Dayton Celebration Events

It was a special historic moment. As 1,000 people looked on, a 1911 Wright Model B Flyer flew over as a small choir singing God Bless America. Astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong spoke on the 34th anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moonwalk; only 66 years had elapsed since the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk when Armstrong walked on the moon. Members of the Wright family lay wreaths on the graves of the famous brothers who invented the airplane. Reverend Edward Puff pronounced it a “sacred moment and this is hallowed ground.”

The last day of Dayton’s flight celebration couldn’t have ended on a more memorable moment. The gravesite had been spruced up since the last time I was there two years ago. A mulched bed of myrtle had been added around the burial stones. A cobblestone walkway was laid all around. Behind the main headstone with the words “Wright” inscribed on it. Three flagpoles had been added and American and Ohio flags, and a Wright pennant, fluttered in the breeze.

As 40 members of the Wright family listened, Glenn spoke, “Their bodily remains are buried here. But their spirit lives on in every young person who is inspired to dream, to do, and to move the world ahead. Their example is timeless.”

Then Armstrong added, “We gather on this glorious Sunday morning to remember the birth of aviation, but also to honor two good and honorable men.”

Armstrong added, “For 21/2 weeks, Dayton has been celebrating 100 years of flight, and has talked about the amazing achievements that have occurred in those 100 years. We’ve lauded the dedication, creativity and achievements of Orville and Wilbur Wright, but this morning we remember them not for those achievements, but as the kind of men they were: Men of honesty, and men of integrity in all they did. That is something for us to honor and emulate.”

G. Edwin Zeiders of the United Theological Seminary was the next speaker. Milton Wright had been instrumental in founding of the United Theological predecessor seminary, the Bonebrake Seminary of the United Brethren in Christ church more than 130 years ago.

Zeiders noted that “Wilbur, Orville, Neil and John are numbered in the multitudes of people who have risked everything for the greater good. We are exceedingly grateful for the sacrifices they made.”

Then it was time to lay the wreaths as a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. Marion Wright placed a wreath on Susan’s grave (mother). Stephen Wright decorated Milton’s grave (father); Amanda Wright Lane, Katharine’s grave (sister); Glenn, Wilbur’s and Armstrong, Orville’s.

Lt.General Richard Reynolds, commander of WPAFB, read the famous pilot’s poem, High Flight.

The historic Woodland Cemetery is located adjacent to the University of Dayton, whose nickname is the Flyers. Woodlawn is one of the nation’s oldest garden cemeteries. The Wright gravesite is located on a hill near the eastern edge of the large cemetery. Wilbur died in 1912 and Orville in 1948. They are buried on Lot 2533 in Section 101.

A large family stone marks the spot where the Wright family is buried. Smaller stones mark where each of the parents, Susan and Milton, sister Katharine and brothers Wilbur and Orville are buried. The simple graves were purchased when Susan died in 1889.

When Wilbur died at home his death made international headlines. Some 25,000 people filed past his casket at the First Presbyterian Church in Dayton as the city came to a standstill. The burial services at Woodlawn were private. Milton, his father, selected the Reverend E. Maurice Wilson, to officiate.

When Orville died at Miami Valley Hospital in 1948, flags flew at half-staff nationwide. As his casket was lowered, four jet fighters flew over and dipped their wings.

I attended the viewing at the Boyer Funeral Home at 609 W. Riverview Ave. near the Dayton Art Institute. All schools were closed for the day. I drove by the building again while attending the “Inventing Flight” celebration and saw no indication of activity at the building.

At the time of Orville’s viewing there were hundreds of people there. It was one of the largest funerals ever handled by Boyer’s.

Orville had been dressed in a regular suit and looked distinguished with his snow-white hair and mustache.

Reverend Charles Lyon Seasholes conducted the funeral service at Dayton’s First Baptist Church in downtown Dayton. Orville had chosen Reverend Seasholes because he had been a friend. Orville was not a regular church attendee even though his father had been a bishop in the United Brethren Church.

The grave of the great black poet and friend of the Wright Brothers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, is located a stone’s throw away from the Wright’s gravesite. My wife’s parent’s gravesite, as well as several of her family members, is located just down the hill.

Dayton, Ohio is continuing the momentum generated during the buildup for the Wright Brother’s centennial to promote Dayton as the birthplace of aviation. Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Foundation is developing a grand plan to showcase the Dayton region nationally and internationally.

Two major events have occurred that may add materially to the Wright brothers heritage now represented by nine historically regional sites.

One was the transfer of ownership of Hawthorn Hill, the Wrights’ home in Oakwood, to the Wright Family Foundation in 2006. The other is the bankruptcy of the Delphi Corporation that owns the Wright Co. two airplane factory buildings. The buildings may soon become available for inclusion in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The Wright home is a real gem and will be a wonderful addition to the park. The NCR Corp. purchased the home after Orville’s death in 1948 and has kept it in prime condition. Orville and the executives of NCR including John Patterson, founder, Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering were good friends.

The home has never been open to the general public. The home is located in a neighborhood of upscale beautiful homes in Oakwood. The neighborhood has never wanted the traffic, parking problems and noise that an open house would entail.

My wife and I have been in the home several times during Oakwood High School reunions as graduates and other occasions.

Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur, and her brother Stephen Wright, trustees of the Wright Family Foundation are involved in discussions that could result in the transfer of the home to federal ownership as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Lane and Stephen Wright, an Oakwood resident, have also been in discussions with the City of Oakwood and residents to develop a means to preserve the ambiance of the neighborhood and still open the house to the public. One procedure would be to require small groups of visitors to buy round trip tickets at the Carillon Historic Park and take a shuttle to Hawthorne Hill and return. This procedure will start this spring as a trial.

The other historical jewel is the two Wright Airplane buildings located on Delphi property a number of blocks west of the bicycle shop in West Dayton. The buildings were built in 1909/1910 and are still in active use by Delphi Corp. As such they have not been open to the public. I was not even permitted to take a picture of the buildings from outside the fence line.

Delphi, an automotive parts maker, is now in bankruptcy. It lost $5.5 billion in 2006. The two Wright buildings occupy about 10% of the 67-acre Delphi property.

It is hoped that Delphi will make the Wright buildings available for inclusion in the Aviation Park as part of the bankruptcy settlement.

Draft legislation is being proposed for consideration by Congress to include both the Wright home and the factory building in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The Dayton-based Aviation Heritage Foundation was created by Congress in 2004 to promote nine regional sites as a National Aviation Heritage Area.

These sites are independently operated and are a diverse mix including the National Aviation Park, the National Museum of the U.S. air Force, the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Wright B Flyer Museum at The Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg.

The National Park Service owns part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and cooperated with partners that own other portions.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical park is also planning to nominate a collection of Wright brothers sites to the U.S. Department of Interior for consideration as a Nationally significant historic site. The site nominated include: Huffman Prairie, a Wright brother’s bike shop now in the national park; Hawthorn Hill, and the Wright Flyer B now displayed at Carillon Historical Park.

The timing may be just right. The President’s 2008 budget includes a big boost in funding for national parks, $2.4 next year. On top of that President Bush wants the federal government to match philanthropic donations each year, up to $100 million.

Note: In an other matter, the February 2, 2007 issue of the News & Observer reported that some folks in North Carolina want to change the “First in Flight” design on state license plates to another “smart and attractive design that would help remind everyone what a special place this is.”

The Year of 1910 was an active flying year for the Wright brothers. One of those who wanted to fly with them was the mayor of Dayton, Ohio. On Tuesday afternoon September 28, 1910 he got his wish.

The Dayton Daily News published an account of the mayor’s flight at Simm’s (Huffman Prairie) station with Orville the next day.

Here is the article with my comments in parenthesis: For more than a year Mayor Edward E. Burkhart has been hinting and scheming for an invitation to go flying with the world’s foremost aviators, the Wright brothers.

Tuesday afternoon the city’s chief executive realized his ambition. The mayor and a little party of friends, who were “on the inside” slipped away to the testing grounds at Simm’s station and soon His Honor, attired in conventional cloud costume, went skimming away with Orville Wright at the wheel.

“Don’t you want some cord?” inquired Wilbur Wright just before the mayor mounted the machine.

“What for?” replied the mayor.

“I thought you might want to tie your knees together,” said Mr. Wright.

(There were no seat belts in airplanes in those days. The mayor did wear a scarf that covered his head and ears. He said he was taking no chances of suffering frostbite in the upper air currents.)

But the intrepid executive was not to be bluffed by the chafing. He knows a bit about machinery in a smooth running engine under perfect control.

He had been sufficiently indifferent to ballooning to refuse numerous invitations for balloon rides while nursing a hope for an aeroplane trip.

Orville Wright grasped the levers and the mayor balanced himself for the ascension. The propeller was swung and they skimmed away.

The aeroplane veered to its course and steadied to keel under the guiding hand like a gallant ship, while a cheer went up from the mayor’s party and other spectators, who had happened to select Tuesday to visit the field.

The airship soared up and up as it circled and maneuvered about the field, until an altitude of 1,100 feet had been reached.

Scared? Certainly Not.

“Feel afraid,” said the mayor scornfully, when asked about the trip. “Well, I should say not. I was so impressed with the perfect control Mr. Wright had over his machine and so entranced with the glorious sensation of flying that it never occurred to me to think of the danger. The danger is probably less than that of any other sport anyway.

When we had reached a fairly comfortable height, Mr. Wright looked across at me a couple of times in a somewhat inscrutable manner. Finally it occurred to me that he was studying me to see how I was taking it all and so I told him to go as far as he liked.

Than he let her out and the roar of wind in our ears mingled with the crackling staccato of the exhaust. We had to shout to each other.

From the height Mr. Wright pointed out Osborn and Fairfield, and were so I thought they were directly beneath us. (Osborn and Fairfield later merged and became Fairborn.) Dayton could be seen, of course, and I could distinguish the Steele high B137school building from among the others. (Katharine Wright taught at Steele; my mother graduated from Steele.)

The mayor says he is not considering the purchase of an aeroplane so long as they cost $7,500, but he is a confirmed enthusiast, and some day he may have a new method of escaping the reporters.

Katharine, aka Betty Darst, held a picnic on the lawn of the Wright Memorial in Dayton on the occasion of the Centennial of Practical Flight, October 5, 2005.

According to Betty, who often plays the role of Katharine, the Wrights loved a picnic. While Hawthorn Hill was under construction, the family picnicked on the Captains Walk above the roof. Later they would picnic in the woods on the property.

The picnic on this day was from their recipes and consists of some of their favorites:

Chicken salad sandwiches

Ham salad sandwiches

Deviled eggs

Home made potato chips

Orange slices


Orville’s Caramels

Home made Lemonade

Carrie Kayler, the family housekeeper would make the sandwich spread. Will and Orv fixed homemade potato chips. Katharine would prepare the deviled eggs.

On this day the picnic was prepared by South Park United Methodist Church Women. Bishop Milton Wright was Bishop with the United Brethren Church that is now part of the United Methodist Church. My mother and father and I, as a child, were members of this church.

Oranges were a favorite with Orville. When the 1913 floodwaters engulfed their earlier home on Hawthorn Street, a bowl of oranges was in the center of the table as the family prepared to have breakfast. It still remained as the waters receded.

Orville had quite a sweet tooth. When someone came to visit, he might ask him or her if they would like some caramels and then happily prepare a fresh batch. These caramels are from Orville’s recipe.

Orville used a wooden potato masher to prepare the lemonade. It has been said that Orville made the best, most delicious, old-fashioned lemonade ever tasted.

At Kitty Hawk coffee was the usual drink. When too much coffee caused them to lay awake at night, they would think over solutions to their challenges.

Reference: Picnic Menu

First Practical Airplane, Part 2

Centennial of Flight

A momentous event in the history of the airplane occurred 100 years ago on October 5, 1905. It was the first flight of the first practical airplane piloted by Orville Wright over Huffman Prairie, a cow pasture in Dayton, Ohio

On that occasion Wilbur flew thirty circles over the field, landing only when fuel was exhausted. He had flown the 30 circles in more than 39 minutes, exceeding the sum of all 109 flights made in 1903 and 1904. His average speed was 38-mph over the 24 miles he flew. It was the 48th flight and second to last flight of 1905.

I had the pleasure to narrate the reenactment of the flight by a replica 1905 Flyer III for radio station WCRS of Akron, Ohio.

A fog covered Huffman Prairie as I arrived early in the morning. The sun was just making its appearance. It was a beautiful sight of the pristine prairie. It remains just as it was when Orville and Wilbur flew there.

In the picture Bob Holland and David Binkley of WCRS, are preparing for the flight along with me on the left.

After the fog had lifted around 9:15 a.m., Mark Dusenberry flew his replica twice in a low straight-line flight for about 1,200-ft in 25-seconds after being catapulted into the air and make a graceful soft landing after each flight.

He was preparing to make a third flight, the engine was running when the weight hung up in the derrick when it dropped a short distance, aborting the attempt.

I was told that two days earlier Dusenberry flew a circle at treetop height and was sternly told by authorities not to do that again on the 5th.

I estimate several hundred people were in attendance. It could have been much a much higher number but the publicity was low key. I was told that the Air Force didn’t want a big crowd.

Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum and native Daytonian, urged the crowd to enjoy the prairie in the same manner he does.

More of his comments:

“Come when the wind is here, when the wind is blowing through the trees.”

“Contemplate what events occurred here and what flight has meant to the world. That is the best way we can honor Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

“The really wonderful thing about Huffman Prairie is that it’s not just a little historic patch of earth. It’s surrounded by this enormous complex that’s dedicated to the advancement of the Technology to which Wilbur and Orville gave birth.”

“The Wright brothers more famous powered flights of 1903 in North Carolina were important, but only another step in their research. The real end of the process of invention occurred here in Dayton in 1905.”

He noted that at one time there were plans to build a monument to the Wrights in the middle of the Prairie. We are fortunate that they changed their minds and built the monument on a hill some distance away leaving the prairie unspoiled.

Note: Huffman Prairie is a pristine prairie that remains exactly as it was 100 years ago, because it is part of a flood plain created by the construction of Huffman Dam after the great flood of 1913 that inundated Dayton. Both Katharine and Orville had visited the prairie while they were school children on biology field trips.

Colonel Andrew K. Weaver, 88th Air Force Wing Commander a Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) noted that the Wright brothers accomplishments continue to inspire.

“They had the ability to surmount the obstacles and to actually achieve results.”

“America’s leadership in Aviation began here with Orville and Wilbur and it continues here at WPAFB.”

Other speakers noted that the 105 Flyer III marked the beginning of a century of aviation progress, much of it developed on WPAFB which now surrounds the prairie.

Note: Orville was consulted in the selection of the location of WPAFB. The first Army airfield was established in 1917.

Among the attendees were members of the Wright family, Amanda Wright-Lane and Steven Wright, great-grand niece and nephew.

Two French delegations also attended. One was from Le Mans, where Wilbur’s first public flights made the Wright brothers famous, and Pau, where Wilbur set up the World’s first flying school.

Thierry Tissandier, son of French aviation pioneer Paul Tissandier, was with the delegation. The elder Tissandier was taught to fly by Wilbur,

Centennial celebrations in France are planned at Le Mans and Pau in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Betty J. Darst, Dayton Dramatist and Historian, invited the French attendees to the celebration and organized a several day symposium around the centennial.