The Dayton Flood, yet another hardship:
In 1898, Dayton suffered the worst flood in 40 years. We have a very narrow escape, Orville reported to his father. By putting 500 men at work with teams, they succeeded in building the levee high enough to keep the water out. Had the river risen another 4 inches, both their house and their new shop would have been under 3 or 4 feet of water.
The first automobile in Dayton had just made its appearance. Orville thought that maybe he and Wilbur should build an automobile of their own. But for Wilbur, the idea had no appeal. He could not imagine, he said, how any contrivance that made such a racket and had so many things constantly going wrong with it could ever have a future. His mind was elsewhere.
Wilbur Wright standing to give his famous "parrot speech." Wilbur was asked to speak at a dinner given in his honor at the Aero Club de la Sarthe for establishing new world flying records on Sept. 21. When asked to say a few words, Wilbur remarked, "I know of only one bird, the parrot, that talks, and he can't fly very high."
What would it have been like to live during this time? Create a narrative to romanticize the period -- the times were alive with invention, technical innovations, new ideas of every kind in US (Kodak box camera invented by George Eastman, electric sewing machine by Isaac Merritt Singer, first elevator by Otis Company); Dayton was a city in which "inventing and making things were central to a way of life"
Impressive speed of progress. In less than a decade, went from tinkering with beginning designs of non motorized gliders to full fledged flights (December 31, 1908, Wilbur flew 2 hours, 23 minutes and 23 seconds and 77 miles, which won him the Michelin Prize.
- Discuss how their innovation and addition to successful flight changed the world.
- Give brief history of flight post Wright brothers.
- 1919: John Alcock and Arthur Brown (British aviators) made the first non-stop transatlantic flight. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, County Galway, Ireland.
- 1927: Lindbergh flew first solo flight across Atlantic. As Charles Lindbergh piloted the Spirit of St. Louis down the dirt runway of Roosevelt Field in New York on May 20, 1927, many doubted he would successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean. Yet Lindbergh landed safely in Paris less than 34 hours later, becoming the first pilot to solo a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight. He changed public opinion on the value of air travel, and laid the foundation for the future development of aviation.
- What does flight look like today? What would the world look like without flight?
Patents: Spent time enforcing patents later in life. Wilbur dies early. Neither ever marries, but have a beautiful legacy -- next generation of flyers taught and inspired. End with toys and Neil Armstrong going to space with Wright Bros trinket.
Argued with Orville to sharpen corners and bring out new ideas. Compare to dealings with Berg -- 20% ... has calm demeanor, wants it to be fair, doesn't get mired into negotiations, holds a firm line with class.
Katherine: Generous caretaker of her brothers. Wrote letters to them constantly and was their primary contact while away. Wrote letters on their behalf -- served as psuedo publicist. Intelligent in her own right. Most educated of the family and spoke English, Greek and Latin and learned French while in France with brothers.
- The "SILENT PARTNER" - mainstay, gave brothers new hope when they struggled, nursed Orville back to health, had views of her own.
- Cosmos Club in DC waived ban on women to allow her to attend lunch in honor of the Wrights. Signals the importance of her role and strong relationship with her brothers. Presumably they insisted she attend.
- Underplayed role in most biographies of the Wright Bros until late 20th century when women's rights became of interest. She was revolutionary in that she pursued a professional career as a high school teacher in Dayton, at a time when few middle-class American women worked outside the home, and went on to become an international celebrity. A significant figure in the women's movement, she worked actively on behalf of woman suffrage in Ohio and served as the third female trustee of Oberlin College.
- Intelligent, intellectually curious, and determined to become financially independent. Married in 1926 in her 50s.
- Orville, this is funny, writes back to Catherine. And, uh, he says, I imagine by now you'll be back to school teaching again. He asked her to send a list of her, quote, victims. Quote, I'd like to see someone else catch it besides us.
- Apparently, Orville also stopped speaking to her when she married. Seems like a bit of a toxic relationship/too close for siblings?
Quotes I liked but not sure where to put/if we need them:
- Orville: "Learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician"
- Katherine: speaking of Wilbur heading off for third Kitty Hawk trip "When he gets a thing on his mind, he thinks of it continually. We'll never stop fighting." Shows that it was a family affair.
- Werthner (high school science teach who assisted): "Their patient perseverance, their calm faith in ultimate success, their mutual consideration of each other, might have been considered phenomenal in any but men who were well born and well reared. These flights they always made in turn; and after every tiral the two inventors held long and confidential consultation, with always some new gain; they were getting nearer and nearer the moment when sustained flight would be made."
- Wilbur on flying: "when you know, after the first few minutes, that the whole mechanism is working perfectly, the sensation is so keenly delightful as to be almost beyond description. Nobody who has experienced it for himself can realize it. It is a realization of a dream so many persons had have of floating in the air. More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace, mingled with the excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination."
- Orville in response to how it feels to be making history: "Pretty good, but I'm more interested in making speed." Never ending search of progress in aviation."
Style-- screamed professionalism, competence. include in France -- peopel were charmed by straight forward demeanor, manners of Wilbur. Wilbur's acceptance speech in France -- included somewhere.
Wilbur is kind of like, uh, Steve Jobs. Quote, always ready to oppose an idea expressed by anybody. Ready to, quote, jump into an argument with both sleeves rolled up. He, later, uh, explained to Spratt, he believed in, quote, a good scrap. It brought out, quote, new ways of looking at things. Helped, quote, round off the corners.
Uh, September 18th they leave. Charlie said quote, if there was any worry about the flying machine not working, they never showed it, and I never felt it.
It's stormy and blustery when they first arrived in the Outer Banks. Um, oh actually, at first it's perfect weather, so perfect that they spend the time, um, using their old glider and practicing in the, in the perfect conditions, but then, um, it gets stormy.
The driving wind and rain continued through the night, Wilbur wrote. Quote, but we took the advice of the Oberlin coach. Cheer up boys. There is no hope.
When the operator at the Norfolk station asked if he could share the news with a friend at the Virginian Pilot, the brothers had Docher cable back positively no. It had made no difference.
It is just a completely fictional account. It says it sails to 60 feet. It says, has one propeller, you know, facing down to exert upward force, and that Wilbur's first historic utterance on flying the three miles was reported to have been, Eureka! Variations of the account appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Cincinnati Inquirer, among others, but little happened as a consequence.
Senator, uh, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. He passed the letter to the War Department, where nothing came of it. As for the reaction in Dayton, probably not one person in a hundred believed the brothers had actually flown in their machine. Or if they had, it could have been, it could only have been a fluke. So essentially, no one believes him.
This is crazy. Work at the bicycle shop on West 3rd Street resumed with, as Charlie Taylor said, no jig steps over what had been achieved. It's like this conspiracy, it's like a secret. No one else knows or believes. Can you imagine how maddening that would be to the only person who knows that you've flown?
Charlie Taylor writes, of course they were pleased with the flight, but their first words with me, as I remember, was about the motor being damaged when the wind picked up the machine and turned it topsy turvy. They wanted a new one built right away. They were always thinking of the next thing to do. They didn't waste much time worrying about the past.
The intention was now to build a heavier version of the Flyer with a more powerful and efficient engine.
So, um, you know, they're still not taking any money. And so they decide not to go to Kitty Hawk anymore to save on expenses. They can just find somewhere, you know, close to Dayton, especially if they're not gliding anymore, so they don't need the wind.
They wanted Charlie Taylor at hand.
They didn't have the same wide open space here in Ohio that they had in North Carolina. So they would need to learn to make controlled turns. There was a trolley stop at the end of the station.
The farmer, Torrance Huffman, liked the Wright brothers but did not believe in the project at all. They're fools, he told the farmer who worked the adjoining land.
I mean, if you had gone out in the spring of 1904, you would see Wilbur and Orville. In the grass at Huffman Prairie, swinging scythes or working with shovels leveling off groundhog mounds. There were so many groundhogs that, uh, I think it's Orville says it could have been a, a groundhog town.
They invited friends and neighbors and the press, as long as they didn't photograph. On May 23rd, a Monday, despite an early morning rain, some 50 spectators gathered at Huffman Prairie. Bishop Wright, Catherine, Lauren. And family were all present, as were a dozen or more reporters. But there was too little wind and the test flight had to be postponed.
Motor or not, wind was still essential.
Another cancellation on Wednesday. And then May 26th they finally do a flight in Ohio. With Orville at the controls. Flyer 2, Rosamere 8 feet. and came down at once within seconds after leaving the starting track. Something had gone wrong with the motor.
Orville had flown all of 25 feet.
On June 10th, the machine hit ground because of faulty steering. For three months, things just go wrong. Another day, a tail was smashed during a landing. On August 5th, Oroville struck ground at start. Wilbur went again on August 8th, and a wing hit the ground before leaving the track. Two days later, a rudder was smashed, a propeller broken.
It seemed, as Wilbur would say, that they had become, quote, a little rusty at flying.
Um, Werthner, the high school science teacher, who was lending the brothers a hand, wrote, Their patient perseverance, their calm faith in ultimate success, their mutual consideration of each other might have been considered phenomenal in any but men who were well born and well reared. These flights, or spurts of flying, they always made in turn.
And after every trial, The two inventors, quite apart, held long and confidential consultation, with always some new gain. They were getting nearer and nearer the moment when a sustained flight would be made, for a machine that could maintain itself aloft two minutes might just as well stay there an hour, if everything were as intended.
At last, on August 13th, to their utter amazement, Wilbur flew over a thousand feet, farther than any of the flights of Kitty Hawk, and five times what they had been able to do thus far at Huffman Prairie.
If you took any interest in the matter in Dayton, even those riding the inter urban lines seem to have paid little or no attention to what occasionally Could be seen in passing.
Luther Beard, managing editor of the Dayton Journal. I would ride with them on the inter urban line. He said, quote, I used to chat with them in a friendly way and was always polite to them because I sort of felt sorry for them. They seemed like well meaning, decent enough young men, yet there they were, neglecting their business to waste their time day after day 24th.
Orville was hit by a sudden gust of wind and smashed into the ground at 30 miles an hour. Suffered no broken bones, but was so badly shaken and bruised he was unable to fly for a month.
They designed and built their own starting apparatus, a catapult powered by nothing more than gravity.
On September 7th, scarcely any wind, Wilbur tested the new catapult for the first time, starting with only 200 pounds of weights.
Now he could take off with no difficulties and flew longer distances than ever, a little more than a week later on September 15th. He not only flew fully half a mile, but for the first time succeeded in turning a half circle, a major achievement. Not one reporter bothered to attend during this time, nor did public interest increase.
Charlie Taylor said, he's always on hand, said that every time he saw them down the starting track, he had the awful feeling that he might never see the pilot again.
James Cox, publisher of the Dayton Daily News, remembers reports coming, quote, to our office. That the airship had been in the air over the Huffman Prairie, but our news staff would not believe the stories, nor did they ever take the pains to go out to sea.
Dan Kumler, who's the city editor of the Daily News, was asked later why for so long nothing was reported of the momentous accomplishments taking place so nearby. He said after a moment's reflection, quote, I guess the truth is that we were just plain dumb.
So this is Beekeeper. Um, Amos Root. Successful, successful entrepreneur, um, religious man in Ohio and in Cleveland who recognizes their genius
and, um, he hears about them and is interested and so they correspond with him and they invite him to come down and, and watch their experiments.
And they said, you know, we'll let you know. He kept writing him, quote, please excuse me friends, but I am so anxious to see that airship. I can hardly sleep nights.
He arrived when, uh, when things were not going well. But for Root, the spectacle of actual flight was, quote, one of the bright spots in my life.
Tuesday, September 20th, 1904, Wilbur was gonna do something. He would fly a power machine in a complete circle. Orville, still recovering from his crash in August, would be watching with Root and Charlie Taylor. No one else was on hand.
Root began his first hand account, eyewitness account, God in his great mercy has permitted me to be at least somewhat instrumental in ushering in and introducing to the great wide world an invention that may outrank electric cars, the automobiles, and may fairly take a place beside the telephone and wireless telegraphy.
He wrote, uh, Amos Root. When it first turned that circle and came near the starting point, I was right in front of it. And I said then, and I believe still, it was one of the grandest sights, if not the grandest sight, of my life.
So the first real news item about flight comes out in Gleanings and Bee Culture. That's his magazine. Root sent a copy to the editor of Scientific American, saying it could be reprinted at no charge. The editor paid it no mind. Instead, an article published a full year later. Titled the right aeroplane and its fabled performances the magazine chose to cast still more doubt if such since it quote is such Sensational and tremendously important experiments are being conducted in a not very remote part of the country on a subject in which almost everybody Feels the most profound interest it is possible to believe that the enterprising American reporter who it is Well known comes down the chimney when the door is locked in his face would not have ascertained all about them and published long ago?
In October 1904, a month after Amos Root's visit, came the first clear sign that if the American press and the US government had no interest, there were those on the other side of the Atlantic who did. A British army officer comes to investigate. They were reluctant, and they didn't let him come to Huffington Prairie.
He offers to buy one, but they're reluctant to offer it to the British before the Americans. On November 9th, in celebration of Teddy Roosevelt's resounding election, Wilbur flew almost four circles around the field at Huffman Prairie.
They made 105 flights during 1904. Um, they'd flown in straight line circles, s-shaped courses in comms and in winds, and it was now a practical flyer. I mean, it could take you places.
You know, they submit a proposal to the War Department and it is summarily rejected.
No one knows why. Maybe they thought they were cranks. Maybe it was bureaucratic ineptitude. Or possibly, and I think this is likely, is at least somewhat related to reluctance after Langley's failure to have egg on their face again.
Wilbur told Chanute, It has for years been our business practice to sell to those who wish to buy, instead of trying to force goods upon people who did not want them. If the American government has decided to spend no more money on flying machines till their practical use has been demonstrated in actual service abroad, We are sorry, but we cannot reasonably object.
They are the judges. So then they write back to the British. And the British War Office responded at once and serious correspondence began. There was no time to waste. A new 1905 Flyer III was underway. The Flyer III would be the first practical airplane in history.
The Flyer III's engine produces 25 horsepower. It was more sturdy. They
moved the rudder, the forward rudder, even further forward.
Test flights in June of 1904, it becomes clear that the improvements were working and that they're good pilots now.
They're flying six miles in June of 1904 in a single, in a single flight. They learn how to, you know, briefly dive in order to regain speed and then pull up in a stall. Wilbur by then had flown 11 miles on a single run. Orville, 12 miles, then 15. That was in 1905 by now. It was at Huffman Prairie that summer and fall of 1905 that the brothers, by experiment and change, truly learned to fly.
Then, also at last, with a plane that they could rely on, they could permit themselves enjoyment in what they had achieved. They could take pleasure in the very experience of traveling through the air in a motor powered machine as no one had. The sensation is so keenly delightful as to be almost beyond description.
Nobody who has not experienced it for himself can realize it. It is the realization of a dream so many persons have had of floating in the air. More than anything else, the sensation is one of perfect peace, mingled with the excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.
Orville writes, quote, At a height of 100 feet, you could hardly, you could feel hardly any motion at all, except for the wind which strikes your face. If you did not take the precaution to fasten your hat before starting. You've probably lost it by this time. The operator moves a lever, the right wing rises, and the machine swings about to the left.
You make a very short turn, yet you do not feel the sensation of being thrown from your seat. So often experienced in automobile and railway travel. You find yourself facing toward the point from which you started.
In October 5th, 1905, Wilbur circled the pasture 29 times, landing only when his gas ran out.
Now they're flying for over 30 minutes in a single flight. In 1905, Dayton Press finally awakens.
W. C. Fouts, the druggist, was quoted saying, When I went out to Hoffman Prairie, I expected to see somebody's neck broken. What I did see was a machine weighing 900 pounds soar away like an eagle. I told a friend about it that night, and he acted as if he thought I had gone daft or joined the Liars Club.
They make another request of Washington, and they are flatly turned down once again.
Chanute concluded, these fellows are a bunch of asses.
Things, uh, stalled out with the French, and um... So they were ready to discuss sale to the French government. To the English. I think you saw that with the English. So they were discussing sales to the French government.
Wow. According to the agreement, the brothers were to receive 200, 000, 1 million francs, for one machine on the condition that they provided demonstration flights during which the machine fulfilled certain requirements in altitude, distance, and speed.
In 1906, the French start to, is the year that they actually buy a Wright Flyer, the Wright Flyer 3, but there's some French manufacturers who are doing impressive work themselves. And the Paris Herald writes a paper entitled Flyers or Liars. The Wrights have flown or they have not flown. They possess a machine or they do not possess one.
They are in fact either flyers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It is easy to say we have flown.
They met with the brothers every day for two weeks. They refused to fly for them, but um, they willingly provide photographs and eyewitness testimony of the plane in flight.
On April 7th, 1906, the Scientific American, American, starts to change their tune on the Brothers.
In France, in 1906, Alberto Santos Dumont, a Brazilian born Frenchman, um, made a public flight covering 726 feet.
Chanute writes to Wilbur, I fancy this is now very nearly where you were in 1904.
A Flinton company, a New York firm, offers them 500, 000 for the sales rights of their plane outside the U. S. and they can retain the American market.
In February of 1907, Germany offered 500, 000 for 50 Wright Flyers, but they wanted to see it in flight first.
Wilbur goes. May 18th, 1907.
Um, he's met. In London, by Hart Berg, Hart Oberg, an American who recognized Wilbur the moment he stepped off the train. Quote, I have never seen a picture of him, or had him described to me in any way. And either I am Sherlock Holmes, or Wright has the peculiar glint of genius in his eye, which left no doubt in my mind as to who he was.
So they go to France first.
And it's a very complex sale. You know, you got different government interests and um, they want to see the plane as is their right before they buy it, but they don't want to give away any secrets. So you know, it's a little touchy. It's a very complex sale, but Wilbur shows himself to be, uh, very adroit in negotiations.
Very direct and very unpretentious, with good effect. If anything, his lack of French, his lack of sophistication, seemed to work to his advantage. That Wilbur neither drank, or smoked, or showed the least interest in women remained, of course, a puzzlement to the French.
They can speed things up with a 50, 000 bribe. Which Wilbur refuses even to discuss. You know, he's a plain speaking American, he's not going to bribe anyone. As talks drag on, it becomes clear, look, we're just talking in circles until we can demonstrate the thing, so we... Urges Oroville to speed up progress at home.
Oroville and Catherine are freaking out at home. They just are completely losing their crap. Oroville is going through a spell of depression.
And Wilbur is kind of their guiding force. It's hard for him when he's gone.
Okay, France. The tension kind of wanes in August as government officials depart for their customary vacations. And so on August 4th, they go to Berlin.
The press was following Wilbur and Orville everywhere.
French aviation enthusiasts had no doubt, however, that France was now clearly in the lead.
They now had a number of pilots who flew in public, including the Voisin brothers, Voisin, Gabriel and Charles, who have their own aviation company.
Just, even though they don't fly, just being in Europe creates such a stir that it kind of gets things going. So, on February 8th, 1908, their bid of 25, 000 for a Flyer was at last accepted by the War Department less than a month. Later on March 3rd, they signed an agreement with a French company to be known as LA with an understanding that public demonstrations of the flyer in France would follow by midsummer.
So in 1908, they go down to Kitty Hawk in order to practice. They hadn't flown since 1905, and so they needed some practice.
Bill Tate was tied up. With work of his own, John T. Daniels had transferred to the Mags Head life saving station, and Dan Tate had died.
They modified the flyer so it could carry two people sitting side by side.
More wind resistance, but they'd be able to see better.
And soon the press shows up.
The reporters don't, don't get too close. A rumor was started that they had shotguns. And would shoot any reporters that got too close to the machines. All these reporters are amazed to see these test flights, you know, zooming by.
So Wilbur crashes. Still unfamiliar with the new control levers. He made a mistake with the rudder. Suddenly plunged to the ground. About a mile from camp.
Uh, he didn't, you know, he was bruised. And I cut on his nose, but didn't break any bones. The plane, however, was a total wreck.
Um, so no more tests in the Outer Banks.
But they were intentionally keeping their demonstrations a little short. Because they didn't want to pull the rabbit out of the hat quite yet. So Bollet.
Um, is a automobile manufacturer, ballooning enthusiast, and, um, leading citizen. And he suggests Le Mans, and he was extremely helpful. Extremely fat, weighing 240 pounds.
He gives him a room at his factory to assemble the flyer, and offers him, um, some of his workers.
He gets him access to a racetrack to, uh, practice flying and flattens it out for him.
Wilbur is just a great salesman by virtue of who he is. So, he does his first interview, and this guy is very reluctant. He's a Frenchman, um, writing for a French newspaper. And, this is what he writes. Mr. Hart O Berg warmed up for the interview by offering me a cup of coffee and laid out a box of cigars. I felt my doubts fly away one by one in the blue smoke.
Through curls of smoke, I examined Wilbur Wright. His thin, serious face, lit by the strangely gentle, intelligent, and radiant eyes. I had to admit, I had to admit, no, this man was not a bluffer.
When he opens up his crates at Le Mans, the flyers in shambles.
I mean, everything is just, is broken, and tangled, and smashed. Things were missing.
He explodes in order to let a letter. This is the worst example of packing he has ever seen. Quote, I am sure that with a scoop shovel, I could have put things in within two or three minutes and made fully as good a job of it. I never saw such evidences of idiocy.
Turn out it wasn't Orville's fault, but the French customs inspectors at Le Havre.
He apologizes to Orville, who doesn't make a big deal out of it.
The French workers at Le Mans are enthusiastic, but ultimately not very skilled.
Um, while working at the factory in Le Mans... With only him and Leon Bollet, um, he's giving it a speed test when suddenly a radiator hose broke loose, and he was hit by a jet of boiling water. His forearm and his chest were scalded. Bollet quickly gets picric acid.
Oh man, it was a month before he could use his left arm. Despite all the difficulties, by the first days of August, he was seeing to the finishing touches on a machine reconstructed from the smashed and broken remains of the original. Therefore, it was a new machine. You know, the same plan, but, you know, it needed to be tested.
He'd never flown this before. Besides, it had been three months since his last flight, and that had ended in a crash.
Ha! Wilbur slept beside the plane. In a shed. He didn't want anyone to find out about it. There was an outdoor hose for bathing and a privy.
Saturday, August 8th. The 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year of the new century. Was as fine as could be hoped for. Not a cloud in the sky. A northwest breeze was a little gentler than Wilbur would have wished, but he was up to go.
As people saw preparations being made, they started filling up the grandstand at the horse track, as if they were there for a race.
On the day of the test, he doesn't wear any special jacket. No special helmet, just his normal gray suit. He goes about his business the way he usually does. He shows no nervousness. Berg says, quote, neither the impatience of waiting crowds, nor the sneers of rivals, nor the pressure of financial conditions.
Not always easy. to hurry over any difficulty before he had done everything in his power to understand and overcome it.
At 3 in the afternoon, he finally rolls it out, he checks the field, he fiddles with the aircraft. Finally, at 6. 30, with dusk settling, Will returned his cat backward, and to Berg, Bolle, and the others said quietly, Gentlemen, I'm going to fly. Ha ha ha ha, amazing.
He took the seat on the left. Two men started the engine, each pulling down a blade on the two propellers.
He asks a mechanic if a last minute adjustment had been made on the motor. The man said, yes, we made it. And then Wilbur sat silent for a moment, then slowly leaving his pilot's seat, he walked around the machine just to make sure with his own eyes that this particular adjustment had, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, been well and truly made.
He does a perfect little circle. In all, he was in the air not quite two minutes and covered a distance of two miles. The crowd was ecstatic, cheering, shouting, hardly able to believe what they had seen. As said in the Paris Herald, it was not, it was, quote, not the extent but the nature of the flight which was so startling.
There were shouts of, C'est l'homme qui a conquis l'air. The man has conquered the air. And il n'est pas bluffer. He's not a bluffer. One of the French pilots present, Paul Zenz, who had been waiting since morning, told a reporter, I would have waited ten times as long to have seen what I have seen today.
We are children compared to the Wrights, said another pilot, Rene Gossnier, Gossni Gossnier? And Louis Bleroy declared outright, quote, I consider that for us in France and everywhere, A new era in mechanical flight has commenced. It's marvelous. C'est mar marve lu. It's marvelous. The enthusiasm, reported Le Figaro, was indescribable.
Even Wilbur lost his customary composure, quote, overwhelmed by the success and unbounded joy which his friends Hart O Berg and Leon Bollet shared. Then, very calmly. His face beaming with a smile, he put his hands in his pockets and walked off whistling. That night, while the normally sleepy town of Le Mans celebrated, the hero retired early to his shed.
The Paris Herald reported, Mr. Wilbur Wright makes his first flight, French experts amazed by its smoothness. The London Daily Mail, marvelous performance, European skepticism dissipated. Echo de Paris, a triumph of aviation. Chicago Tribune, right by flight, proves his might, of course. The Daily Journal, Wright's aeroplane ascends like a bird.
Le Figaro, it was not merely a success, but a triumph, a decisive victory for aviation, the news of which will revolutionize scientific circles throughout the world. Le Matin writes, the mystery which seemed inextricable and inexplicable is now clear away. Wright flew with an ease in facilities such that one cannot doubt those enigmatic experiments that took place in America.
No more than one can doubt that this man is capable of remaining an hour in the air. It is the most extraordinary vision of flying machine, of a flying machine that we have seen.
What was important was not how long it was, it was only two minutes. But it was the impression that he could have stayed in the air indefinitely. All these other flights were like staying in air as long as they could. Right. But he was just like, I'm just landing under my own control. And it was how smooth it was.
It looked like he was totally in control.
Leaders of French aviation joined in the chorus of acclaim. L'Hérophile writes, quote, Not one of the former detractors of the rights dare question today the previous experiments of the men. Um, Ernest Archdeacon, who had run on with so many negative comments while waiting in the grandstand, stepped forth at once to say he had been wrong. Quote, for a long time, for too long a time, the Wright brothers have been accused in Europe of bluff. They are today hallowed in France, and I feel an intense pleasure in counting myself among the first to make amends.
For the flagrant injustice.
On Monday, August 10th, when the demonstrations resumed, more than 2, 000 people came to watch, including a number of Americans this time. That evening, the light fading. This is on the Monday. Wilbur flew again, this time making two giant figure 8s in front of the crowd in the grandstand and landing exactly at his point of departure. A craft flying a figure 8 had never been seen in Europe before. Leon De La Grange, who is a French aviator, When he sees this figure eight says, well, we are beaten.
Wilbur becomes a figure of intense interest to people call him a zealot in Le Figaro. Franz Reichel writes he and his brother made the conquest of the sky, their existence. They needed this ambition and profound, almost religious faith. In order to deliberately accept their exile to the country of the dunes, far away from all. Wilbur is phlegmatic, but only in appearance.
He is driven by a will of iron, which animates him and drives him in his work. Without wanting to diminish the value of French aviators, Reichel wrote that while Wilbur Wright was flying, they were only beginning to flutter about.
De La Grange writes, quote, Wilbur Wright is the best example of strength of character that I have ever seen. Although he also writes, Even if this man sometimes deigns to smile, one can say with certainty that he has never known the sweetness of tears. Has he a heart? Has he loved? Has he suffered? An enigma?
A mystery? He is sure of himself, of his genius, and he kept his secret. He had the desire to participate today to prove to the world he had not lied.
My favorite interaction actually is when Wilbur is awarded a gold medal from the French Aero Club. The presenter says in part:
“Mr. Wright is a man who has never been discouraged, even in the face of hesitation and suspicion. The brothers Wright have written their names in human history as inventors of pronounced genius.”
And then Wilbur gets up and gives a speech, and in part of it says how much the French have meant to them.
“For myself and my brother, I thank you for the honor you are doing us, and for the cordial reception you have tendered us this evening. If I had been born in your beautiful country and had grown up among you, I could not have expected a warmer welcome than has just been given me.
When we did not know each other, we had no confidence in each other. Today, when we are acquainted, it is otherwise. We believe each other and we are friends. I thank you for this. In the enthusiasm being shown around me, I see not merely an outburst intended to glorify a person. But a tribute to an idea that has always impassioned mankind.
I sometimes think that the desire to fly after the fashion of birds is an ideal handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands and prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space at full speed, above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air.
Scarcely ten years ago, all hope of flying had almost been abandoned. Even the most convinced had become duped, doubtful. And I confess that, in 1901, I said to my brother, Orville, that men would not fly for fifty years. Two years later, we ourselves were making flights. This demonstration of my inability as a prophet gave me such a shock, that I have ever since distrusted myself and have refrained from all prediction, as my friends of the press especially well know.
But it is not really necessary to look too far into the future. We see enough already to be certain that it will be magnificent. Only let us hurry and open the roads. Once again, I thank you with all my heart. And in thanking you, I should like it understood that I am thanking all of France.”
On Thursday, August 13th, he flew again.
It was the longest flight yet at Le Mans, and before the biggest crowd, which cheered every round he made. So loud was the cheering that he flew at nearly 100 feet in the air, in part to lessen the distracting effect of the noise.
He ends up coming in too low and he crashes, although he himself was uninjured. The admiration of the crowd diminished not at all. One French aircraft designer told a reporter for the New York Herald, Mr. Wright is as superb in his accidents as he is in his flights.
Uh, he writes home, the people of Le Mans are ecstatic and they're giving him gifts. They're grateful for the fame that this is bringing their town.
The French army offers him a bigger field, and so he moves to a new field. The new grounds are much larger and much safer than the old, he reported home.
This is interesting. McCullough says, It was almost as though the less he flew, the greater the curiosity of the crowd.
And they don't really mind when he won't fly, they just come back. On August 25th, in Le Mans, a celebration banquet in Wilbur's honor took place at the Hotel de Dauphine. This time he was happy to join the festivities. Great with Triumph.
So Orville gets ready to do his tests at Meijer, near DC, just on the Virginia side of the Potomac.
September 3rd, Orville conducts his first test. In contrast to Wilbur, he was evidently, and obviously, extremely on edge.
The crowd was small. At last, at 6 o'clock, Orville climbed into his seat, the motor was started, and the big propellers were cutting the air at a frightful rate. When he called out, let her go,
Phoenix makes a successful turn, and the crowd breaks into a frenzy of enthusiasm. The line circled overhead at about 35 feet, and heads away down the field again. Suddenly it veered off toward the wooden hanger, descended at an abrupt angle, and hit the ground.
The crowd rushed forward to find Orville calmly brushing the dust from his clothes. Quote, it shows I need a great deal of practice, he said.
The day after, Friday, September 4th, Orville and the Flyer remained in the air for more than four minutes, circling the parade ground five and a half times under perfect control, covering three miles with no mishap.
Army officers are calling it the most wonderful exhibition they have ever seen. In the days that followed, Orville provided one sensational performance after another. breaking one world record after another.
They had become a transcontinental two ring circus, Wilbur and Orville.
So, um, on September 9th, with relatively few spectators present, he circled Fort Myers Parade Ground 57 times. Remaining in the air not quite an hour. When it was reported that he might fly again that afternoon, over a thousand people came to watch. Government offices were closed.
This time he was in the air for an hour and three minutes. Another new world record.
He broke it again on September 10th for, by a few minutes.
He says it's a new world record. And then goes right towards the crowd and stops just 20 feet short of the crowd.
An hour and six minutes. New world record.
Um, seeing Lieutenant Frank Laum, one of the committee that would pass on the trials, standing nearby, Orville asked if he would like to go up while there was still some light left. So the two took off for a brief ride just as a full September moon was rising. On Saturday the
12th, 5, 000 people encircled the parade grounds.
Chanute shows up and exclaims good for you my boy and asks him how it felt to make history. Pretty good, Oroville said, but I'm more interested in making speed. The remark made more headlines back in Dayton.
In Dayton, they plan a grand welcoming for the brothers when they come back.
During the six months Wilbur was flying at Le Mans, 200, 000 people came to see him.
This is something for Endnotes, probably. But, um,
it's funny about the, uh, fashion sensation. He takes up Mrs. Berg, and so she ties. Her skirt together at the bottom and, uh, French designers make that a thing to tie your skirt.
I love this little detail. Uh, it seemed all the children within a dozen mile radius would greet him as he rode by on his bicycle. They would politely take off their caps and smile and say, Bonjour, Monsieur Wright. They are really almost the only ones except close friends who know how to pronounce my name.
People in general pronounce my name, Vreet, with a terrible, Vreet, with a terrible rattle on the R. In many places, I am called by my first name, Vilbert, almost entirely.
I like this. They get a gold medal from the Aero Club, in France. And they, um, Wilbur gets a standing ovation. Um, and the presenter says that, quote, Mr. Wright is a man who has never been discouraged, even in the face of hesitation and suspicion. The brothers Wright have written their names in human history as inventors of pronounced genius.
Uh, I also like Wilbur's speech. Quote, For myself and my brother, I thank you for the honor you are doing us, and for the cordial reception you have tended us this evening. If I had been born in your beautiful country and had grown up among you, I could not have expected a warmer welcome than has just been given me.
When we did not know each other, we had no confidence in each other. Today, when we are acquainted, it is otherwise. We believe each other and we are friends. I thank you for this. In the enthusiasm being shown around me, I see not merely an outburst intended to glorify a person. But a tribute to an idea that has always impassioned mankind.
I sometimes think that the desire to fly after the fashion of birds is an ideal handed down to us by our ancestors who, in their grueling travels across trackless lands and prehistoric times, looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space at full speed. Above all obstacles, on the infinite highway of the air.
But it is not really necessary to look too far into the future. We see enough already to be certain that it will be magnificent. Only let us hurry and open the roads. Once again, I thank you with all my heart. And in thanking you, I should like it understood that I am thanking all of France.
He received a standing ovation in the band played the Star Spangled Banner.
He wins the Michelin Cup by flying without a catapult. And he flies for two hours and twenty minutes, and twenty three and one fifth seconds, during which he covered a distance of seventy seven miles.
And they conferred the Legion of Honor upon Orville and Wilbur.
He would return to Kitty Hawk to conduct gliding experiments on his own, with a new Wright hydroplane. By 1918, he had sold the Wright Company and established his own Wright Aeronautical Lab. Orville's wealth at the time of his death was 1, 067, 105, and that's more than 10 million present day dollars.
According to brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, the fascination with flight began for them with a toy from France -- a small helicopter brought home by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, a great believer in the educational value of toys. The rubber band powered toy helicopter, called the "bat", was a creation of a French experimenter of the 19th century, Alphonse Pinaud. It was little more than a stick with twin propellers and twisted rubber bands and probably cost 50 cents. Look here, boys, said the bishop, something concealed in his hands. When he let go, it flew to the ceiling and a dream was born. Orville's first teacher in grade school, Ida Palmer, would remember him at his desk tinkering with bits of wood. Asked what he was up to, he told her he was making a machine of a kind that he and his brother were going to fly someday. That's cool, makes you believe in destiny.