Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up in a firm but loving household. Their parents and grandparents were active in the abolition of slavery and women's rights. The boys were encouraged from childhood to pursue intellectual interests and the family kept an extensive library for pursuits of study. Interestingly enough, it was Susan Wright their mother who was the mechanically adept of their parents. The daughter of a carriage maker, Susan taught her children to make all types of things and encouraged creative thought. In 1878, their father Milton Wright brought home a rubber band powered helicopter from one of his trips, and the boys began to build models of it.
In 1890, Wilbur and Orville started their own printing firm building their own press from damaged buggy parts and a tombstone but they soon got caught up in the bicycling craze. In 1893, In order to supplement their income, the boys began to sell and repair bicycles.
In 1899 Wilbur expressed his opinion that human flight was possible, in a letter he wrote to the Smithsonian Institution. He assured them that he was "an enthusiast but not a crank", and asked for whatever publications that they could send to him to help in this endeavor. Within a few months he had read all there was to read about flying.
Finding published data to be unreliable, the Wright brothers built their own wind tunnel to test and measure how to life a flying machine up into the air. They were the first to realize that a long, slender wing shape is the ideal structural design for flying.
Wilbur devised a control system of wing warping by twisting an empty bicycle tub box with the ends removed by using pulleys. This system essentially twisted the wings of a biplane allowing it to roll to the left or to the right and change its position in relation to oncoming wind. The brothers then adopted this system for a kite and eventually for a glider.
In 1900 the boys made their first trip to Kitty Hawk, NC for experimental flights and Wilbur built his first glider. This remote area was chosen because of the strong winds that blew over the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the tall sand dunes and the soft sands to cushion falling.
On December 17, 1903, working in winds 27 mph, Orville made the first heavier than air, machine powered flightin the world. The flight was a short 120 feet and lasted for only 12 seconds but it changed the way that we travel forever.
You can see where this great human accomplishment took place by visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial. A 60 foot granite monument sits on top of a 90 foot sand dune named Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of these two celebrated brothers from Dayton Ohio.
When you visit, plan time to tour the museum exhibits and participate in a ranger conducted tour where you visit the reconstructed camp buildings and first flight trail area, and climb up Kill Devil Hill to view the memorial.
The 90 foot peak is open from 9am to 5pm however; the closing time may be extended to 6pm with Daylight savings tome. There is a park entrance fee of $3 per person valid for 7 days under 16 free. Visitors 62 and older are free with a valid golden Age Passport. Passports may be purchased on site.
For more information, call 252-441-7430.