Wilbur Wright, about 1880.
Orville Wright, about 1880.
KITTY HAWK AND KILL DEVIL HILLS are American place
names that will live in history. Here Wilbur and Orville Wright, two
unassuming brothers with a passion for advancing aeronautical knowledge,
and the willingness to undertake a scientific adventure, made the
world's first successful flight of a man-carrying, power-driven,
December 17, 1903, was the day man first flew in this
machine. It was a cold and windy day when Orville Wright climbed aboard
their plane at 10:35 a.m. His first power-driven flight of 120 feet
lasted just 12 seconds when he flew over a wind-swept stretch of level
sand now preserved at Wright Brothers National Memorial. From those
moments the science of aeronautics has borne the impress of the Wrights'
The Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio
The two young men who were to be the first to fly
were born in the midwest shortly after the Civil War. Wilbur Wright was
born on a farm near Millville, 8 miles east of New Castle, Ind., April
16, 1867. Four years younger, Orville Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio,
August 19, 1871. They were the sons of Rev. Milton Wright, a minister,
and later bishop, of the United Brethren Church, and Susan Koerner
Wright. Both parents had been teachers. When his sons were small, Bishop
Wright was editor of the church's publications. Mrs. Wright had "a
streak of her father's mechanical ability," and she had a reputation in
the family for being able "to mend anything." Bishop and Mrs. Wright
also had two older sons, Reuchlin and Lorin, and a younger daughter,
Bishop Milton Wright, 1889. The father of Wilbur and Orville,
Milton Wright (18281917) was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.
Katherine Wright, sister of Wilbur and Orville, about 1900.
In the Wright home, children were encouraged to
pursue intellectual interests and to investigate whatever aroused their
curiosity. Wilbur and Orville displayed mechanical aptitude, the gift of
original thinking, and a pioneering urge. Sharing a common interest in
mechanical devices, the boys made kites and toy helicopters, built a
lathe and a printing press that worked. Wilbur wrote of their close
From the time we were little children my brother
Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together and,
in fact, thought together. We usually owned all our toys in common,
talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly everything that
was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions
and discussions between us.
This successful neighborhood weekly was
published by Orville Wright on a printing press assembled from old parts
found in junkyards and barns. Wilbur Wright was editor.
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Wright died in 1889. It was that year that the
brothers assembled their printing press from old parts found in junk
yards and barns and began to publish a successful neighborhood weekly
newspaper. Although each brother attended high school the full time
required for a diploma, neither of them formally graduated from high
school or attended college. Their two older brothers married and
established homes of their own, but Wilbur and Orville remained
bachelors. After completing their schooling they continued to live with
their father and schoolteacher sister in a modest framehouse in
The Wright home, 7 Hawthorne Street, Dayton, about
1897, three years before the first Kitty Hawk experiments. The house
where Orville was horn in 1871, and where Wilbur died in