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Wright Cycle Company
Wright Cycle Company, 1127 West Third Street, Dayton. The left half of the brick building and the frame building in the rear were occupied by the Wrights.

Young Business Partners

Wilbur and Orville formed the Wright Cycle Company in 1892 to sell bicycles. Business increased, and they soon found that they needed to add a repair shop. Moderately successful, both in selling new bicycles and general repairing, the brothers twice moved their expanding business to larger quarters. As a next step they began to manufacture bicycles. They called their first bicycle the "Van Cleve" after their pioneer ancestors; a later model manufactured was named the "St. Clair"; and finally they made a low-priced model known as the "Wright Special." They manufactured several hundred bicycles of their own brand before discontinuing the business in order to devote their full time to aviation.

Inseparable companions in business and personal life, the brothers shared everything from a joint bank account to their laboratory work while unraveling the problems of flight. They were not longfaced and dour; both were sprightly and humor-loving. They loved small children and dogs, and they played musical instruments, sang, and enjoyed practical jokes.

bicycle shop
Edwin H. Sines and Orville Wright in backroom of bicycle shop, 1897. Ed Sines was a boyhood friend of Orville Wright.

The bicycle business provided the funds for the Wrights' work in aviation, and afforded them sufficient leisure to pursue their interest in flying. Their father gave each of his children $1,000. This Wilbur and Orville invested in stock and never drew on for their aviation work—but it was there in case of necessity. They were never financed by anyone.

The repair and manufacture of bicycles sharpened the brothers' mechanical skill. The enterprise also developed their business experience, helpful later when they took the lead in founding the aviation industry. In their construction of flying machines, Wilbur and Orville often used the same equipment and tools used in repairing bicycles. They conducted many of their scientific experiments in the backroom of their shop, and most of the parts used in the first successful airplane were built there.


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