American brothers who invented the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight are known as the Wright brothers (1903). The first fully functional airplane was created and flown by Wilbur Wright (April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana, U.S.—May 30, 1912, Dayton, Ohio), as well as by his brother Orville Wright (August 19, 1871, Dayton—January 30, 1948, Dayton) (1905).
Early family life
Wilbur and Orville were the children of Milton Wright, an ordained minister in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and Susan Catherine Koerner Wright. Milton and Susan had met while Susan was a student at a United Brethren college in Hartsville, Indiana, and Milton was in the process of training for the ministry. The couple had two sons on a farm close to Millville before Wilbur was born: Reuchlin (1861-1920) and Lorin (1862-1939). After that, the young family relocated to Dayton, Ohio, where Milton eventually accepted a position as editor of a religious publication. Otis and Ida, a set of twins, were born and passed away in that city in 1870. A year later, Orville and Katharine came (1874–1929).
Milton, who was chosen as a church bishop in 1877, traveled extensively away from his house to visit the Brethren churches for which he was in charge. The family relocated frequently: in 1878, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa; in 1881, to a farm close to Richmond, Indiana; and in 1884, back to Dayton. Orville subsequently recalled that the Wright children attended public schools and grew up in a household where “there was always tremendous encouragement to children to follow intellectual pursuits; to examine whatever excited curiosity.” Orville held that “our curiosity would have been plucked long before it could have borne fruit” in a less nutritious atmosphere.
Bishop Wright had no peaceful years during this time. He was engaged in a 20-year conflict as the head of a conservative faction opposed to church modernisation, which resulted in a national schism in 1889 and was then followed by numerous litigation over control of church property. A brand-new struggle emerged inside the little schismatic branch that Bishop Wright had led away from the main church as these decades of upheaval were nearing their conclusion. Up to the bishop’s retirement in 1905, the ensuing church disciplinary hearings and civil court actions were still ongoing.
On the lives of his kids, Bishop Wright had a tremendous impact. Like their father, Wilbur and Orville were free thinkers with a firm belief in their own abilities, unwavering confidence in the accuracy of their judgment, and a resolve to persevere in the face of setbacks and adversity. These characteristics, along with their exceptional technical abilities, contribute to the Wright brothers’ success as inventors. The bishop’s strict dedication to morality and reluctance to mediate disagreements, on the other hand, might have had some bearing on how the brothers later went about marketing their invention.
Printers and bicycle makers
The only members of the Wright family who did not go to college or get married were Wilbur and Orville. When Wilbur was hurt in a hockey accident in the winter of 1885–1866, his ambitions to enroll in college were put on hold. He spent the next three years getting well, reading a lot in his father’s library, helping the bishop with his legal and religious issues, and taking care of his ill mother, who passed away from tuberculosis in 1889.
Orville, who had spent several summers learning the printing trade, convinced Wilbur to join him in opening a print shop when their mother passed away. The brothers ran two short-lived neighborhood newspapers in addition to offering standard printing services. Additionally, they released The Tattler, an African American newspaper for Dayton, which was edited by poet and Orville High School classmate Paul Laurence Dunbar. They earned a solid reputation in the community for the excellence of the presses they created, assembled, and marketed to other printers. One of the earliest signs of the Wright brothers’ outstanding technical prowess and distinctive method of approaching issues in mechanical design were these printing machines.
The brothers started a bicycle sales and repair business in 1892, and in 1896 they started making bicycles on a modest scale. They installed a variety of light machine equipment in the facility and created their own self-oiling bicycle wheel hub. The Wright brothers’ aviation experiments, which took place between 1899 and 1905, were eventually funded by the profits from the print shop and the bicycle business. Additionally, developing and creating lightweight, precise machinery out of metal tubing, wire, and wood provided a great training ground for manufacturing flying planes.
The Wright family traced their interest in aviation to a little helicopter toy that their father had brought back from a trip when they were living in Iowa. They had read reports of German glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal’s work a decade earlier. But their genuine interest in flight only began after reading of Lilienthal’s death in a glider mishap in August 1896. The brothers had read everything in the neighborhood library by 1899, so they wrote to the Smithsonian Institution asking for recommendations for additional reading on aeronautics.
The brothers wrote to Octave Chanute the following year to introduce themselves. Chanute was a renowned civil engineer and expert in aviation who would stick by the brothers’ side during the crucial years from 1900 to 1905.
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