Orville Wright Soars over Dayton

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Dayton Celebration Events

Orville flew for the first time over the City of Dayton on the occasion of the 1910 Dayton Industrial Exposition and Fall Festival.

The Exposition featured various means of transportation including bicycles, automobiles, and balloons. Orville agreed to fly on Thursday September 22.

On the appointed day thousands of people swamped Dayton, standing along the river banks, house tops and every other vantage point that could be found.

Here is an edited account as printed in the Dayton Daily News:

Orville Wright sailed over his home city Thursday in one of the most spectacular flights that has ever been made in aircraft.

A dense crowd had been fringing the river banks, the bridges and the roofs of high buildings for hours before it was rewarded with a glimpse of the bird man. When at last screaming factory whistles heralded the approach of the machine, the crowd along the river bank stirred and shook itself out like a mammoth pennant waving a tribute and greeting to the aviator.

People pointed and eyes were strained until everybody saw the tiny speck in the sky and watched it slowly grow into a semblance of shape. The aeroplane was so high that everybody in the city could see it equally well and it is safe to venture that not a person in the city failed to see it.

It was a glorious sight. There was a Dayton boy soaring for joy high above the little threads silvering in the sunlight.

Beneath him the earth, like a tapestry, brimmed up in a circle of misty purple distances.

There was something very significant and appropriate about the course of the flight along the Mad and Miami rivers.

Not so many years ago intrepid pioneer settlers followed those same streams and built the city’s first house on the river bank near the confluence of the two streams. The house is still standing snuggled down among massive structures that the sons of those pioneers have wrought.

That little cabin has had its modicum of surprises since the first tenant passed its portals. It has seen the forests go that had once obscured the skyline. Then its view was more permanently obscured by steep buildings and bridges.

And now on Thursday it witnessed the announcement of another inroad of progress, the very air above it had been conquered and it will soon have to peep at the stars through a fitting maze of aircrafts.

This latest era was ushered in more suspiciously than any of the others.

The forests went almost stealthily and the city sprang up in the night. The street cars began their clanging without any warning, but when this mysterious little speck appears in the sky, it is heralded by a medley of all the factory whistles, the street cars stop and the people use the buildings for stepping stones and steeples for theater seats from which to witness this new scene in the masque of the ages.

That little old log cabin has certainly seen some history made.

When the aeroplane was over the city the faint crackling staccato of its unmuffled motor like distant musketry, could be heard by some, and the aviator could be seen moving in the machine.

Cheers went up from the crowd all along the course, but it is doubtful if any sound reached Mr. Wright but the screaming factory and railway whistles. The factories had stilled their wheels and traffic had stopped to exhaust the power in tribute to their new helpmate.

It was a pretty little touch of sentiment and an inspiring one that sent the aviator circling over his boyhood home. There the dream was cradled and nourished through years of varying vicissitudes until the goal was at last achieved and it was cradled in the clouds.

The aviators are dear to all Dayton, but imagine the emotions of the little family to which the aviator sailed and circled a majestic curtsey from the sky. No wonder Orville Wright soared on a rising altitude upon his return trip.

He said Friday morning that he reached an altitude of 3500 feet by the time he reached the city limits on the outward bound flight.

He visited those exalted spaces that are reverently avoided even by the birds, where he is alone with the silence and sunlight and almost on intimate terms with the stars.

The aeroplane was followed into the city by a stream of hundreds of automobiles. The aviator passed most of them not far from the testing grounds on his return to Simms Station, also known as Huffman Prairie. The average speed of the best automobiles was 25 miles per hour, with the roads such as they are in the vicinity of the station. The aeroplane made the entire trip of 22 miles in a trifle less than 25 minutes.

The eyes of the admiring multitude were able to follow the machine upon its return trip almost till it was over the testing grounds. The machine had diminished to a flyspeck in the hazy distance before a smudge of factory smoke finally blotted it out.

The wind for the trip could hardly have been more than favorable for the flight. Mr. Wright estimated his speed at 50 miles an hour going westwardly and 30 miles an hour on the return trip. The average speed was thus 40 miles per hour.

The course as outlined by Mr. Wright was over the Miami River from the confluence of the Mad and Miami Rivers to the Third Street bridge, thence over Third Street to Williams Street, the area of their original home and bicycle shops, and from there to the Wright Home in Oakwood, over which he circled for the return.

At the start of the trip the altitude was 300 feet. This was increased to 2500 feet over and on the outward journey of 3500 feet was reached, after the machine had passed over the Exposition grounds and reached the city limits.

Mr. Wright describes Dayton as being more beautiful from the clouds than it is at a close view.

Not only interurban electrics and steam cars, but also many automobiles with pennants of cities in other states bore evidence that thousands of people visited Dayton on aviation day.

When they came so far and waited so patiently for the flight it is needless to say that the spirit caught them in the magnificent result and the captive balloon, “Hoosier,” which soared immediately after the aeroplane had disappeared, did a land office business.

Owing to the generosity and public spiritedness of Mr. Wright, aviation day was a success. Superlatives are exhausted in telling just how successful it really was. Though it is somewhat inappropriate to measure such an ethereal and splendid thing as an airship flight in dollars, the general public should realize that Mr. Wright donated Dayton an exhibition that would cost any other city a good many thousands of dollars.

There is also an element of risk about a 22-mile flight even in a perfected Wright machine.

The Exposition officials and the community as a whole are not unmindful of the Wright company’s munificence.

Though the thousands of people who swarmed to the testing grounds at Simms Station to witness the start of the flight probably did not get as thrilling an exhibition as those in the city, they were rewarded by a number of flights by Walter Brookins and a new pupil, while Mr. Wright was circling the city.

Mr. Wright circled the field a number of times also at an altitude of 300 feet before setting out on his straight-away course for the city. The machine in which he sailed to Dayton was started about ten minutes till five o’clock.

Owing to the advertising which the exposition received through Mr. Wright’s spectacular flight, management has received urgent and numerous requests to continue the festival another week. The streets were jammed Thursday night and hundreds were turned away from the Memorial building where the hippodrome show is being held. The committee has decided that aviation features shall distinguish the final day, when the exposition will wind up in a big revel, and arrangements for a number of other interesting events.

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