‘The Wright Brothers’8/12/2015
The Wright Brothers, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and an airplane. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so, and David McCullough dispels that notion within the first few pages. Orville and Wilbur Wright were the sons of a bishop, lived in Dayton, Ohio, and owned a bicycle shop. With their time, funds and ideas, they worked long and hard to be the inventors of the first manned airplane. Often portrayed as a fait accompli, the flight at Kitty Hawk had a much more complicated history. They took multiple trips from Dayton to Kitty Hawk and conducted many tests over a span of three years before they were able to make their historic flight.
However, their accomplishment was not met with open arms in the United States. The government did not offer a contract to them, so they instead negotiated with France. The Smithsonian also tried to enshrine the Langley aerodrome as the first flying machine, claiming its failure prior to the Wrights’ success was due to the propulsion device, not the plane itself. The first Wright Flyer was therefore sent to England for display. Eventually it was returned to the United States and displayed at the Smithsonian.
By agreement, the brothers never flew together during the early years, believing at least one brother needed to be left to carry on. Orville was critically injured in a horrible crash in 1908, and their sister Katherine spent many months by his bedside while he recovered. The brothers finally flew together in 1910. At that same occasion, Orville took his father, Bishop Wright, on his first flight at the age of 82. His father’s only comment while in flight was, “Higher, Orville, higher.”
Anyone familiar with the works of McCullough will recognize his inimitable style of bringing history to life in this wonderful book. CV
Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.