I Have Today Seen Wilbur Wright and his Great White Bird

The airplane debuted to rave reviews.

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“Steadily it pursued its way, first tacking to port, then to starboard, and then driving straight ahead.

“ ‘It’s 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 satisfied.

“Then he selected a suitable place to land, and gracefully circling drew his invention slowly to earth, where it settled, like some big bird, in the chosen spot.

“ ‘Eureka,’ he cried, as did the alchemists of old.”

Virginian-Pilot, December 18, 1903 The Dayton Evening Herald, which had run the Virginian-Pilot’s outlandish version of the Wrights’ first flight, published the brothers’ correction three weeks later.

“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.”

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