Ohio Natives: The Wright Brothers and Aviation
The world of transportation has changed a lot in the past 100 years. Back then, people mostly traveled by train or ship, but today, we have a lot of options, from faster trains to cars that can take us anywhere we want to go. But one of the biggest changes in transportation has been the evolution of the aviation industry. This industry can be traced back to two brothers from Ohio: Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, in Millville, Indiana. Not long after, he and his family moved to Ohio. On Aug. 19, 1871, brother Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio. The Wright brothers’ father was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and his work meant that the family moved frequently. They often moved back to Ohio, which is where the brothers spent most of their formative years.
While neither of the Wright brothers graduated from high school, they were clever and curious, especially when it came to mechanical things. In 1889, Orville opened a print shop, and soon, Wilbur joined the business too. Wilbur also designed and built a printing press that the brothers used for their business. They had always been fascinated by transportation though, and with the growing popularity of bicycles, they decided to open a bicycle shop in 1892.
The brothers’ interest in engineering started to expand beyond bicycles in the late 1890s. People all over the world were trying to figure out how to make a machine that would let people fly, and the Wright brothers started to take interest in it too. This led them to begin experimenting with kites and gliders so that they could learn how to control an object in flight.
The Wright brothers spent several years working on a glider that could remain airborne, experimenting with different wing and body designs. Finally, in 1902, they successfully created a glider that could stay airborne and make turns. On March 23, 1903, the brothers filed a patent application for this flying machine.
Now that they had figured out how to make a glider, they looked at how they could propel it with a motor. They needed to figure out factors such as lift, weight, thrust, and drag to make it fly. During 1903, they kept experimenting and adjusting the design of their new flying machine. On Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, their work paid off: They successfully conducted the first engine-powered flight. Orville flew the plane for 12 seconds, covering a distance of 120 feet. That doesn’t sound like much today, but it was the beginning of the history of aviation.
News of the Wright brothers’ achievement began to spread, and Wilbur and Orville received many accolades from all over the world. But rather than sit back and enjoy their fame, they kept working to make their flying machine better. They started the Wright Company, and soon, they had a booming aircraft business. The company even supplied the first military planes during World War I.
Unfortunately, Wilbur Wright would not live to see a lot of the success that came from their invention. He died on May 30, 1912, in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 45. But Orville kept working on aviation projects for decades more, until his death on Jan. 30, 1948, at the age of 76. Both brothers are buried at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.
Check out these resources to learn more about the Wright brothers:
- Biography of the Wright Brothers
- The Wright Brothers’ Story
- Prepare for Takeoff: Ohio’s Aviation History
- The Wright Brothers
- Ten Facts About the Wright Brothers
- Wilbur and Orville Wright
- 71+ Interesting Facts About the Wright Brothers
- Wright Brothers Bicycles
- The Wright Cycle Company Complex
- How the Chanute Biplane Gliders Inspired the Wright Brothers
- How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane
- A Look Back at the Wright Brothers’ First Flight
- The Wright Brothers
- Taking Flight With the Wright Brothers
- The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk
- The Location of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight
- 23 Photos of the Wright Brothers’ Flights
- Wright Brothers History
- Wright Brothers Timeline
- Dayton, Ohio’s Aviation Landmarks