The first powered flight was made by Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on December 17, 1903. It was the result of years of experiments and design by the Wright brothers, who were operators of a bicycle repair shop and factory in Dayton, Ohio. The brothers continued their flying experiments in Ohio and in Fort Myer, Va., and were granted a patent for the plane in 1906. Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912 and Orville sold his interest in the Wright airplane company in 1915. After Orville's death in 1948, the majority of the Wright brothers papers were given by the estate to the Library of Congress.
Wright Brothers, Photograph of First Flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 10:35 AM, December 17, 1903
One of the most famous photographs of all time, this image was made from one of the five-by-seven- inch glass-plate negatives deposited in the Library of Congress in 1949. The camera had been set on a tripod by Orville, who instructed John T. Daniels of the Kill Devil Hill Lifesaving Station how and when to snap the shutter. Daniels did exactly as he was told and the result captures with clarity and drama the world's first airplane flight at the exact moment of liftoff. Orville is at the controls, lying on the lower wing with his hips in a movable cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. Wilbur, running alongside to steady the machine, has just released his hold on the upright strut of the wing and probably stepped back to get a better view. This first flight lasted only twelve seconds and went 120 feet; it was followed by three more flights that day, each longer than the previous flight.
Telegram Announcing Success, Orville Wright to Milton Wright, December 17, 1903
Shortly after their history-making flights of December 17, 1903, Orville sent this telegram from Kitty Hawk to his father, Milton, and sister, Katharine, who became the first non-Kitty Hawk residents to learn about their success. Following their eventful and highly successful morning, the Wrights had an unhurried lunch and then walked the few miles to the town of Kitty Hawk to send this historic telegram to their father. The only telegraph equipment in Kitty Hawk was a government wire at the weather bureau office connected to Norfolk, which passed the message on to Western Union. Two errors in transmission were made: Orville's name was misspelled and the time of their longest flight was incorrect (57 seconds instead of the actual 59 seconds). The telegram reached Dayton, Ohio, at 5:25 P.M. and the brothers returned home with their machine on the evening of December 23.
Orville Wright's Flight Journal for 1904-05 at Huffman Prairie
Orville's tiny note, taped to the front of this journal, tells why he considered this item special and distinct from all the other Wright journals, notebooks and diaries that he and Wilbur carried in their pockets over the years. His note reads, "Carried on all flights recorded in it. OW." In addition to all the abbreviated, important flight data it contains, this journal is a singular treasure and a unique historical artifact because it went with Orville and Wilbur on each and every one of the Huffman Prairie flights noted in it, from 1904 to 1905. During those years, the Wright's new flyer was sturdier, heavier and had an entirely new engine, and was on its way to becoming a truly practical aircraft.
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