Long before the unresponsive desk agents, delays in Phoenix and viral videos of flight attendants behaving poorly, air travel was universally looked upon as a monumental feat and a testament to both the literal and figurative heights humankind had yet to reach.
The airplane was famously invented by the Wright Brothers, who first achieved sustained, controlled flight on December 17th, 1903. The photograph taken that day, of Wilbur Wright running beside the plane as his younger brother Orville takes off, has become iconic, the turn of the century version of Neal Armstrong’s first steps for mankind.
Though this day was undoubtedly a victory for both the United States, and the world, it has spawned a friendly debate between the states of North Carolina, where the flight took place, and Ohio, where the plane was built. North Carolina has “First in Flight” printed on their license plates, while Ohio’s plates bill the state as “The Birthplace of Aviation.”
North Carolina’s claim is verifiable fact, disputed mainly by French skeptics, many of whom would later apologize to the Wright brothers. On December 17th, 1903, outside Kitty Hawk, NC, the Wright Flyer 1 took off for the first time. Ohio also has a fair claim to their title. Orville Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1871 and the brothers would later invent and build their first aircraft in this city. The Wright Brother’s also spent part of their formative years in the state.
What we have here, folks, is an error of omission.
Before any of the above happened, the elder Wright brother, Wilbur, was born in Millville, Indiana in 1867, where he lived on and off as a child. Many history books throw in the Wright Brother’s Indiana ties as an afterthought. This is an easy mistake to make. The fact that Orville was born in Dayton – the city both adult Wright Brother’s lived in – leads us to assume that the family moved to Ohio between 1867 and 1871 then never left. The truth is, the family moved a lot during this time.
The Indiana-born Wright family patriarch, Milton Wright, was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. His three eldest children, including Wilbur, were born in various towns in Indiana in the late 1860’s, while his four youngest were born in Ohio between 1870-1874. The family would eventually settle in Dayton permanently in 1884, but the ten years prior to that were spent in Iowa and Indiana.
As such, Indiana was home to both Wright brothers for a time during an important stage of their development. Although it is impossible to say with any certainty whether this time period influenced their later inventions…it is also impossible to say with any certainty that it did not.
Just something to think about during your next four-hour layover in Newark.