On April 16, 1867, Milton and Susan Wright gave birth to their third child. They lived in Millville, Indiana. The newest addition to the family, Wilbur, had two older brothers to compete with: Reuchlin, 6, and Lorin, 4. Little did Susan Wright know that she had given birth to the first half of one of the world's most famous inventive partnerships. The other half of the pair, Orville, was born four years later, on August 19, 1871, in the family's newly-built home at 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio. Orville's sister, Katharine, was also born on the same day 3 years later.
As youngsters, Wilbur and Orville looked to their father for intellectual challenge and their mother for mechanical expertise. Milton often brought little souvenirs from his travels for the Church.
One such trinket, a toy helicopter-like top, stared their interest in flying. Academically, Wilbur was a great student, and would have graduated from high school if his family had not moved during his senior year. A skating accident, his mother's illness and subsequent death kept him from attending college. Orville on the other hand was an average student, known for his mischievous behavior. He quit school before his senior year to start a printing business.
The First time the brothers referred to themselves as "The Wright Brothers" was when the started their own printing company. Using a damaged tombstone and buggy parts, they built a press and printed odd jobs as well as their own newspaper.
In 1892 the brothers brought bicycles. They began repairing bicycles for friends, then started their own repair business. They opened up the shop in 1893. They even made their own types of bicycles which they called Van Cleves and St. Clairs. The brothers became even more interested in flying when Wilbur read about the death of a famous German glider pilot.
On May 30, 1899, he wrote to the Smithsonian Institution for information on aeronautical research. Within months of writing Wilbur read all that was written about flying. He then defined the elements of a flying machine, which were, wings to provide lift, a power source for propulsion, and a system of control. Of all the early aviators, Wilbur alone recognized the need to control a flying machine in its three axes of motion: pitch, roll, and yaw. His solution to the problem of control was 'wing warping.' He came up with the revolutionary system by twisting an empty bicycle tube box with the ends removed. Twisting the surface of each 'wing' changed its position in relation to oncoming wind. Such changes in position would result in changes in the direction of flight. Wilbur tested his theory using a small kite, and it worked.
In August of 1900, Wilbur built his first glider. He then contacted the U.S. Weather Bureau for information on the more windy regions of the country. Reviewing the list, he chose a distant sandy area off the coast of North Carolina named Kitty Hawk, where winds averaged 13 m.p.h. He and Orville then journeyed to Kitty Hawk where they tested the 1900 glider.
The following year, they tested a new and improved glider with a 22-foot wingspan. A discouraging performance by the 1901 glider pushed the Wright brothers to build a wind tunnel to test the effectiveness of a variety of wing shapes.
Using the results of the wind tunnel experiments, they constructed their 1902 glider. Testing it at Kitty Hawk in October, they met with success, gliding a record 620 feet. Once again they returned to Dayton and began work on developing a propeller and an engine for their next goal, a flying machine. After they constructed an engine the first airplane was built!
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