Wright Brothers – Celebration Activities

Articles relating to the celebration activities about the Centennial Anniversary.

Here is an edited article about the event from The Republican-News published in Hamilton Ohio on June 17, 1909.

Bylines: “Dayton is Gay with Decorations and Lights in Honor of the Two World Renowned Aviators.”

“First day of the Two Days Celebration Began on Thursday When Every Whistle and Bell in Dayton Cut Loose For Ten Minutes.”

“Two Aviators Worked At Their Little Shop Until The Carriages Arrived To Take Them to The Scene of Their Greatest Triumph in The City of Their Birth – Medals to be Presented Friday.”

Text: “The ceremonies in honor of Wilbur and Orville Wright began at 9 O’clock this morning when, for ten minutes, every whistle, bell and tin horn in the town joined in a outburst of hilarious sound.

From many triumphant arches swung aeroplanes, and on tops of tall buildings an aeroplane was made to appear as ready for flight while every where were flags and bunting.

Up to the hour of the opening ceremony, Wilbur and Orville were hammering away in their workshop. They were still busy with the details of packing up of the parts of their aeroplane for shipment to Fort Myer, Washington.

Miss Katharine Wright, their sister, Bishop Milton Wright, their father, and Lorin and Reuchlin Wright, their brothers, had already entered carriages when Wilbur and Orville emerged from their home, escorted by the state militia troops of regulars and a brass band. The Wrights were driven to the platform where they was given a pageant representing the events from the founding of Dayton 113 years ago down to the arrival of the Wright brothers.

A number of speeches were made by prominent citizens, thanking the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city and telling of their experiments from which they finally evolved the modern aeroplane. The chief event is to be the celebration that will occur tomorrow, when the medals are to be presented by the nation, State of Ohio and the city of Dayton.

Gov. Harmon will present the state medals, while General James Allen, chief signal officer, has been designated by Secretary of War Dickinson to make the presentation of medals authorized by congress.

Conrad J. Schmidt, president of the local school board, thanked the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city. Other speeches were made telling how on Huffman’s Prairie, eight miles east of Dayton, the Wrights in 1905 made the record-breaking fight which first brought upon them the attention of the world. How the father of the boys years ago had given them a helicopter to play with, and how it was really by this toy that Wilbur and Orville were stirred to the early experiments from which the modern aeroplane evolved.

After completing the qualification flights for the government which are to begin at Fort Myer next week, both the Wrights probably in August will sail for Germany to take up their work there.” End

Note: Orville and Katharine went to Germany. Wilbur stayed home to handle their patent lawsuits.

Reference: “Wright Brothers Publicly Honored,” The Republican-News, June 17, 1909.

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 Aviation Day, 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 of the flight as printed the next day in the Dayton Daily News editorial page:

First, there came into the eastern sky a tiny speck, no larger than the cloud, which came in answer to the prayer for rain, the size of the hand of a man. A shapeless thing it seemed, a darkened stain it looked against the leadened evening sky, high up where sits in all her majesty the star of the morning on a summer’s breaking day.

It grew in grace with every second. Became bolder as it approached. Took form like an eagle on the near approach of high-hung aerie, as steady as an apple suspended from the twig when the breeze has sunk to sleep. Only it grew in size until its every outline was seen as clean-cut as a cameo against the blue of heaven.

On, on it came, enlarging with its near approach until it stood high up above the city, a giant bird of paradise, an apparition, angel-like, swung from the hand of God and guided by infinity. It floated in its majesty like a flimsy cloud upon an April morning to delight the world. It moved across smoky heavens above the feted breath of factory, it glided over the perfumed lawns. It sailed across the choked and hardened streets. It cut with its shadow the curling water of the river — high flung above them all like some great thing of life scanning the weakness of an ignorant world.

It circled over the home that sheltered those in whose brain it was born, and seemed to shower upon the humble roof a benediction. It trembled for a moment in its wheeling as if loathe to leave the vicinage of the abode of its creators.

It was a love-like look it seemed to give to those who for so many years have waited for this demonstration of the genius of those patient men of skill and science, yet waited with the firmest faith in their achievement.

And then, as if content, it sailed away toward the east again, from whence it came. Small it grew and fainter. The bold outlines were lost, To the human eye it again took on the formless aspect, a blur or blot upon the evening sky.

Fainter and fainter, a mere speck again, settling in the tinted hues of the evening until a whiff of smoke blotted it from sight.

And Orville Wright in the aeroplane which he and his brother, Wilbur invented, had soared over the city of Dayton and over the home of their youth and their manhood, and returned to the field of their endeavor near the city of Dayton.

Gray-haired men and fair-haired women, and younger men and little children all had seen this mighty and potential toy, this mechanism that is to bring peace to the nations of the world, and promote humanity, in all of its glory. They had beheld the final triumph of human endeavor over the air.

They had seen the beginning of the conquering of another element by man, to be used by him as a bearer and as his highway. Forgive them, God, if in their ignorance they failed to realize there is no limit to human intelligence, no unsolvable mysteriousness in the universe, no miracles but may be wrought by man.

Orville was the guest of honor at the Franklin Institute annual award ceremony held in Philadelphia in May 1928. He came to Philadelphia to see his friend, Charles L. Lawrance, receive the prestigious Elliott Cresson Gold Medal from the Franklin Institute. There are a number of very interesting comments that came out of the affair.

For instance, Orville never mentioned that he attended the ceremony because Henry Ford was one of award recipients

It may be because in 1914 Ford had provided his lawyer, W. Benton Crisp, to Glen Curtiss to fight the Wright brothers’ patent. In later years (1936), relations may have improved because Orville sold the Wright home and bicycle shop in Dayton to Ford for the purpose of being displayed in Ford’s Greenfield Village near Detroit.

At the Charles Lawrence’s award ceremony, the local newspaper reported that although Orville was the guest of honor, he did not speak. He was presented to the audience with the announcement that Mr. Wright always preferred not to speak.

The Franklin Institute has been honoring men of science, engineering and technology since 1825.

Orville received the Cresson Medal in May 1914 “in recognition of the epoch-making work accomplished by him at first together with his brother Wilbur, and later alone, in establishing on a practical basis the science and art of aviation.”

Orville was asked to address the audience, as was the usual practice. At first it seemed that he might actually give a short speech because he had responded with a telegram saying that he would prepare a short address on “Stability of Aeroplanes.”

However, as in 1928 ceremony, he did not address the audience. It was just his nature to be unusually shy throughout his life.

Orville’s friend, Charles Lawrance, was an American socialite and aeronautical engineer who designed the first successful air-cooled aircraft engine. Unlike Orville, Lawrance wasn’t shy about his accomplishments. In his address he boasted that the long distance flights of Admiral Byrd, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart were made possible by his J-5 Whirlwind engine which could operate continuously for 33.5 hours.

He had a sense of humor and joked about his relative obscurity — “Who remembers Paul Revere’s horse?”

Lawrance further remarked that “better engines and planes are making aviation safer, that future planes will be so large that passengers can walk about the wings, which will be increased in thickness to six and seven feet.”

“The airplane of the future will be so commodious that a mechanic can take a defective engine apart during the progress of the flight; fewer accidents will occur with such airplanes than now occur on railroads.”

Henry Ford also received a Cresson Medal on this occasion. His medal was in “consideration of his rare inventive ability and power of organization, by means of which he was able to effect high-speed production of automobiles, revolutionizing the industry, and his outstanding executive powers and industrial leadership.”

Ford forecasted, “Someday the household that now has an automobile will have an airplane.”

Ford was asked if he did not think that aviation had reached the limits of its potentialities? He responded that it is true that most highly developed planes are now within one ton of the lifting capacity of the extant engines.

But, Ford continued, “There are other lines of development for the airplane.” Pressed for an example, he said, “The discovery of new kind of fuel is one example. “Aviation should attract any man who wants to be in on a great thing of the future.”

One of the few recorded comments of Orville Wright was that the future of the airplane is limited and that it will never appreciably replace the railroad or steamship as a means of passenger and especially of freight transport.

Philip Gadsden, president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce expressed the view that Philadelphia can become the center of aviation production in this country.

Apparently, Orville had another reason for coming to Philadelphia that could have been the main reason. He wanted to survey facilities in Philadelphia for caring perpetually for the Kitty Hawk Flyer in which he and his brother made the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

He was shown the site of the proposed museum of the Franklin Institute on the Parkway.

After viewing the site, Orville responded, “The return of this plane to America is conditional upon correction of the misconceptions issuing from the Smithsonian Institution concerning the relative importance of this plane in the development of aviation. If these conceptions are corrected in my lifetime, the plane will be returned. At such a time I shall certainly consider Philadelphia’s generous offer, along with other invitations.”

What the above is all about is that three years earlier Orville announced that he was shipping the plane to England to be displayed in the London Science Museum. At the time Orville explained that he was sending the Flyer away because of the Smithsonian’s “hostile and unfair” campaign to give Langley credit for accomplishments that really belonged to the Wrights.

In 1928, he shipped the most important artifact of man’s successful attempt to fly to London. Neither Dayton, the hometown of the Wright brothers, nor Orville ever saw it again.

Orville in 1937 placed in his will a statement that the 1903 Flyer should remain in London after his death unless his will was amended by a subsequent letter from him.

By the narrowest of circumstances the Flyer did return to America in 1948 after the Smithsonian had admitted their duplicity.

Tragically, Orville died on January 30, 1948.

On December 17, 1948, 850 people were in attendance as the 1903 Flyer was ceremoniously hung from the ceiling according to Orville’s specifications in the North Hall of the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. It was done 55 years after its original flight.

Reference: Philadelphia Record, May 17, 1928.