But anyhoo, the part of Dayton history that the fourth-graders truly did appreciate was the stuff about the Wright Brothers. Orville and Wilbur were born and raised right here in Dayton and this is where they invented the airplane. They did all their research, experiments, and building (the indoor stuff anyway) in their bicycle shop on Dayton’s West side. Decades ago, Orville sold the original building to Henry Ford (his buddy) who moved it to his museum in Dearborn, Michigan. THANKS A LOT ORVILLE. Carillon Park has a lovely replica, which will have to do.
The bicycle hanging up there was the first built entirely by the Wright Brothers, and sold in 1901. Is that awesome or WHAT?
The Wright Cycle building at the museum as two original Wright bicycles. There are only 5 remaining in the world. There is another one at the nation’s Air Force Museum (also in Dayton – holla!), one at the Smithsonian Institution, and one at you guessed it – the Henry Ford Museum. (He also has the Wright’s freaking HOUSE. Thanks again Orville!)
There are several volunteers who work in this part of the museum who told us all about the Wright’s amazing wind tunnel experiments. They did these experiments to determine what wing shape would give their plane the most lift. They tested over 200 wing shapes (miniaturized versions) in a self-built wind tunnel in their bicycle shop, and did all the crazy math calculations by hand. When the volunteer was explaining this incredible first aeronautical engineering feat to us, he did so with such passion that it brought tears to my eyes.
Our enthusiastic tour guide for the Wright Cycle Co. He rules my world!
A lot of the engineering stuff was over the kids’ heads, but I know that Joshua understood that what they accomplished was an amazing feat. And, it truly is.
The Wrights, who were educated only up through high school, started researching flight in 1899, achieved it in 1903, and had made it practical by 1905. From thought to practicality in just six years!! It’s just incredible. People had been trying to figure this out for a loooong time. It’s just mind-boggling how quickly they accomplished this goal that has changed all of our lives and our world in immeasurable ways.
The Wrights’ 1903 plane, the first that ever flew, is at the Smithsonian. But Dayton has their first practical plane – their third (the second was destroyed in a crash) and the one that they perfected powered flight on – the 1905 Wright Flyer III. EEEEEK! It’s SO COOL you guys. The fourth-graders were enthralled as was I. It’s been years and years since I’ve seen it. It is amazing. Regrettably I forgot to bring my good camera with me, so these are just phone pics, but there are many excellent photos of this plane (including some of the Wrights flying it!!) on the internet .
All the kids went ga-ga over the plane and they also were attentive to and excited about a film explaining the Wrights’ remarkable achievements in flight. During the film, Joshua turned to me and said in awe, “Isn’t that amazing?” My heart swelled a little. It is pretty cool that Dayton’s most famous sons are still inspiring it’s current children, long after their deaths.
Joshua with the Wright Flyer IIIJoshua and I had a great day at the museum. It was so fun to make memories with my little buddy and have him share some of my love of Dayton history. After the class departed on their bus back to school, he and I went back through a couple of exhibits we wanted to spend more time in. I hope you all will go visit Carillon Park this fall if you’re local, and if you’re not, it’s a great reason for a visit to Dayton, especially if you’ve got an aviation-lover in your home.