Katharine Wright and Brothers Return from Europe

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Celebration Activities

Katharine Wright and her brothers returned to America on May 11, 1909 after Wilbur’s triumphant flying performance in Europe. They arrived in New York aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the cheers of representatives of the Aero Club of America, The Aeronautic Society and several other organizations as well as friends and admirers.

Katharine and her brothers stood at the deck rail and surveyed the cheering crowd. Wilbur looked thoughtful and stern.

When asked about his thoughts, he responded. “I was thinking of another time that Orville and I came to New York.”

When they had visited in New York five years ago seeking assistance to go on with their airplane, they were laughed at. Those that had A scoffed at them then now cheered the loudest.

Newspaper reporters and other onlookers began asking them many questions. As usual the brothers had little to say.

When pressed, Wilbur replied, “He couldn’t think of anything that happened in Europe that would be of interest here.”

An English reporter asked if he had received a greater measure of honor and attention than Europe had given since the independence of the colonies. Wilbur responded curtly, “I can’t remember as far back as that.”

When asked about the safety of their airplane, Orville responded, “Airplanes we are using today, if properly handled are very safe and such improvements have been made in them that the accident that happened at Fort Myer last September could not occur again.”

Pressed about business concluded in Europe, they were reluctant to reveal very much, but did say that the right to manufacture their airplanes had been sold to France and that several machines were now being built in England.

By this time Katharine, seeing that that her brothers were becoming agitated, arranged to have the ship’s officer call them away on a pretext.

She remained behind and was soon surrounded by a group of people who wanted to know about her experiences in meeting various distinguished Europeans who had called upon the brothers in the course of their aerial performances.

She responded that “it is part of my work to look after the boys and keep them from being talked to death.”

“You know they are such chatter boxes,” she said with some sarcasm.

“I had to rescue them several times in London last week and pulled Wilbur out of some conversational mires in Paris.”

One reporter asked her if it was true that she was engaged to an Italian nobleman?

“Engaged?” “Why bless your soul. I had never heard a word about it. You may be sure, though, that I am not. I didn’t go to Europe for that purpose.”

“But really,” she continued, “I haven’t a word to say against Europe’s kings and nobleman. They are every bit as good as other people, and they are appreciative and up to date also. I really didn’t mind them a bit.”

While in Pau, France, Katharine flew as a passenger with Wilbur in front of Edward VII.

The Wrights were driven to the Waldorf-Astoria and entertained with a luncheon hosted by Holland Forbes, acting president of the Aero Club.

At five o’clock in the afternoon they left for Dayton.

Reference: NY Herald, May 12, 1909.

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