to receive the toy airplane. Miami Wood Specialty was sold to Lowell Rieger when Lorin died in 1939. [65]

In 1925 Katharine began considering accepting Henry J. Haskell's proposal of marriage, and for the first time in their lives, the relationship between Orville and Katharine was threatened. Haskell was a friend of Katharine's from Oberlin College and a fellow trustee of the college. He was recently widowed, and a romance developed between him and Katharine when they began corresponding as friends. Haskell resided in Kansas City, but he and Katharine saw each other quite frequently at Oberlin or in Dayton.

Orville and Katharine Wright
(Courtesy of Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives)

The ramifications of marrying Henry on her relationship with Orville greatly concerned Katharine. For over a year, Katharine and Henry carried on a relationship without informing Orville. Katharine had not updated Orville on the change between her and Henry's relationship for fear of his reaction. Knowing that if it was Orville who desired to get married, she would have been devastated, Katharine predicted that he most likely would react unfavorably. For over a year, Katharine agonized over telling Orville of her intention to marry. [66]

When she finally told Orville, in the beginning of 1926, of her plans to marry Henry, as predicted, Orville opposed the idea. In fact, Orville's reaction was so negative that Katharine was hesitant to bring up the subject again. She told her fiancé, "You can't have any idea of how Orv and I have depended upon each other and how it hurts me to hurt him so ...I feel just as if someone in the family had died. I have never felt so for anything else." [67] Feeling torn between her love for Henry and her love and sense of obligation to Orville, Katharine agonized over the situation for many months. [68]

Orville and Katharine had an unspoken agreement to stick together for the remainder of their lives. They had lived together for their entire lives, and now, with Wilbur and their father dead, it was only the two of them left in the family unit on which they had depended for so long. Throughout their father's church business, the brothers' patent suits, and the Smithsonian Institution controversy, Orville and Katharine had stuck by each other. Orville now looked at Katharine's marrying Haskell as abandonment. After months of worrying about her intention to leave Orville and get married, Katharine finally agreed to a wedding date. Orville's response to the situation was to sever all ties with his sister. Shunned by Orville, she and Henry married on August 20, 1926, at Oberlin, instead of in her own home. The newly married couple settled in Kansas City where Henry was editor and part owner of the Kansas City Star. [69]

While happy in her marriage, Katharine was agonized by the alienation with her brother. She hoped for a reconciliation, but Orville remained firm in his decision to break all communication. Two years after her marriage, Katharine contracted pneumonia. When it became apparent that she would not survive, Lorin insisted that Orville travel to Kansas City with him. The two arrived in time to be with Katharine before she died on March 3, 1929. With Haskell's permission, Orville brought Katharine's body back to Dayton, and she was buried in the family plot at Woodland Cemetery next to her father, mother, and Wilbur. [70]

After Katharine's marriage, Orville's life style continued much as it had before. His time was filled with working in his laboratory, serving on boards and commissions, and attending ceremonial events. Also, distinguished visitors to Dayton were often guests at Hawthorn Hill. In June 1927, on his return trip from his record breaking flight, Charles A. Lindbergh was invited to Hawthorn Hill. Lindbergh, in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, had been the first individual to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. [71]

Orville and General William Gillmore met Lindbergh upon his arrival at Wright Field and Daytonians lined the streets in the city to greet the famed aviator. When Lindbergh discovered that the impromptu parade was planned, he disclosed to Orville that he had agreed to no public appearances until his return to St. Louis. Therefore, the group traveled through the back streets of Dayton to Hawthorn Hill. [72]

When the people who were left standing downtown discovered that Lindbergh was at Hawthorn Hill, they began to appear at Orville's home hoping to catch a glimpse of Lindbergh. As dinner was being served at Hawthorn Hill, people begin to appear on the front lawn. Soon the front lawn, as well as the side and back lawns, were crowded with people. As the crowd jostled to get a view of Lindbergh, they smashed flower beds and bushes, climbed trees, and stepped up onto the porch to look into windows. As the crowd grew more disruptive, Orville implored Lindbergh to make a brief appearance on the front portico balcony. Lindbergh, with Orville at his side, stepped onto the balcony. This satisfied the crowd, and they soon dispersed. [73]

Another noteworthy visitor was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was in Dayton to visit Wright Field. The president picked up Orville at Hawthorn Hill, and they drove with Governor Cox out to the field. During the drive home, while they were nearing Hawthorn Hill, Orville tapped the chauffeur on the shoulder and told him he would walk from there. He said goodbye to the President and the Governor and proceeded to walk home. Ivonette remembered that after that day, the family enjoyed teasing Orville about the day he walked home from the parade of distinguished guests. [74]

During the later years of his life, many people pressured Orville to have a book written to record the invention of flight and the story of the Wright brothers. Orville disliked writing as much as he hated speaking in public. Being a meticulous person, Orville believed he was the only person who could get the facts correct, but he kept putting off writing a book. In fact, one of the reasons that Katharine was hesitant to leave Orville and marry was that she was sure he would not work on a book if she was gone. She knew that she would need to be along side him to encourage him and assist with the writing. Every time Katharine became insistent about the need to write a book, Orville would claim he was looking for facts and getting information ready to write. She found he reacted "like a small boy - trying to dodge a disagreeable chore." [75]

In 1915, Orville agreed to allow John R. McMahon and Earl Findley to write a biography of the Wright brothers. For their information, the two authors visited Dayton, conducted interviews with Orville, Milton and Katharine, and reviewed the Wright papers. Not all of the Wright papers were made available to McMahon and Findley, for Mabel Beck regulated their access to the papers and only allowed them to see the correspondence that she believed to be important in telling the story. The first draft was completed in six months. [76] When it arrived, Orville was confined to bed with back pain from his sciatica. After reading the draft, which he found too personal and chatty, he complained to his secretary that he would rather have sciatica than read the book. Mabel sent a letter to the authors informing them that Orville had rejected their draft, even telling them of his comment that he would rather have sciatica. [77]

It was not until Fred Kelly approached Orville sometime near 1940 about writing a biography of the Wright brothers that another attempt was undertaken. Orville agreed to let his friend write the book as long as he could review everything with him. The Wright Brothers: A Biography, the only authorized biography of the Wright brothers, was published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1943. Kelly followed this up in 1951 with the first volume of Wright letters, Miracle at Kitty Hawk: The Letters of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Finally, after years of trying to convince Orville to write a book, the complete story of the Wright brothers was available to those who were interested. [78]

The completion of the biography was inadvertently well timed, for Orville suffered a heart attack on October 10, 1947, at the age of seventysix. As Katharine had feared in earlier years, Orville no longer would have been able to devote the required energy to complete the manuscript. His heart attack occurred while he was rushing up the steps of the main NCR building to keep an appointment. He spent four days in Miami Valley Hospital under an oxygen tent in the care of a hired nurse. When Orville was released from the hospital, he returned to his usual routine. [79]

Orville suffered a second heart attack on January 27, 1948 while at his laboratory. He had spent the morning fixing the doorbell at Hawthorn Hill and then gone to the laboratory. Mabel Beck called a doctor at an office across the street who treated him and then an ambulance took him to Miami Valley Hospital. At the hospital, physicians discovered that Orville's recovery was complicated by the fact that his lungs were congested. Orville's condition remained stable until three days later, when he took a turn for the worse. Orville passed away at 10:30 in the evening four days after the heart attack. He was seventy-six years old. [80]

Colonel Edward Deeds assisted the family by planning the funeral. The location of the funeral and the choice of a minister were a problem, for Orville had not attended church since the United Brethren controversy. He had once remarked that there were two ministers in Dayton he admired and the family felt that one of them should conduct the service. They were an African American minister on the West Side and Dr. Charles Lyon Seasholes from the First Baptist Church on West Monument Avenue. Seasholes was chosen to officiate, and the service was planned for February 2. [81]

The day prior to the funeral, Orville's body lay in state at the Boyer Funeral Home at 609 West Riverview Avenue. Friends and mourners could call at the funeral home to pay their respects from three to nine in the evening. Over 1,500 individuals came to pay their last respects to Orville. [82]

The entire city mourned the loss of its famous resident. To mark Orville's death, all flags in the city were flown at half mast. Municipal and city offices as well as all the Dayton and Oakwood public schools, the parochial schools, and the University of Dayton suspended classes at noon on the day of the funeral. At the public schools, separate memorial services were held in honor of Orville. [83]

The large crowds that appeared to view Orville's body at the Boyer Funeral Home also turned out for his funeral. Several hundred people packed the church and thousands lined the streets outside of the building. Mourners were greeted by a half hour of organ music by Stanley Dunkelberger. The funeral service, beginning at 2:30 in the afternoon, lasted one-half hour. Seasholes quoted scripture and delivered a sermon in which he recounted the achievements of Orville and his brother as well as the significance of the airplane. [84]

Over fifty men served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral services and followed Orville's casket from the church to the hearse. The list of pallbearers included a wide range of individuals. Well known leaders in military and civil aeronautics were included along with Dayton civic leaders, businessmen, and close friends of Orville. [85]

As the funeral procession traveled from the church to Woodland Cemetery, P-80 jet planes, a formation of five with an empty spot in honor of Orville, flew low over the procession. They also passed over the gravesite once the mourners were assembled. Deeds arranged for the timing of the flyovers to be coordinated by James K. Owen, an NCR employee, who radioed the field operators who then relayed the information to the pilots. [86]

Only the family and a few close friends traveled to Woodland Cemetery for the graveside ceremony. The small group was surrounded by a large crowd of onlookers that quietly assembled around the ceremony. Orville was laid to rest in the Wright family plot where his father, mother, Wilbur, and Katharine were buried. His grave was located on one side of Katharine's, who was buried between her brothers. [87]

Public interest in Orville's death did not end with his burial. Wright family members were contacted throughout the week following the funeral by reporters who were concerned about the ultimate fate of the 1903 Wright airplane. Between 1933 and 1942 Dr. Charles G. Abbott, Secretary and Director of the Smithsonian Institution, made several proposed alterations to the Smithsonian Institution's statement on the first flight in an attempt to end the feud between the Smithsonian Institution and Orville. None of them were acceptable to Orville, for they did not deal with the facts involved in the controversy. It was not until 1942 that the Smithsonian Institution drafted a statement that met Orville's approval. This statement [88] was published by the Smithsonian Institution on October 24, 1942. [89]

Despite the Smithsonian Institution's actions, when Orville died, the plane was still on display at the Science Museum of London. Did this mean that the plane would stay in England forever? The Wright family members could not answer the question. Orville's will was not read until two days after the funeral, and an answer about the fate of the first airplane was not apparent until several days later. [90]

The family members assumed that Mabel Beck would produce Orville's will and most likely be designated executor. Two days after the funeral when no will had been revealed, Scribze, Ivonette's husband, called the bank to see about getting the will. The bank called Orville's attorney, Charles Funkhauser, who then produced the will. To everyone's surprise, Scribze and Harold Steeper, both Orville's nephews by marriage, were named as co-executors. [91]

The will was quite simple. Orville's estate totaled slightly more than one million dollars. He bequeathed $300,000 to Oberlin, Katharine's alma mater. In accepting the money, Oberlin was required to pay annual annuities of specified amounts to some Wright relatives, employees, and old friends. The list included Lulu Wright, Reuchlin's widow; Mabel Beck; Ed Sines; Charlie Taylor; Carrie Grumbach; and Lottie Jones, the laundress who purchased 7 Hawthorne Street from Katharine. [92]

The various other bequests provided for the disposition of Orville's property. All the furniture in Hawthorn Hill was given to Lorin's four children except the china, silverware, and dishes, which were bequeathed to Reuchlin's daughter, Bertha Ellwyn Wright Steeper. Orville also left Lambert Island and all the buildings and other possessions on the island to Lorin's four children. After all the fees and debts were paid, the remainder of the estate was divided between ten family members that included Orville's nieces and nephews as well as their children. [93]

Some of the historically significant items in the estate were specifically bequeathed. All of the bronzes and medals owned by Orville were given to the trustees of the Dayton Art Institute, and the aerofoils used in the 1901-1903 wind tunnel experiments were left to the Franklin Institute Museum in Philadelphia. The greatest problem for the executors was the disposition of Orville's library, papers, photographs, and all other materials related to the invention of the airplane. Orville's will left the two executors in charge of locating one or several repositories or institutions that should have the materials. [94]

While Albert Zahm, who had sided with Curtiss in the patent suits and worked to claim that the Langley Aerodrome was capable of flight, worked at the Library of Congress, Orville had not been willing to consider donating his papers to that institution. Zahm retired in 1945, and Orville had opened discussions with Archibald McLeish, the Librarian of Congress. No agreement had been reached at the time of Orville's death. [95]

Immediately after the funeral, Miller and Steeper, as executors of Orville's estate, received word from the Library of Congress that the Wright brothers papers were a national treasure and the library was interested in obtaining them. Miller and Steeper agreed to donate the papers to the Library of Congress under one condition, that arrangements be made to publish a large portion of the papers. [96]

After reviewing the entire collection of Wright papers, the Library of Congress chose to accept only those that related to the history of flight. It is these documents that Marvin W. MacFarland, who was placed in charge of preparing the papers for publication, used to compile the materials to be published. The end result of his work was a two-volume set, The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright, published by McGraw-Hill in 1953. [97]

The remainder of the papers stayed in the possession of Ivonette and Harold Miller until May 1974. At that time, the Millers and the other surviving heirs of Orville's estate donated these papers to the Wright State University. This collection of material contains information on the Wright family and their lives in Dayton. [98]

Locating a final place for the 1903 airplane to be exhibited was much harder than arranging the disposition of the Wright brothers' papers. At the reading of the will, the executors became aware of Orville's intention to deed the plane to the Science Museum of London unless he personally recalled the plane before his death. Judge Love of the Montgomery County Probate Court ordered the executors to look for a letter requesting that the plane be returned to the United States. As executor, Scribze Miller asked the only person who would know if this had happened, Mabel Beck. While Mabel admitted that a letter existed, she did not want to give it to Miller until the executors of the estate were officially appointed. [99]

Miller asked Earl Findley, Orville's good friend and the editor of U.S. Air Services, to intercede and persuade Mabel to turn over the letter to him. Findley reminded Beck of her obligation to uphold Orville's wishes that the plane be returned to the United States. Beck gave the letter to Miller at a meeting in Edward Deeds' office the next day. The news that the plane would return to the United States and be displayed in the Smithsonian Institution was announced that afternoon. [100]

After arrangements were made for the plane to be sold to the Smithsonian Institution for one dollar, the 1903 Wright airplane was dedicated at the Smithsonian Institution on December 17, 1948. The plane was presented to the museum by Milton Wright, Orville's nephew. The dedication signaled the end of the feud with the Smithsonian Institution. Finally, after years of disagreement, the first plane to fly was exhibited at the national museum, a testament to the achievements of the Wright brothers. Along with the plane is a plaque granting the recognition to the Wright brothers that Orville and Katharine fought so hard to realize:

DECEMBER 17, 1903

After Wilbur's death in 1912, Orville adapted to life without his brother and partner. While he disliked many of the functions that were required of him, such as attending ceremonies and attending to business matters, Orville showed a remarkable skill at dealing with all problems. The business acumen he showed when selling The Wright Company and the strategies he used in the Smithsonian Institution feud revealed a seldom seen aspect of Orville's personality. He was much happier working in his Dayton laboratory researching projects he found interesting.

While Wilbur had been interested in the big picture, Orville was the one who figured out how to make the specifics work, and it was this type of work he conducted in his laboratory. As Tom Crouch described Orville,

He thought in terms of particular mechanisms-the bits and pieces that went together to form the big picture. He was the one who had developed the printing press that surprised professional printers. The self-oiling bike hub had been his pride and joy. More significant, he had played a leading role in developing the wind tunnel and designing the all-important balances. He was a born inventor, whose fingers itched for the screwdriver and pliers. [101]

Orville's interest in inventing was apparent from his early projects in childhood to the end of his life.

Throughout his life, Orville's family played an important role. In his childhood his parents encouraged Orville and his siblings to pursue and question anything that interested them. Also the family support that each member of the Wright family freely gave to each other throughout their lives served to create an environment that encouraged Orville to pursue his interest in inventing. After Wilbur's death, Orville became responsible for representing the Wright brothers and their invention. Despite the fact that he was uncomfortable with public appearances and disliked many of his new obligations, Orville spent the remainder of his life guaranteeing that he and his brother were accurately credited for their invention. His closeness with his sister Katharine and her devotion to her brother aided Orville in tackling the many responsibilities that arose after the brothers' invention of the airplane. Unfortunately, this ended when Katharine married, and Orville responded by severing all communication with her. But he did find joy and support from the growing new generation of Wrights. His nieces, nephews, and their children became the focus of his family life and main source of support.


What Dreams We Have
©2003 Ann Honious.
Published by Eastern National

honious/chap10.htm — 18-Feb-2004