Step into the realm of aviation history as we embark on a captivating journey through the Wright Brothers National Museum. Home to the iconic pioneers of flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright, this museum offers a glimpse into the extraordinary lives and groundbreaking innovations that shaped the course of aviation forever. Aviation enthusiasts and history lovers alike can revel in the extraordinary tales behind the artifacts.
1. John W. Berry Wright Brothers National Museum has More Wright Artifacts on Display than any Other Place in the World
Nestled within the confines of the museum lies an unparalleled treasure trove for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Interestingly enough, through all his hard work with elements like grease and oil, it was hard to find Orville Wright in disarray. Visitors can marvel at Orville Wright's impeccably preserved tuxedo and distinctive suede Stetson shoes. This display not only showcases Orville's commitment to sartorial elegance but also provides a glimpse into his meticulous attention to personal appearance.
Additionally, the museum showcases the artifacts of the Wright brothers' father, Bishop Milton Wright, including his spectacles, canes, and a 1668 Holy Bible, emphasizing the familial roots of the Wright brothers' achievements in aviation. Their mother, Susan Catherine Koerner Wright, is often credited for their mechanical prowess, which is why her hand-knit cape, tools from her father, John Gottlieb Koerner, and tintypes showcasing her parents, John and Catherine Freyer, are on display.
Skilled not only in aviation but also in photography, the Wright Brothers obtained a Korona V camera, using it to capture their iconic first flight photo. Orville set up the camera, and John T. Daniels, a member of the U.S. Life Saving Service Station, took the historic snapshot by squeezing the bulb – a moment that marked Daniels' inaugural venture into photography. Stroll through the museum and find it as well as other fascinating artifacts illuminating the lives of the famous Daytonian Brothers.
2. The Museum Houses the 1905 Wright Flyer III
In 1946, the vision for Carillon Historical Park, a museum celebrating the region's influential role in transportation history, was unveiled by Dayton industrialist Edward Deeds. The Wright brothers were slated to be featured prominently, and Deeds initially proposed constructing a replica of their 1903 Wright Flyer. However, Orville suggested a different approach, advocating for the restoration and display of the 1905 Wright Flyer III, which he considered their most significant aircraft. This particular flyer, recognized as the world's first practical airplane, had the capability to perform figure eights, land, and take off again—an achievement that distinguished it from earlier models.
Why did it need restoration? Later on in 1905, the Wright brothers disassembled the plane and placed it in storage until the spring of 1908. During this period, they modified the aircraft to accommodate two individuals—a pilot and a passenger. It was then transported to Kitty Hawk, where they conducted the inaugural passenger flight with their mechanic Charlie Furnas as the passenger. Unfortunately, Wilbur encountered a crash on the same day, leading them to disassemble parts of and abandon the aircraft at Kitty Hawk, with only the engine returning to Dayton. For three years the plane suffered from vandalism and exposure to the elements until the remaining parts were stored in a small museum in Pittsfield, MA. Orville's reconstruction would then begin in 1947.
The 1905 Wright Flyer III has since been deemed a National Historic Landmark- the only airplane to ever be designated as so. Although Orville Wright passed away before the opening of Carillon Park in 1950, he played a role in the design of Wright Hall, where the Flyer resides.
3. An Original Wright Bicycle is a Rare Sight to See
The first portion of the museum replicates Orville and Wilbur's original bicycle shop. Yes, that's correct, the brothers were involved with more than one form of transportation. In 1938, with Orville Wright's approval, Henry Ford acquired the original Wright brothers' bicycle shop building from 1127 W. Third Street. The historic structure was then moved to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, where it stands today. Carillon Park's cycle shop faithfully replicates the appearance of the Wright brothers' store during the crucial period between mid-October to mid-December 1901.
In 1896, the Wright brothers initiated the production of their own bicycle brand, starting with the Van Cleve model. Named after their paternal great-great grandmother, Catherine Benham Van Cleve Thompson, the Wrights manufactured and sold a total of 95 Van Cleve bicycles. Today, only four are known to exist, with two preserved at Carillon Historical Park, ensuring the enduring legacy of the pioneering aviators.