The Oakwood Planning Commission has turned down the request by the Wright Family Foundation, owner of Hawthorn Hill, to open the Wrights’ home to limited public tours.

Stephen Wright, Wright brothers descendant, Oakwood resident, and one of the foundation’s trustees, said that the negative decision has been appealed to the Oakwood City Council.

The proposed tour protocol is very modest. Public tours would be limited to just two a day two days a week between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is a reduction to the original proposal of four days a week. The other requirements are:

The tours would begin from Carillon Park in Dayton. A specially designated van would ferry no more than 16 visitors to Hawthorn Hill.

No special exemption would be made for opening the home for visits from area schools. An exemption to this policy would be made for Oakwood High School. I am a graduate of the school and I am fortunate to have been able to visit the home several times.

There would be no sales from the home including souvenirs or food.

Lastly, visitors would be able to take photographs of the home’s exterior, limited to 15 people at a time and remaining within 25 feet of the property line.

The City of Oakwood is home to Hawthorne Hill. It is a lovely mansion situated on a high hill and was designed by the Wright brothers. Orville lived there for 34 years until he died in 1948. Wilbur died in 1912 before the house was completed and never lived there. The house is designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Wrights bought the land in 1911 or 1912. It was the site of Oakwood’s first water tower. They named the hill Hawthorn Hill after the name of their boyhood home 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.

In addition to Orville, his sister Katharine and his father, Bishop Wright moved into the house in 1914. Their old home in Dayton had been badly damaged by the great Dayton flood of 1913.

Many famous people visited Orville while he lived in the mansion including Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, General Hap Arnold, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, and Carl Sandburg. Ivonette Wright Miller, Orville’s niece, was married there with about 60 guests in attendance.

One of the unique things about the house is that Orville designed many of the mechanical features of the house, many of them while he lived there. The National Park Service declared the house a national landmark in 1991.

Upon Orville’s death the house was offered for sale to the public. There was a proposal for the City of Oakwood to buy the house. The Oakwood City Council scotched the idea because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money. I guess they weren’t too concerned about how the mansion would be used in those days.

The NCR stepped up and bought the house for $75,000 fearing that it might fall into the wrong hands. Also Orville was a good friend of many top executives of NCR including John Patterson, Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering. NCR used it as a corporate retreat and VIP guesthouse.

The most important thing is that NCR has kept the house in pristine condition. Many other Dayton buildings associated with the Wrights have either been moved out of Dayton, such as their boyhood home and their last bicycle shop. Others no longer exist, such as Orville’s laboratory that was torn down to be replaced by a gas station.

The NCR donated the house to the Wright Family Foundation on August 18th, 2006, the day before Orville’s birthday. Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece and Stephen Wright, great-grand nephew, are trustees of the foundation. They are related to Orville and Wilbur by blood and marriage. NCR stipulated that the foundation make an effort to transfer ownership to the National Park Service. The foundation has started the process to do just that but it may take a few years to accomplish the transfer.

What follows may be a partial explanation of some of Oakwood resident’s negative attitude towards opening Hawthorn Hill to the public.

Oakwood is a small city of less than 3 square miles geographically surrounded by the cities of Dayton and Kettering. Homes range in price from about $300,000 to nearly $1 million. It has no industry. Population is around 9,000 residents.

Oakwood is the product of John Patterson, founder and president of NCR. Patterson envisioned Oakwood as a bedroom of Dayton as it is today. His influence led to generous lot sizes and academic excellence in the school system. The school system is still outstanding and regularly sends most of its high school graduates to college.

The early city received a jump-start when Patterson encouraged his executives and later his foreman to move to the new village.

The city’s fixed area is comfortable and livable. The median family income is around $88,000. The absence of industry keeps the city clean. Although most of the housing is older and the tax rate is high, but the excellent schools draw people to the city.

A little known fact is that a secret research facility in Oakwood during WW II produced polonium that made the first atomic bomb possible.

Many residents have lived in Oakwood for many years. They tend to be conservative in philosophy.

Some close neighbors to the mansion are against the proposal. Here is an example: “All I can think of are tacky tourists, feet over running, tacky rubber flip flops, with their slurpees, big gulps, mistys, and frostys tearing my darling Oakwood. It breaks my heart to see it become so pedestrian.”

Not all Oakwood people are against it: “It sounds like the Wright Foundation has taken every possible step to insure these tours are handled in the proper way. Hawthorn Hill is a true treasure that should be viewed by the public.”

Many people in Oakwood are embarrassed by, and cringing at, what has occurred. They have been working behind the scenes to ensure that the city council reverses the planning commission’s decision.

The Dayton Daily News in an editorial wrote: “Oakwood’s elected officials need to do the right thing. Overruling the planning commission doesn’t require courage, just common sense.”

Latest news: The Oakwood City Council on July 2nd voted to open the Wright home for public tours. The vote was unanimous with one abstention. No date was announced for when the tours would start.

Later news: Conducted tours of Hawthorn Hill are to begin on Saturday, Sept. 1, with 45-minute tours planned to follow on Wednesdays and Saturdays thereafter. Dayton History. a historical preservation organization based in Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park, will sell tickets for the tours and conduct them.

There is a maximum of 14 visitors that can be handled at a time. They will be taken by van at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. from Carillon Park to Hawthorn Hill and back. The tours will be conducted throughout the year.

References: Dayton Daily News; Oakwood: The Far Hills by Bruce Ronald and Virginia Ronald.

The nonprofit Aviation Heritage Foundation has a vision for Dayton to boast their aviation heritage that would cost $500 million over the next 15 to 20 years. The center piece of a 10 point grand design is a Aviation Theme park that would cost $330 million and attract 6 to 7 million visitors.

It comes at the right time. Delphi Corporation, which has five plants in Dayton employing some 5,700 employees, is in bankruptcy and just announced they plan on closing four of the five plants threatening 5,500 jobs.

Here some of the elements of the still evolving plan:

1: An aviation heritage icon on the scale of the Gateway Arch in St Louis to brand the region. One group already has a plan to build a larger-than-life replica of the Wright Flyer near the interchange of two main Interstates, 70 and 75, which are located near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Air Force Museum and Huffman Prairie. There are some 220,000 motorists that flow through this intersection each day.

The replica Flyer would be made of polished stainless steel and weigh 80,000 pounds with a 125-foot wingspan. It will sit on a 220 foot column and be visible from mile away. One Montgomery County commissioner says, “It will catch the eye of the world and really shows this is the home of the Wright brothers.”

Location, size and cost are still being debated. The design is a product of University students

2: Sound and light show. Dayton already has built such a facility in downtown Dayton along the Miami River.

3: Air and Space theme park. This would be a Disney-like theme park costing about $300 million. It would feature virtual reality flight simulators and other attractions that would blend fun with education. Most of the investors would come from outside the region.

4: Wright Factory Delphi currently owns the approximately one-acre site that contains the original Wright factory buildings. This is one of the facilities that Delphi has on its list to close.

The Wrights built the two factory buildings occupying 67-acres in 1910 to build their airplanes. The buildings are still in use as factory buildings by Delphi. It is the nation’s first factory to mass-produce airplanes. These buildings are well maintained and could be turned into replica factories showing Wright airplanes in various stages of construction.

5: Open Hawthorne Hill to the public, Orville and Katharine’s home in Oakwood. This may be one of the most difficult to implement. The home is owned by NCR and the up-scale neighborhood around the home doesn’t want buses full of tourists.

6: Recreational vehicle park for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

7: WACO Museum and Aviation Learning Center in Troy, Ohio. Make this a premier youth camp focused on aviation.

8: Wright Flyer replica flights on Huffman Prairie. These flights take place now but need better and closer facilities to house the Flyer.

Connect the Wright Memorial park to Huffman Prairie by a new road and bridge over highway 444.

9: A rail trolley connecting key aviation sites. The rail trolley would simulate the Dayton-Springfield-Urbana railroad that Orville and Wilbur rode from their home in downtown Dayton to Huffman Prairie.

10: Reorient the Dayton Air Show to showcase Dayton’s role in aviation.

Anthony Sculimbrene, the Aviation Heritage Foundation’s Director, states that the plan will have two parts – a five year plan aimed at modestly increasing tourism by about 50%, and a “grand design” for a ten fold increase over 15 to 20 years.

He emphatically says, “We are going to make Dayton the global center of aviation heritage.”

The Dayton Development Coalition spokesman Evan Scott adds, “We don’t strive for a small vision.”

References: Dayton Daily News, March 19, 2006; Dayton Business Daily, Jan. 15, 2006

The newspapers on September 14, 1908 announced: “Wright Brothers to get $1,000 Medals.”

The article went on to say that “in formal recognition of their recent remarkable achievements in aeronautics, the Aero Club of America, the representative organization of the United States, will hold a banquet in New York in honor of Wilbur and Orville Wright, the two Americans whose aeroplane has been the wonder and admiration of two continents.”

“This was decided at a meeting of the club held yesterday when active plans were begun. On that night the organization, whose membership includes many millionaires, will present both brothers with a handsome medal, costing $1,000.”

“This is intended to denote the celebration of America’s gift of the aeroplane to the world by the Wrights, who are members of the club.”

“The drawings of the medals are now on exhibition in the club rooms. Half a dozen leading silversmiths have entered a competition, the choice of design to be made by the members of a special committee.”

“The banquet will not be held for several weeks. Orville Wright is recovering in Dayton, Ohio from injuries sustained in the government test in Washington, but the officials of the club expect he will be able to attend. Wilbur Wright is in France and he has sent assurances that he will come to New York if possible.”

“The directors of the Aero Club have appointed a committee to raise subscriptions and among the prominent members to contribute are John Jacob Astor, Chester R. Flint, Jefferson Seligman, Frank A. Munsey, Samuel H. Valentine, Russell A. Alger and J. C. McCoy.”

Members of the Auto Club of America founded the Aero Club in New York. Alexander Graham Bell was its most famous member. Most members were millionaire sportsman. Wilbur and Orville joined the club in 1906.

The award ceremony did not take place as planned. It was delayed until June 1909 because Wilbur was busy flying in Europe and Orville was conducting qualification flights for the Army at Ft. Myer.

When the officials found out that the Wrights were returning to New York from Europe in May 1909, they wanted to stage a major homecoming celebration that would include in addition to the Aero Club, the U.S. Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Congressman Herbert Parsons invited President Taft to present the medals.

When Governor Cox of Ohio heard about the plans he protested to the planners that Dayton had already planned a major celebration in Dayton during June.

President Taft was asked to decide the issue. Taft deferred to the Wrights. The Wrights were still at sea on their way home. They told the parties involved that they had much work to do getting ready for the upcoming Army trials and would prefer to celebrate in Dayton.

President Taft said he was unable to attend the celebration in Dayton and invited the Wrights to make a short trip to Washington for award of the gold medals in the White House. The Wrights accepted the invitation.

Dayton picked June 17-18 for their grand celebration. The Wrights reluctantly agreed to participate although they would have preferred to spend the time working on their airplane

President Taft agreed to present the Aero Club medals in Washington at the White House during the second week of June.

Wilbur, Orville and Katharine arrived by train in Washington on the morning of the June 10 and were welcomed by Holland Forbes, president of the Aero Club. He escorted them to a suite of rooms at the Willard Hotel. Many people thought Forbes was Wilbur because Wilbur had been in France and was less familiar than Orville who had been in Washington in connection with the Army trials.

The next stop for Wilbur and Orville was the War Department where they met with the man who would make the decision in the near future whether the Wright Flyer would meet the Army’s specifications, Brigadier General James Allen, Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army. The Wrights had interrupted working on the airplane for the trip to Washington.

Katharine, during the time her brothers were at the War Department, was attending a reception at the home of Mrs. C. J. Bell, wife of the treasurer of the Aero Club of Washington.

From there the Wrights and their escorts walked through downtown Washington to the Cosmos club for lunch. The walk must have been difficult for Orville who had just recently discarded his cane, which he was using while he recovered from the serious injuries he had as a result of the crash he had at Ft. Myer the previous year. The accident left him with one leg shorter than the other and back pains which would bother him the rest of his life.

The Cosmos Club was an all-male club whose membership consisted of important members of society in Washington. Orville stayed there the previous year while flying at Ft. Myer. (I have had lunch there several times myself as a guest.)

The club suspended their all-male rule for the occasion so that Katharine and the other ladies could be present.

Alex Graham Bell and the leaders of congress were among the 159 guests in attendance.

After lunch, the entire party walked across Lafayette Square to the White House where they joined other invited quests in the East Room. Promptly at 2:40, the great double doors to the central hallway were opened and Holland Forbes and Representative Herbert Parsons escorted Wilbur, Orville and Katharine into the East Room.

Forbes made a few remarks on the behalf of Aero Club and then turned the proceedings over to President Taft. The President prefaced his presentation of the gold medals with a humorous comment. He assured the audience that, while his own girth would keep him on the ground, he shared the universal interest in flight. He followed that with saying that the work of Wright brothers was something in which all Americans could take pride.

He continued, “You made this discovery by a course that we of America feel is distinctly American, by keeping your nose right at the job until you had accomplished what you had determined to do.”

The Wrights quickly returned to Dayton to get their new Flyer ready for the Army speed trial. They did get a one-month extension to July 28 from General Allen while they were in Washington. Later, it was extended again for three days during the trials because of high winds.

Back in Dayton, they were committed to another grand celebration, June 17-18, which would further take away from their work on the Flyer. They were not pleased with another delay but there wasn’t much they could do about it except smile and participate.

Returning to Ft. Myer, Orville successfully completed the speed test with an average speed of 42.6-mph over a ten-mile route between Alexandria and Ft. Myer. President Taft was present for this flight and one other.

It would be interesting to know what Wilbur and Orville really thought about President Taft, who was a fellow native of Ohio. He certainly wasn’t of much help to them during the period that the Wrights were trying to interest the War Department in their airplane while Taft was Secretary of War.

In 1905 the Wrights wrote to Taft through their local congressman. Taft’s office routinely forwarded the letter to the U.S. Army Board of Ordnance and Fortification for comment. The Board treated the Wrights’ letter as if it came from cranks. Their reply was negative and insulting. Orville and Wilbur were very upset because it demonstrated a lack of respect.

In 1906 the Wrights tried again, writing directly to Taft. Again the answer was negative.

In early 1907 new hope appeared. Cortland Field, the president of the Aero Club was the brother-in-law of Congressman Herbert Parsons. Field told Parsons about the problems that the Wrights were having with the U.S. government. Parsons in turn wrote to the Wrights in April asking them to send copies of the correspondence that they had received from the Board of Ordnance and Fortification.

Parsons, after reading what the Wrights sent him, was appalled and decided to bring the issue to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. The president in turn forwarded the package Parsons sent him to Secretary of War Taft with a note to have the claims investigated. Taft sent the Wright package along with the notes from Parsons and Roosevelt, recommending a favorable response.

The secretary of the board wrote the Wrights in May requesting additional information and a specific proposal. The Board added they wanted assurance of exclusive rights to the invention. The Wrights, who were negotiating with other potential buyers in Europe, responded that was no longer possible. The Wrights heard nothing more from the Board until October.

Then an event occurred that would finally start the ball rolling to a successful conclusion. The event was the assignment of Lt. Frank Lahm to take command of a portion of the aeronautical section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Lt. Lahm wrote a letter to General James Allen, Chief Signal Officer and the highest member of the Army Board. The letter said: “I have to inform you that I have just had an interview with Mr. Orville Wright of Dayton Ohio, in regard to the purchase of the aeroplane invented and successfully operated by himself and his brother, Mr. Wilbur Wright. It seems unfortunate that this American invention, which unquestionably has considerable military value, should not first be acquired by the United States Army.”

It was just a matter of time. On February 10, the Wright brothers received notice from Allen of the acceptance of their bid on a Flyer for the War Department.

The Wrights were involved in one other episode with Taft in which Taft was not helpful. This one involved a controversy with the Smithsonian Institution in which the Smithsonian claimed that the Langley Aerodrome, which crashed twice before the Wrights successful first flight, was capable of flight and would have flown if it hadn’t experienced launching problems beyond Langley’s control.

The Smithsonian was interested in redeeming Samuel Langley’s reputation because he was a former secretary of the Smithsonian. Charles Walcott, the current secretary, sponsored Glenn Curtiss to rebuild and fly the original Aerodrome and thereby prove the claim that the Aerodrome could have flown.

Curtiss had an interest in invalidating the Wrights’ patent because he was building airplanes that were covered by the patent. Curtiss claims he did get the pontoons of the Aerodrome just above the surface of Lake Keuka in 1914. The Aerodrome however was not in its original condition. Curtiss had made significant modifications to the machine.

After the Curtiss flight, Walcott ordered the Aerodrome returned to it original condition and then displayed in the Smithsonian with a sign that read, “it was the first man carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight.”

Orville appealed to now Chief Justice William Howard Taft, who was also chancellor of the Smithsonian to make an impartial investigation of the Aerodrome affair.

Orville wrote, ” I do not think it will take you five minutes to make up your mind whether the changes were made and whether they were of importance.”

Taft replied that his duties as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court left him no time to decide questions that should be decided by the secretary of the Smithsonian, not the chancellor.

This complicity between Curtiss and the Smithsonian drove Orville to send the 1903 Flyer to the London Science Museum in January 1928. The Flyer didn’t return to the United States until 20 years later after the Smithsonian admitted in one of its technical publications that significant modifications had been made to the Aerodrome.

In contrast to Taft, the Aero Club remained a solid supporter of the Wrights. One of their actions was to announce on April 21, 1910 that the Aero Club had agreed to sanction air meets only after prior arrangements had been made by the Wright brothers. This was a bold action because many Wright competitors tried to avoid paying royalties to the Wrights and charged the Wrights with discouraging innovation by enforcing the patent they were awarded in 1906.

An unfortunate event occurred at the first large Aero Club American Exposition illustrating the history, status and future prospects of the flying machine. The Wrights provided for display a crankshaft and flywheel from the 1903 Flyer. Someone stole them and they have not reappeared to this day.

In 1978 there was a grand celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight. One of the best-published tributes appeared in the Airline Pilot magazine’s issue of December 1978. The following is what they wrote:

“The Wright Brothers: Proponents of Free Enterprise.

In this issue, a special 75th anniversary tribute to the Wright brothers from all airline pilots, we have tried to show what manner of men they were and record some of the little-known facts about their invention and the significance of their accomplishment. So much is known about them, yet so little.

They were private people who shunned publicity for publicity’s sake. The were determined to stand up for their rights and did, in spite of the dogged efforts of those who would defraud them or detract from the enormity of their achievement.

It is with much awe that we realize that these two quiet geniuses were the ones who made the technological breakthrough that gave the world a whole new mode of transportation and an entire industry that employs thousands of people around the world.

And they did it without the benefit of a completed high school education, financial backing or the precedent of other technology. They were mere bicycle mechanics who had the same dream many others had before them — that man could fly in controllable heavier-than-air machines and do it safely.

The difference was that they realized their dream through scientific inquiry, by gathering their own facts and by applying their self-won knowledge to kites, then gliders and then aeroplanes. They purchased all their materials with their own funds and what they could not buy, they scrounged. And what was not available in any form, they fashioned with their own hands and homemade tools. They continually improvised as they patiently proceeded, fully convinced that it was within their power to succeed even though the realization of the dream had eluded others for centuries.

When success did come, they found that they had to turn from the engineering/test phase to the marketing phase of their new enterprise. They found that selling their new product was difficult, that it had to become known to the public before it would be in demand. Ironically, they became better known overseas than in their own country until they proved the worth of their product by personal demonstration.

Before Wilbur died, the brothers became aircraft manufacturers and thus entrepreneurs in the full sense of the word. They managed a profitable enterprise and assumed the economic risks of a new and untried business. After Wilbur’s death, Orville continued, although with a low profile and seemingly without the inventive spark that their twin genius had given them.

These two Americans, products of a free society, in defiance of the failures of others, were able to solve the riddle of controlled, heavier-than-air flight without the benefit of government subsidy or official encouragement. Exercising their right to think independently and proceed into the technological unknown with confidence, they epitomized the American system at its finest.

They sought neither fame nor fortune yet attained both. They did not envision great fleets of aircraft traversing the globe or new industries and professions rising from the sands of Kitty Hawk, yet both have come about.

All of us owe the Wright brothers a debt we cannot hope to repay. We can only memorialize the men and their genius as we have tried to do in these pages. We know they would understand.”

The death of Wilbur Wright on Wednesday, May 29, 1912 at the relatively young age of 45 ended the productive output of the Wright brother’s team of Wilbur and Orville. Orville lost his motivation to continue the Wright Airplane Company and sold it in October of 1915. At the time, the Wright airplane was already losing it aeronautical technology edge.

His death was front-page news around the world. The following historic article that appeared in The New York Globe contains a detailed description of Wilbur’s death. In addition, at the end of the article are some interesting comments from Wilbur about what role birds and the bicycle played in inventing the airplane. His comments seem to contradict some commonly held beliefs.

Here’s the article:

Man Who First Conquered the Air and Led the Way in the Aeronautic Marvels of the Last Decade Succumbs to Typhoid — Members of His Family at Bedside When End Came Early today — They Hoped to the End.

Dayton, May 30. — With the world watching, hoping that he might win, Wilbur Wright early today lost his gallant fight for life. He died at 3:15 in the morning. Not until his physician uttered the final syllable of the last word did his loyal brother, constant companion and sharer in his world triumphs, give up hope.

“He will recover. He must get well,” Orville Wright said over and over through the long night. But that parching fever, a temperature of 105.9, just a little under that of the birds he had rivaled, safe to them but death to him, told the physicians that the end was fast approaching.

About midnight he had rallied, his pulse fell steadily to nearly normal, and his respiration was hardly more than twenty. But the fever raged on, and shortly afterward there came a sinking spell, from which he never rallied.

Wright had been lingering on the border for many days, and though his condition from time to time gave some hopes to members of his family the attending physicians, Drs. D. B. Conklin and Levi Spitler, maintained throughout the latter part of his sickness that he could not recover. When the noted patient succumbed to the burning fever that had been racking his body for days and nights he was surrounded by the members of his family, which included his aged father, Bishop Milton Wright, Miss Catherine (should be spelled Katharine) Wright, Orville, the co-inventor of the aeroplane; Reuchlin Wright and Lorin Wright. All of the family resides in this city except Reuchlin, who lives in Kansas.

ALARMING SYSTEMS.

The most alarming systems in Wright’s sickness developed yesterday shortly before noon, when his fever suddenly mounted from 104 up to 106 and then quickly subsided to its former stage. At this juncture of the crisis the patient was seized with chills, and the attending physicians were baffled by the turn of events. Chills were unusual in a patient suffering from fever this high, and the doctors at Wright’s bedside were puzzled. The condition of the aviator remained unchanged throughout the rest of the day, and there was no improvement up until last midnight. Then Wright began to show an improvement, and the watchers at this bedside were reassured. After resting for a few hours after last midnight Wright took a sudden turn for the worse and his principal physician, Dr. D. B. Conklin, was called. The doctor arrived at 3:25 and learned that Wright had breathed his last a few minutes before.

The noted patient was seized with typhoid on May 4 while on a business trip in the east. On that day he returned to Dayton from Boston and consulted Dr. Conklin, the family physician. He took to his bed almost immediately, and it was several days before his case was definitely diagnosed as typhoid. Throughout the early part of his illness Wright attributed his sickness to some fish he had eaten at a Boston hotel. He explained to his physician, however, that he had no particular reason to believe that the disease originated from this source.

Arrangements for the funeral of the aviator had not been completed early today.

HIS BRILLIANT CAREER

Wilbur Wright, the elder of the two brothers, was perhaps the better known. It was he whose spectacular flights in France during 1908 opened the eyes of Europe to the flying machines which the two brothers had been perfecting at their home in Dayton, Ohio, and among the sand dunes of the coast of North Carolina.

Wilbur Wright was born near Millville, Indiana, April 16, 1867, and was therefore forty-five years old. He went to the high schools of Richmond, Ind., and Dayton, Ohio, to which city his father moved and stayed four years. It was in 1903 that Wilbur Wright, with his brother Orville, began to devote his time and attention to the effort to make a heavier than air flying machine. It has taken less than nine years to build the airship from a crude machine to one which will fly many hundreds of miles and remain in the air for hours. The Wrights have been recognized officially in the $30,000 payment for an aeroplane made to them in 1909 by the War Department. In the same year the French Academy of Sciences awarded Wilbur Wright a gold medal.

All the success won by the brothers did not alienate them from their Dayton home and workshop. When Wilbur Wright was here in 1908, some time before the success of the aeroplane was generally acknowledged, he was asked how much the study of bird flight had benefited the two in their studies of the air.

“Birds taught us nothing,” said he. “Birds and aeroplanes are far different. There couldn’t be much more difference. A bird flying and a flying machine that can carry a man present two vastly different subjects. We worked out our plans as to flying. After we got into the air we watched the birds. After we were tauAght by the air we could understand why birds did certain things during their flights. We learned why a bird suddenly drops and rises, and why the different positions of the bird when flying. In fact, we learned a great many things that we didn’t know before.”

He went on to deny that he had obtained ideas from the bicycle. The parts of a bicycle, said he, are rigid. The parts of an aeroplane must not be. End

Comment: Concerning Wilbur’s statement on birds, Wilbur did sit along the Miami River south of Dayton in a place called the Pinnacles and observe birds flying. In his notes of 1900 he wrote, “The buzzard that uses the dihedral angle (V- shaped) finds greater difficulty to maintain equilibrium in strong winds than eagles and hawks which hold their wings level.”

The Wrights would remember that observation in designing the 1903 Flyer. The Flyer had wings that drooped like an eagle in what is known as the anhedral configuration.

Flying like an eagle with drooping wing tips may have worked for their 1903 machine, but they later used the dihedral at Huffman Prairie for their 1904 and 1905 and later machines.

With regard to the bicycle, bicycle manufacturing turned out to be the ideal preparation for engineering an airplane. Their design incorporated bicycle parts such as the oversized sprocket and chain that drove the propellers, a body frame structure similar to the tubular steel double-triangle frames used in their bicycles, and in the chain that was used in the wing warping linkage.

There were other bicycle-related uses. They lay on the wing instead of sitting upright in order to reduce drag similar to bicycle riders while racing. They used two modified bicycle hubs as wheels on the unattached dolly that was used to ride the launching monorail during takeoff. The twisting of a bicycle inner tube box resulted in developing the structural solution for implementing wing warping.

Their bicycle business provided them with the machine tools and skills for building their gliders and airplanes. They learned to work with sprockets, spikes, metals, lathes and drills.

Lastly, they knew that one had to learn how to fly an airplane, the way one learns to ride a bicycle — learning to balance through constant practice.

We don’t know what questions the reporter asked, nor their context. That could answer why Wilbur gave the answers he did.