Others

The White Mansion on the Hill

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the “for sale” signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

One of the first moves by the NCR was to install a modern plumbing and heating system to replace the complex system that had resulted from years of Orville’s tinkering. Orville did all of the plumbing work himself; he never allowed a plumber to do any work in Hawthorn Hill.

The return of the house to the Wright family by the NCR after 58 years of ownership occurred on August 18, 2006. The date is significant because it comes on the 135th anniversary of Orville’s birthday that occurred on the 19th.

NCR’s president and chief executive Bill Nutti handed the keys to the house to Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of Wilbur and Orville and Stephen Wright, great-grandnephew. They represented the Wright Family Foundation.

The Wright Family Foundation is a nonprofit fund established through the Dayton Foundation by the late “Wick” Wright, the Wright brothers’ grandnephew. Amanda and Stephen are the foundation’s trustees.

The foundation will assume the $75,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the property.

Hawthorn Hill is not a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park Service and for the immediate future the policy of not opening the home for public tours will continue. This policy may change later on.

The White Mansion on the Hill

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the “for sale” signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

Flight Safety – June 2006

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Others

Two significant events concerning space flight and commercial aviation occurred in June 2006.

The first concerns the Space Shuttle. The next flight of the shuttle is scheduled for July 1. Two NASA engineers voiced their concern that the shuttle isn’t ready to fly.

Bryan O’Connor, NASA’s lead safety official, and Christopher Scolese, its chief engineer voted “no go” when agency officials met recently at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In an unusual move the rest of the officials voted yes for an ontime launch including NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

The concern of the two officials, who voted against the launch, was that the insulating foam that covers 34 metal brackets on the shuttle’s external fuel tank might dislodge during launching and damage the spacecraft’s protective heat shield beyond repair.

The July 1 launch was approved despite the objections because in the event of a damaged heat shield, the astronauts could stay in the International Space station until rescued by another shuttle.

The loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew on Feb. 1, 2003 was caused by foam debris. NASA engineers have redesigned the fuel tank and removed most sources of large pieces of potentially damaging debris.

However, during the shuttle Discovery launch last July, a hazardous amount of foam fell from its tank. As a result NASA engineers have further reduced the amount of foam used.

O’Connor and Scolese believe that the foam issue is still not fully resolved. They note that their concern is with the fate of the shuttle and not the safety of the seven-man crew of Discovery who can remain in the International Space Station in an emergency.

Update: Charlie Camarda, a member of the astronaut corps and long time NASA engineer, was removed from his job for his safety views. He wrote an e-mail to his engineering team saying that he was most proud of all of them at the flight readiness review meetings “when you stood up and presented your dissenting opinions and your exceptions/constraints for flight.”

Camarda told colleagues that he was forced out as director of engineering at Johnson Space Center after praising colleagues who dissented about going forward with the next flight of Discovery. He said he refused to step down from the high-level mission management team and “asked that if I would not be allowed to work this mission that I would have to be fired from my position and I was.”

For his work at NASA, Camarda received seven patents and more than 21 NASA awards for his technical innovations and accomplishments.

Update: (July 6) NASA engineers and managers are optimistic that the shuttle has reached orbit with no damage and substantially less shedding of foam debris from the external tank than in previous flights. There will be additional examinations over the next few days.

The second event concerns commercial airplanes landing in wet or icy weather.

On Dec. 8 last year, a Southwest Airlines jet (Flight 1248) skidded off the runway on to a highway while landing at Midway Airport, Chicago and crushed a car, killing a 6-year-old boy.

At a two-day FAA hearing last week new regulations were announced that would require pilots to add a buffer of at least 15% to their stopping-distance estimates on wet or icy runways.

The new rules, according to FAA airplane performance engineer Don Stimson (my son), mandate that when conflicting or mixed assessments of runway conditions are issued, pilots must use the worse case scenario, effectively erring on the conservative side.

The pilots of Flight 1248 had calculated much shorter stopping distances for their landing at Midway, 5,778 feet under poor runway conditions to 5,253 feet under fair conditions. Midway’s longest runway is 6,522 feet long, but obstructions outside the airfield prohibit landing on the first 696 feet.

Under the new rules, a stopping distance of 8,535 feet must be available for a plane comparable in weight and landing speed to the Southwest 737-700 involved in the Dec. 8 accident based on conditions of the runway that day.

Pilots and safety board investigators rated the first half of the Midway runway as fair and the second half poor just before the accident.

The final report and safety recommendations are expected to be released in early 2007.

References:

New York Times, “In Opposing Launching, 2 NASA Officials Feared Shuttle’s Loss, Not Crew Safety,” June 22, 2006.

Chicago Tribune, “Midway gets U.S. warning on snow; More runway needed in wet or icy weather,” June 22, 2006.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, ” NASA Official says his safety views cost job,” June 28, 2006.

Today there are many African-American superstars who are serving as role models. In the mid-1930s there was only one international black hero and that was Jesse Owens. Jesse burst upon the scene in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics where he won four gold metals and made a mockery of Adolf Hitler’s claim that the German Aryan people were the dominant race.

Owens’s wife, Ruth, and three daughters attended the opening ceremonies of the annual Jesse Owens Track and Field Classic at the opening of the new Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University.

The new track replaced the one that had circled the football field in the Ohio State football stadium known as the “horseshoe.” The horseshoe had recently been enlarged as part of a renovation project that required removal of the running track.

The original structure of the horseshoe dates back to 1922. A little known fact is that Orville Wright, along with Katharine, attended football games at Ohio State and contributed to the $1 million campaign to build the horseshoe.

The Owen’s family was involved in the important decision to move the track that Jesse had made famous.

Young Prodigy

Jesse was born in Oakville, Alabama in 1913 of poor sharecropper parents. The Owens family moved to Cleveland in 1922 to find work. It was there in Bolton Elementary school that J. C. Owens received the name Jesse. The teacher mispronounced his initials, J.C., as Jesse.

It was in gym class in junior high school, that his track story begins. Students were timed in the 60-yard dash. When Coach Charlie Riley saw the raw, yet natural talent that young Jessie had, he immediately invited him to run for the track team. Although Jessie was unable to participate in after-school practices because of work, Coach Riley offered to train him in the mornings. Jessie agreed.

By the 8th grade, Jessie was competing in junior high meets. About a year after the training began, Jessie ran the 100-yard dash in 11 seconds. Then in 1928 Jesse set his first of many innumerable records: 6 feet in the high jump and 22 feet 11¾ inches in the long jump. Both were new world marks for junior high school.

Thus began a life-long relationship between Riley and Jessie. In Jesse, Riley found the surrogate athletic son he never had. For Jesse, Riley was the first white man he ever knew. Owens later in life said, “He proved to me beyond all proof that a white man can understand and love a Negro.” “He trained me to become a man as well as an athlete.”

At Cleveland East Technical High School Jesse became a track star with a time of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash, setting a world record. He won 75 of 79 races he ran in high school.

Blossoming at Ohio State

Many colleges tried to recruit Jesse. In 1933, He chose to attend Ohio State University. There, his development continued under Coach Larry Snider who also became his Olympic coach. Snyder liked to say that Jesse’s style was so smooth and light that “he never bruised the cinders.”

In 1935, Jesse had his greatest single day in track and field. At a Big Ten meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he set three world records and tied a fourth, all in a span of 70 minutes. He tied his own world record in the 100-yard dash and set new world records in the long jump, 220 and 220 hurdles.

Olympic Triumph

At the end of his sophomore year he participated in the 1936 Olympics known as the Hitler Olympics. Jesse was triumphant in the 100-meter, the 200-meter dash, and the broad jump and was a key member of the winning 400-meter relay team. The performance etched his name into history.

Hitler wasn’t pleased with his performance and never congratulated him. Unfortunately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never did either.

Post-Olympic Setback

After the Olympics, Jesse turned professional and dropped out of school. This was not a good period in his life, as many lucrative job offers didn’t pan out. He worked a variety of jobs to support his wife and three daughters. One of the unusual things he did was race against racehorses in exhibitions and win.

He returned to Ohio State in 1940 as a student and assistant track coach but was dismissed a year later for poor grades in science and math. Unfortunately, the quality of his pre-college education was marginal. He never did graduate, but did receive an honorary doctorate from Ohio State in 1972.

Two of his three daughters also attended Ohio State. His daughter, Marlene, was the homecoming queen in 1960.

Final Triumph

Jesse became successful later in life and no longer had to scramble for lucrative opportunities. In fact his problem was just the reverse; that of deciding which offer to accept. He was a businessman and involved in many activities involving children including serving as Executive Director of the Chicago South Side Boys Club.

He was in great demand as a polished speaker. He honed his talents as a speaker while a student at Ohio State. One of the ways he made money was to speak to schools and service organizations on behalf of the school. He received $50 expense money for each speech.

In 1976, Jesse was awarded the highest honor a civilian can receive. President Gerald Ford awarded him with the Medal of Freedom. Ten years after his death his widow was presented the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush for his humanitarian contributions to the “race for life.”

Racism was alive and well in the 1930s and Owens experienced his share of it. He overcame racism and bigotry to prove to the world that African-Americans could be successful in sports and other endeavors. He considered himself an American first and a black man second.

Jesse died on March 31, 1980 at the age of 66 in Tucson, Arizona from lung cancer.

One of the letters in the Jesse Owens’s collection came from North Carolina. A young man wrote it on March 25, 1980 as Owens was dying.

“I wish you could get better but there comes a day when you go to sleep for the last time and I will keep you in my heart the rest of my life because there probably wouldn’t be a Boys Club if you wouldn’t have been born.” Signed by “your fan, Lance C. Johnson,” Boys’ Club of Wake County, NC.

On January 15, 2003, Owen’s daughters Marlene Rankine and Gloria Owens Hemphill unveiled the Wheaties box featuring their father in a ceremony at Ohio State University. Ohio State President, Karen Holbrook, said, “I am thrilled in honoring one of our most renowned athletes of all time, somebody who has inspired people for years and has literally changed the world. The legend of Jesse Owens is known and admired everywhere.”

Where are Jesse’s Oak Trees?

Each gold medallist at the 1936 Olympics was given an oak sapling from the Black Forest as the living reminder of their achievement. Jesse received four.

Jeff Nagy of Columbus, Ohio has researched what has happened to these trees. The tree Jesse was awarded for winning the long jump was planted at his mother’s house in Cleveland, Ohio. It died.

The tree awarded for winning the 4×100-meter dash, Jessie gave to two of his teammates – Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff, both of USC. The tree died of root rot in 2002. A replacement was planted in April 2005 in Associates Park at an USC-UCLA track meet.

The tree awarded for winning the 200-meter dash still is alive near the Cleveland Rhodes High School near its football stadium. Jesse practiced and participated in track at this location because his high school didn’t have a track.

The fourth tree was awarded for winning the 100-meter dash. No one knows for sure what happened to this tree. All that is known is that Jesse intended to plant the sapling on the Ohio State University campus.

Various teammates and classmates of Jesse believe an oak tree adjacent to the south side of the main library is Jesse’s tree. Their opinion is given credibility by an urban forester that lives in the Columbus area. Steven R. Cothrel wrote in a report in 1988 that the suspect tree is 52 or 53 years old which would place its planting as 1936.

Jeff Nagy asked Owen’s daughter, Marlene Rankin, about it. She told Nagy, “The question of whether the oak tree on campus, is it the oak tree? I don’t know. I guess it just depends on if you want it to be it or not. If it can be traced back to 1936, then that’s good enough for me.”

In the picture I’m standing next to the 100-inch base diameter, 50-foot tall tree. There is no plague or marker that identifies the significance of the tree.

A number of students walked by while the picture was taken. They appeared to wonder why I was having my picture taken besides this particular tree.

References: Jesse Owens by William J. Baker, 1986; Buckeye Sports Bulletin by Darrell Dawson, May 14

People were still trying to invent the airplane five years after the Wrights had flown.

The story of one such attempt August 8 was published in August 9, 1908 by the Inter-Mountain Republican newspaper in Salt Lake City.

Here is the article:

Opined That He Also Could Sail The Air

Finds His Wings Are Good Life Preservers But Not For Flying

Arioch Wheeler of Mianus, Conn., after weeks of reading about Count Zeppelin and Henri Farman, who are conquering the air, opined that he, Arioch, would make a flight, so he constructed for himself a pair of paper wings and today he suddenly left his turnip patch and made a wild dash for Hiram Johnson’s barn.

He clambered to the roof and blithely adjusted the wings.

Arioch then posed gracefully, took in the wind situation and then laid his course across the Mianus River, a stream 12 feet from the barn.

Some farmers were near by and saw the man perched on the roof. They yelled to him to come down but he merely stretched out his hands and shrieked,

” I am Count Zeppelin. I am going to fly.”

In an instant Arioch had flung himself into the air — and also into the Mianus River. The wings kept him afloat till he was rescued.

He has been advised to patent his wings and dub them life preservers.

Did the Wright Brothers have girly pictures hanging on the wall of their bicycle shop? That is the interesting question that a photograph taken in 1893 presents.

The picture shows four men in a bicycle shop. The two young men in the center display a resemblance to Orville and Wilbur. On the wall in the background are a number of partially clad girls. Written on the back of the picture is the caption, “Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop-1893, Dayton, Ohio.”

But, is it really Wilbur and Orville Wright? That is the question debated in an article that appears in the August-September 1987 issue of “Timeline” magazine, a publication of the Ohio Historical Society. Two experts on the Wright Brothers, Tom D. Crouch and Gerald S. Sharkey, wrote the article.

Differing Opinions

Jerry Sharkey, founder of Aviation Trail, Inc. in Dayton, was given the picture as a Christmas gift in 1985. He believes the picture is authentic.

Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Division of Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum and author of the best seller “Bishop’s Boys,” doesn’t agree.

The Wright family also doesn’t agree and backs up Crouch. Of course, one could argue that that perspective is not surprising since they have a family reputation to protect.

Wilbur and Orville were sons of a church Bishop and a mother who viewed her fulltime duty as raising her children into healthy, strong adults with moral fiber and model Christian citizens. The brothers didn’t smoke, drink liquor or use swear words and never worked or flew their airplane on Sundays. Moral ambiguity was not a characteristic of their behavior.

The following are some of the arguments pro and con about the authenticity of the picture.

Crouch is not convinced that the person who took the photo wrote the caption. He finds it peculiar that the four people featured in the photo are not named; instead the shop is identified.

Sharkey counters that as simple as it sounds, the inscription on the back of the photo is persuasive evidence. In 1893, the Wrights were famous and there would be no reason to mislabel the photo.

Crouch believes the shop looks too well equipped for this early date in their bicycle career. Their first two shops corresponding to the time frame of 1893 were occupied for a short time. Initially, they repaired bicycles and sold bicycles built by others.

They were not building bicycles of their own brand until three years later in 1896. By then they were occupying their third shop There is nothing in the record to indicate that they had a well-equipped shop with tools driven by an overhead line shaft until then.

There were fourteen bicycle shops in Dayton during that time period. Possibly, the shop in the photo could be one of those, not the Wright Brothers’ shop.

Sharkey counters that it is not difficult to imagine that the shop was well equipped with tools and gadgets of every sort because they were tinkerers that collected such things over the years. The shop looks very cramped, which is consistent with their need to find larger quarters. Everything in the shop is neat. Bottles and boxes are lined up carefully on the shelves, a characteristic that is consistent with their almost compulsive need for neatness and preciseness.

Crouch doesn’t think the young men in the photo look like Wilbur and Orville. He claims that Orville (right of center in the photo) didn’t part his hair on the side shown in the photo. (Click image for larger version). He also doesn’t think that Orville’s nose looks right.

Wilbur shows some hair peeking out from his hat. Crouch says that this couldn’t be possible if it were Wilbur because he had lost most of his hair on his forehead while still in high school.

Wilbur is shown dressed in a sporty light suit. Crouch assets that in reality Wilbur was a conservative dresser. Also, his clothing doesn’t look like he is one of the workers in the shop.

Sharkey responds that the two young men in the center of the photo are about the same age as the Wrights would be and about the same build. It is difficult to compare facial features because there are no known pictures of them during that time period.

Wilbur is possibly wearing a hat to conceal his high forehead. Wilbur is wearing a suit but it appears rumpled and carelessly worn, as he was likely to do. Orville in turn is wearing a fancy tie and vest that is consistence with his reputation of being somewhat of a dude.

The most compelling physical evidence of all, asserts Sharkey, is the absence of earlobes on Wilbur. The real Wilbur had this rare characteristic.

Another question that one might ask is what would their father, the Bishop and their sister think about the pictures. Their mother died in 1889. It happens that during this period of time their father was away from home traveling on church business most of the time and their sister Katharine was in college.

No Conclusive Answer

Crouch asked the FBI to examine the photo and compare it with other Wright Brothers’ pictures. Because they had no scars or birthmarks, they were undecided. The mystery will have to go unsolved because there is no unassailable truth one way or the other. What do you think? Send me an e-mail with your thoughts.