Wilbur Wright

Cause of Death Visited
Dayton, Ohio April 21, 2010


Both Orville and Wilbur Wright are interred                                 The footstones of Wilbur and Orville. Their
in Woodlawn Cemetery in Dayton, the city                                  sister, Katharine, is buried between them.
where they built their Wright Flyer airplane.


With the elder Wright brother's footstone.                                   My father and I raced from Lexington,
He was regarded by family members as the                                 Kentucky to Dayton and arrived quickly
more steady and mature of the two.                                           enough to get some decent photographs
                                                                                              before dusk.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* Wilbur Wright was born near Millville, Indiana on April 16, 1867. His family moved several times during his youth, including to Dayton when he was very young. That is where several of his siblings were born, including his brother, Orville, in 1871. Seven years later, their father presented Wilbur and Orville with a toy helicopter that was modeled after designs made by a famed French aviator. The boys became very intrigued by the toy and loved to play with it. Taught to embrace intelligence and curiosity, the pair set about figuring out how the device worked and then began making their own toy helicopters.

* In 1878, the Wright family moved to Iowa and then back to Indiana in 1881, although this time they lived in Richmond. Just a month before Wilbur was to graduate from high school, the clan moved back to Dayton. He was unable to receive his diploma. Still, he was scheming to attend Yale College, but his plan never came to fruition. While playing hockey one winter, Wilbur was struck in the face with a hockey stick, which resulted in the loss of his front teeth. Aside from that, it seemed as if the incident had no effect on Wilbur. However, he began to suffer from nervous heart palpitations a few weeks later. He also became withdrawn from society and remained at home, possibly due to depression. Remaining a recluse for four years, he spent much of this period educating himself by reading books from his father's private library. He also took time to care for his mother, who was ill with tuberculosis.

* Susan Wright, Wilbur and Orville's mother, passed away in 1889. That same year, Wilbur became less of a recluse and helped his brother put out a newspaper titled the West Side News, which was printed from a printing press Orville had constructed himself. A few years later, the duo opened up a bicycle shop in Dayton, which they called the Wright Cycle Exchange. It was later renamed the Wright Cycle Company. Originally, the brothers only sold bikes and repaired broken ones, but they eventually broadened their horizons and began constructing their own bicycles. Around this time, the two brothers became interested in flight again.

* Otto Lilienthal, a famous German glider pilot, was killed in 1896 when he fell fifty-six feet to the ground from his glider. This once again sparked Orville and Wilbur's interest in aviation and flight. They were determined that, if a pilot could control the aircraft he was riding in, heavier-than-air, machine-powered flight could be achieved. Both brothers gathered as much knowledge about aeronautics as they could, with Wilbur going as far as to write to the Smithsonian Institution asking for information. The siblings wanted to start conducting some tests, but Dayton was not windy enough to suit their purposes. So, Wilbur wrote to the chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau and asked him for a list of rural areas in the U.S. with high winds. On that list was Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. After several years of experiments and tests, that is where the first flight occurred. Using information they had gathered and their expertise in bicycle building, they constructed the Wright Flyer I in the back room of their shop. On December 17, 1903, it made its maiden flight. Orville flew the contraption in a prone position and Wilbur ran alongside the right wing until it was up in the air. The remarkable event was photographed by a man named John T. Daniels, and remains one of the most iconic pictures ever taken.

* Orville and Wilbur flew many more times over the next few years, but disassembled the Wright Flyer III in 1905 to keep competitors from finding out the secrets to their success. It was rebuilt three years later after the brothers signed contracts with the U.S. Army and a group of French investors. In 1909, Wilbur and Orville opened up an aviation business called the Wright Company, with Wilbur as president. Worn out and exhausted from recent goings-on, Wilbur's health was hindered even more when he contracted typhoid fever in 1912. He was claimed by the fever on May 30th and was laid to rest in Dayton.

Spouse: None

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