"Re-living The Wright Way"

Biography of Wilbur Wright

Bishop Milton Wright wrote of his son Wilbur:

"In memory and intellect, there was none like him. He systemized every thing. His wit was quick and keen. He could say or write anything he wanted to. He was not very talkative. His temper could hardly be stirred. He wrote much. He could deliver a fine speech, but was modest(ref)."

Wilbur Wright, along with his brother Orville, launched into both history books and legend with the first ever manned powered flight.

This feat was accomplished through a lifetime's work and commitment.

The historic flight was the fruit of their unending devotion to the pursuit of their goals. Although this was his most notable accomplishment, Wilbur led a life full of many achievements and triumphs over adversity.

Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867 in Millville, Indiana. He was the third child of Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Catharine Wright. The family moved to Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio.

Wilbur fixing part of the flyer

"As youngsters, Wilbur and Orville looked to their mother for mechanical expertise and their father for intellectual challenge. Milton brought the boys various souvenirs and trinkets he found during his travels for the church. One such trinket, a toy helicopter-like top, sparked the boys' interest in flying. In school, Wilbur excelled, and would have graduated from high school if his family had not moved during his senior year. A skating accident and his mother's illness and subsequent death kept him from attending college(ref)."

Wilbur, a strong-willed individual, was able to repeatedly bounce back from physical and academic setbacks. As he entered adulthood, he teamed with his brother Orville to develop new and unusual schemes.

The Wright Bicycle Shop

Among the Wright Brothers' various enterprises were a Printing firm and a Bicycle shop. Both of these ventures showcased their mechanical aptitude, business sense, and originality.

This was a continuation of their lifelong partnerships: even as youngsters, Wilbur submitted a journalistic report on a circus production managed by Orville. These complementary traits would serve them as they journeyed down the path of greatness.

 

They were inspired by German glider Otto Lilienthal Otto Lilienthal, German Glider, and paid close attention to his success and eventual fatal error. His innovation inspired them, as their innovation now inspires us. The spark of interest spread into a genuine desire to fly. "For many years, he once said, he had been 'afflicted with the belief that flight is possible (ref)."

Wilbur began to voraciously read everything he could about aviation, from the Smithsonian's to newspapers articles. As all independent thinkers and inventors do, he imagined something completely novel to solve the problem that had plagued other would-be flyers: "a simple system that twisted, or warped the wings of a biplane, causing it to roll right and left(ref)." As they say, the "rest is history."


Wright Brothers Sleeping QuartersWright Brothers Kitchen
This is how the Wright Brothers lived when they camped out at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina as they tried to make that first historical flight. It was a simple, functional existence. They were settlers of a different kind: pioneering into the frontiers of science.



Their perseverance would again be put to the test, even after making history with the first ever heavier than air, manned, powered flight in 1903. Their achievement was doubted and undermined.

"Government bureaucrats thought they were crackpots; others thought that if two bicycle mechanics could build a successful airplane, they could do it themselves (ref). "

Eventually, with persistence, Wilbur and Orville were able to win over both the public and the bureaucrats.


Wilbur flying over Le Mans, France
Wilbur shocks the French with the flying machine.

In 1908 and 1909 Wilbur became quite the celebrity, wowing both audiences abroad and at home. He set records in Le Mans , France.

As one Frenchman put it: "I would have waited 10 ten times as long to see what I have seen today...Monsieur Wright has us all in his hands. (ref)"


Cartoon of Wilbur as a bird
The "Man-Bird" that spellbound the French Public.

Cartoons and sketches of Wilbur were featured in many French magazines and newspapers. He then returned to the U.S. to captivate a U.S. audience of 1 million as he flew around the Statue of Liberty, and followed the Hudson River to Grant's Tomb(ref).

Silhouette cartoon of Wilbur
Sketched portrait of Wilbur



Wilbur posing for camera

"May 30, 1912

This morning at 3:15, Wilbur passed
away, aged 45 years, 1 month, and 14 days.

A short life, full of consequences.

An unfailing intellect, imperturbable
temper, great self-reliance and as
great modesty, seeing the right clearly,
pursuing it steadily, he lived and died.

- Bishop Milton Wright"(ref)

In 1912 Wilbur died after suffering from typhoid fever. In 1965 he was selected for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (ref).

 

Responsible Official
Tom Benson

Maintained by
Shanessa Jackson
Comments and Suggestions Carol Galica
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