Their Own Words
and Orville strode into the Kitty Hawk Weather Bureau on the afternoon
of December 17, 1903 and asked to use their telegraph to inform their
family in Dayton, Ohio of their successful flight. The telegraph
operator, John Dosher, sent the message. But as they were about to
leave, a message came back from Jim Gray, the telegraph operator in
Norfolk through whom the message had been relayed -- asking if he could
inform his local newspaper. The Wrights politely refused, they wanted
the story to come out of Dayton. Their father Milton and their brother Lorin were all primed to act as their press agents.
Jim Gray, however, ignored their request
and told his friend, Ed Dean, a reporter at the Norfolk
Virginian-Pilot. Dean, his editor Keville Glennan, and Harry Moore
(who worked in the circulation department) all put their heads together to flesh
out the sparse details and create a story worth reading. The resulting
news article was certainly interesting, but bore not even a vague
resemblance to the truth. And to make matters worse, the Virginian-Pilot
distributed this made-up story on the Associated Press wire service and
it was printed in whole or in part in dozens of newspapers across the
On January 5, 1904, the Wright brothers
issued a statement to the Associated Press, calling the Virginian-Pilot
article "...fictitious story incorrect in almost every detail" and
offering a truthful account. Their statement was circulated, but few
newspapers bothered to print the corrections. The truth was not nearly
as gripping as the fiction.
Flying Machine Soars
Three Miles in Teeth of High Wind Over Sand Hills and Waves On
No Balloon Attached To
Three Years of Hard,
Secret Work By Two Ohio Brothers Crowned With Success
Accomplished What Langley
With Man As Passenger
Huge Machine Flies Like Bird Under Perfect Control
Box Kite Principle With
The problem of
aerial navigation without the use of a balloon has been solved at last.
Over the sand hills of the
North Carolina coast yesterday, near Kitty Hawk,
two Ohio men proved that they could soar through the air in a flying
machine of their own construction, with the power to steer it and speed
it at will. This, too, in the face of a wind blowing at the confirmed
velocity of twenty-one miles an hour.
Like a monster bird, the invention hovered above the breakers and
circled over the rolling sand hills at the command of its navigator and,
after soaring for three miles, it gracefully descended to earth again
and rested lightly upon the spot selected by the man in the car as a
suitable landing place.
While the United States government has been spending thousands of
dollars in an effort to make practicable the ideas of Professor Langley
of the Smithsonian Institute, Wilbur and Orville Wright, two brothers,
natives of Dayton, O., have quietly, even secretly, perfected their
invention, and put it to a successful test.
They are not yet ready that the world should know the methods they have
adopted in conquering the air, but the Virginian-Pilot is able to state
authentically the nature of their invention, its principle and its chief
How the Machine Was Built
The idea of the box kite has been adhered to strictly in the basic
formation of the flying machine.
A huge framework of light timbers, 33 feet wide, five feet deep and five
feet across the top forms the machine proper.
This is covered with a tough, but light canvas.
In the center, and suspended just below the bottom plane is the small
gasoline engine which furnishes the motive power for the propelling and
There are two six-bladed propellers, one arranged just below the center
of the frame, so gauged as to exert an upward force when in motion, and
the other extends horizontally to the rear from the center of the car,
furnishing the forward impetus.
Protruding from the center of the car is a huge fan-shaped rudder of
canvass, stretch upon a frame of wood. This rudder is controlled by the
navigator and may be moved to each side, raised or lowered.
Start Was Success
Wilbur Wright, the chief inventor of the machine, sat in the operator’s
car and when all was ready his brother unfastened the catch which held
the invention at the top of the slope.
The big box began to move slowly at first, acquiring velocity as it
went, and when half way down the hundred feet the engine was started.
The propeller in the rear immediately began to revolve at a high rate of
speed, and when the end of the incline was reached the machine shot out
into space without a perceptible fall.
By this time the elevating propeller was also in motion, and, keeping
its altitude, the machine slowly began to go higher and higher until it
finally soared sixty feet above the ground.
Maintaining this height by the action of the under wheel, the navigator
increased the revolutions of the rear propeller, and the forward speed
of the huge affair increased until a velocity of eight miles an hour was
All this time the machine headed into a twenty-one mile wind.
Coast Folk Amazed
The little crowd of fisher folk and
coast guards, who have been watching the construction of the machine
with unconcerned curiosity since September 1st, were amazed.
They endeavored to race over the sand and keep up with the thing of the
air, but it soon distanced them and continued its flight alone, save the
man in the car.
Steadily it pursued its way, first tacking to port, then to starboard,
and then driving straight ahead.
“It is a success,” declared Orville Wright to the crowd on the beach
after the first mile had been covered.
But the inventor waited. Not until he had accomplished three miles,
putting the machine through all sorts of maneuvers en route, was he
Then he selected a suitable place to land, and, gracefully circling,
drew his invention slowly to the earth, where it settled, like some big
bird, in the chosen spot.
“Eureka,” he cried, as did the alchemist of old.