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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Did the Dayton Daily News Fail to Carry the Story of the Wright's First Flight?

Yes, per Twelve Seconds to the Moon, by Rosamond Young, 1978, page 58- "The Dayton Daily News had nothing on December 18 but on the following day carried a small story on page one..."

Yes, per Dayton Ink- The First Century of the Dayton Daily News, published by the Dayton Daily News, 1998. Page VIII, "Taking Dayton for granted is a Dayton tradition, and nowhere was it more in evidence than when the Wright brothers opened the era of powered flight on Dec 17, 1903, when they flew an airplane of their own design and construction at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. Much of the nation's press gave the event short shrift, but the Wrights- Orville and Wilbur- were Dayton boys. This, beyond any doubt, was big local news. Unfortunately, the Dayton Daily News gave the event the shortest shrift possible, Nothing."
Page 70- "Truth stranger than fiction- so it wasn't covered. It was front-page news on Dec 19, 1903, that the Wright brothers were leaving Norfolk, Va., to spend Christmas with their parents. That the brothers had spent Dec 17 flying what they called the world's first aeroplane was mentioned only in passing. How did the News miss the scoop of the century, by its very own hometown boys?"

No, per The Bishop Boys- Tom Crouch, 1989, page 272 "Five newspapers responded. Two of them, the New York American and the Cincinnati Enquirer, carried it in their morning editions. Perhaps inspired by the account in the morning Enquirer, the afternoon papers in Dayton abbreviated the Norfolk piece. The Dayton News was a bit more imaginative, if no more accurate. The story, carried in a section reserved for neighborhood news, was headlined: Dayton Boys Emulate Great Santos-Dumont."

Actually, No, per many, many other sources.

The correct answer is No, the Dayton Daily News did not fail to carry the story. True, the early edition on Dec 18th did not carry the story, but it was added to a later edition of the paper that same day. So, if a historian obtains a copy of the early edition of Dec 18th, the story does not appear on page 8. But if the historian obtains a later edition copy, the story does appears on page 8, and thus the confusion. As per Tom Crouch's comment that the News was a bit more imaginative, if no more accurate, that comment would apply to the headline, but not the article. The headline was misguided, as Santos-Dumont had no experience at that time, in heavier than air machines, but the actual story line was fairly accurate!

Dayton Daily News Dec 18th, 1903 page from Dayton Metro Library archives. Associated original print plate is from author's collection.

The story read in part as follows: Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec 17. "'We have made four successful flights this morning, all against a 21-mile wind. We started from the level, with engine power alone. Our average speed through the air was 31 miles. Our longest time in the air was 57 seconds.' Orville Wright. 
The above telegram was received by Bishop Wright of this city last evening from his sons Wilbur and Orville Wright, who have been for several months at Kitty Hawk on the coast of North Carolina experimenting with a flying machine, announcing the complete success of their invention which they call the 'Wright Flyer'. 
Thursday morning they made four successful flights against a wind of 21 miles an hour, starting from a level and going at the rate of 10 miles per hour, which would be equal to a rate of 31 miles per hour in a calm. No power was used in starting the flight except two aerial propellers driven by a powerful but light gasoline engine. The landings were all made easily and without injury to either the machine or operator. The Wright brothers have been carrying on experiments for the past six or seven years, and have built three previous machines for gliding by means of which they attained proficiency in the control of their apparatus. This year is the first time they have attempted to drive their machine by power. (Then details of the Wright Flyer are given, and then....)
The dispatch from Norfolk, Va., published in the morning dailies contains much that is inaccurate and was based on imperfect or unauthentic information. The credit for the success of the 'Wright Flyer' is totally due to both Wilbur and Orville as the invention has been the result of their joint labors."

The account above obviously shows signs of being obtained directly from the source- The Wright family. Under the headline, it states three successful trials were made, but this is corrected in the story when four successful trials are claimed. Some of the info is not accurate, such as no injury to the machine- there was some minor repair required between flights due to some cracked parts. And the experiments had not been carried on for six or seven years. Experiments began in 1899 beginning with the kite testing of wing warping. In lieu of missing the story, the Daily News had it mostly correct. At least when compared to the accounts carried in other papers. Page 1 would have been better....but there it is.

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