The citizens of Dayton on October 12, 1927 donated a large tract of land for the site of the new Wright Field. The new Wright Field would house facilities for carrying on and expanding the experimental and research work of the Air Corps at McCook Field in Dayton.
This is the story behind this event beginning with the occasion of Orville Wright returning to the airplane business.
In 1917, Orville was back in the airplane business again in Dayton. This time he didn’t own the company named Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, but was a technical advisor. Six Dayton businessmen formed the new company. The president of the company was Edward Deeds, a vice-president and later president of the NCR Company. The vice-president was Charles Kettering, the noted inventor. Both were good friends of Orville.
A new factory was built at Moraine City, just south of Dayton. In addition, a flying school was formed and land procured just north of downtown Dayton and named North Field. In 1917, North field was leased to the Army and renamed McCook Field. Orville was instrumental in selecting the location.
The new investors hoped to make Dayton the manufacturing center of the United States using modern automobile production techniques to mass produce airplanes.
Fortuitously, the United States declared war on Germany five days before the new company was incorporated. Subsequently, the Dayton-Wright Company received a contract to deliver 4,000 modified British De Havilland DH-4 combat planes and 400 J-1 trainers.
The DH-4 was a 2-bay airplane with a 42-1/2 foot wing span. Its fuselage was about 30 feet long. It was armed with two Lewis guns in the rear cockpit, and one or two Marlin forward firing guns.
Following the world war the government began to figure seriously on abandonment of the McCook experimental field, where so much of useful aviation activity had been carried out during the conflict. The Miami River surrounded McCook field on one side and city of Dayton housing, the other. It could not be enlarged. The Air Staff had realized for some time that McCook Field’s physical facilities were inadequate to handle all of the work involved in the Army aviation research and procurement programs.
The search for a permanent home had begun before the end of World War I. Langley Field in Virginia was frequently mentioned as a likely site. After the war, cities across the country submitted competing proposals to the Army, offering land and facilities to house engineering activities. Dayton was faced with the prospect of losing McCook’s activities to another location.
John H. Patterson, founder and president of the National Cash Register Co (NCR), vowed to keep Army aviation in Dayton and began a local campaign to raise money to purchase land large enough for a new field. The land would then be donated to the U. S. Army with the understanding that it would become home of the Engineering Division. Orville was consulted on the selection of the this location.
Mr. Patterson died in 1922 before his plan could be carried out.
Fortunately, his son, Frederick B. Patterson, inherited both his father’s position at NCR as well as his interest in keeping Army aviation research and development activities in Dayton. In 1922, Frederick Patterson organized the Dayton Air Service Committee, a coalition of prominent Daytonians and businessmen dedicated to raising the money necessary to purchase land for the Air Service.
Calling on the citizenry of Dayton, Frederick B. Patterson laid plans for a campaign, which had in mind the acquirement of 5,000 acres of land near Dayton, to be presented to the government free of charge. The land included the existing Wilbur Wright Field that was leased by the Air Service. It also included the Wright brothers’ flying field on Huffman Prairie.
The campaign lasted two days and resulted in subscriptions totally $425,000. With this money farms were bought and land secured and accepted by the United States government. The new facility was named Wright Field in honor of the Wright brothers.
President Coolidge himself thanked President Patterson and the Dayton committee for the patriotic endeavors. Some 600 people and businesses contributed to the fund.
The dedication of the Wright Field, which was held on October 12, 1927, is a monument to the perseverance, foresight and patriotism of father and son. Photograph shows Orville Wright and Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis at the dedication
The present Wright Field occupies this land and is a fitting testimonial to the fine service rendered to the government by Dayton citizens.
The dedication ceremony was a grand occasion attended by Orville Wright and numerous military and political dignitaries. The crowd was thrilled with parachute jumps and flight demonstrations by McCook Field test pilots, including Lt. James “JImmy” Doolittle.