I Have Today Seen Wilbur Wright and his Great White Bird
The airplane debuted to rave reviews.
- By Mary Collins
- Air & Space magazine, March 2003
Library of Congress NEG. #LC-W861-1
(Page 3 of 7)
“Only Correct Account of the Two Trials Given to the Public for the First Time by Inventors, Who Denounce Previous Reported Interviews As Fakes
“It had not been our intention to make any detailed public statement concerning our private trials of our power ‘Flyer’ on the 17th of December last; but since the contents of a private telegram... was dishonestly communicated to the newspaper men at the Norfolk office...we feel impelled to make some correction. The real facts were as follows:
“On the morning of Dec. 17, between the hours of 10:30 o’clock and noon, four flights were made, two by Orville Wright and two by Wilbur Wright. The starts were all made from a point on the level sand about a hundred feet west of our camp...
“Into the teeth of a December gale the ‘Flyer’ made its way forward with a speed of 10 miles an hour over the ground and 30 to 35 miles an hour through the air. It had previously been decided that for reasons of personal safety these first trials should be made as close to the ground as possible. The height chosen was scarcely sufficient for maneuvering in so gusty a wind, and with no previous acquaintance with the conduct of the machine and its control mechanisms. Consequently the first flight was short.”
—Dayton Evening Herald, January 6, 1904 In 1904 and 1905, the brothers took the trolley to Huffman Prairie, a field outside Dayton, every day but Sunday to work ontheir Flyer. The locals had their own opinions about what the Wrights were up to.
“I felt sort of sorry for them. They seemed like well-meaning decent young men. Yet there they were, neglecting their business to waste their time day after day on that ridiculous flying machine. I had an idea they must worry their father.”
—Luther Beard, part-time school teacher, who often saw them on the trolley
How fitting for the publicity-shy Wrights that the most accurate published account by a witness of their flights appeared in an obscure journal called Gleanings of Bee Culture. The editor, a beekeeper, wanted to find out for himself if the rumors of the Wrights’ flying machine were true. On September 19, 1904, he drove 175 miles from Fairfield to Dayton, Ohio; the next day he walked over to Huffman Prairie and watched as the two brothers went to work.