|December 17th, 1903 first flight, press photo from 1928, 25th anniversary.|
"The first run of the motor on the machine developed a flaw in one of the propeller shafts which had not been discovered in the test at Dayton. The shafts were sent at once to Dayton for repair, and were not received again until November 20th, having been gone two weeks. We immediately put them in the machine and made another test. A new trouble developed. The sprockets which were screwed on the shafts, and locked with nuts of opposite thread, persisted in coming loose. After many futile attempts to get them fast, we had to give it up for that day, and went to bed much discouraged. However, after a night's rest, we got up the next morning in better spirits and resolved to try again.
While in the bicycle business we had become well acquainted with the use of hard tire cement for fastening tires on the rims. We had once used it successfully in repairing a stop watch after several watchsmiths had told us it could not be repaired. If tire cement was good enough for fastening the hands of a stop watch, why should it not be good for fastening the sprockets on the propeller shaft of a flying machine? We decided to try it. We heated the shafts and sprocket, melted cement into the threads, and screwed them together again. This trouble was over. The sprockets stayed fast.
As written by Tom Crouch in "The Bishop's Boys", "Daniels, at least, was uninjured. For the rest of his life, he would remind anyone willing to listen that he had survived the first airplane crash. The Wrights and their volunteer crew dragged what was left back into the hangar. The earlier aircraft, the gliders of 1900-02, had simply been abandoned at the site. This time they would ship the remains (of the 1903 Flyer) home to Dayton."(3)
|Artist's depiction of Wright Flyer incorrectly showing one propeller at rear and one on underside of machine. The actual details of the Flyer were kept secret by the Wright's.(6)|
The Flyer remained in the shipping crates, and was stored in the shed building behind the Wright Cycle Shop at 1127 West 3rd Street in Dayton, and there it remained for years, never to be flown again. As the Wrights continued their experiments in 1904 at Simms Station (Huffman Prairie), it was with a new machine, the Wright Flyer II, and in 1905, with the Wright Flyer III.
The 1903 Flyer still in the shipping crates was moved in 1915 to 15 North Broadway to a barn. The barn was eventually torn down, and Orville's Lab was built at this site where the crates were then stored. The Flyer then was finally restored at the Wright Factory in 1916. From the publication of The Wright Company, 1916, "The Beginning of Human Flight", "The rudders were badly damaged, and some other parts broken; but the machine has suffered most from going through the flood that swept through Dayton in 1913. The greater part of the machine, still in the boxes in which it was shipped from Kitty Hawk to Dayton, lay several weeks in the water and mud."
(See my post "The 1913 Dayton Flood, and The Wright Family" )
"In assembling the machine for exhibition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the front and rear rudders had to be almost entirely rebuilt. The cloth and the main cross spars of the upper and lower center sections of the wings also had to be made new. A number of other parts had to be repaired, but most of the other parts, excepting the motor, are the original parts used in 1903. The motor now in the machine is a close copy of the 1903 motor, but was built about a year later and developed much more power than the original one....The parts of the 1903 motor are still at hand, excepting the crank shaft and fly-wheel. These were loaned some years ago for exhibition at one of the aeronautical shows, and cannot be found."(4)
|As pictured in The Technology Review, affixed in editor Fred G. Fassett's copy of Fred Kelly's "The Wright Brothers".(6)|
|Brochure produced by The Wright Company for display of Wright Flyer at MIT, 1916.(6)|
|Program of events of MIT dedication of new buildings, 24 pages, during which Wright Flyer was displayed.(6)|
The Flyer was next exhibited at the Pan American Aeronautic Exposition in New York in 1917. From The New York Times, February 9, 1917, First Wright Plane Displayed, "Orville Wright and his sister, Miss Katharine Wright, were then introduced, but Mr. Wright refused to speak....One of the most interesting features of the exhibit is the original Wright aeroplane, the first that ever flew. It is exactly as it was fourteen years ago. Contrasted to this primitive machine is the new Wright-Martin tractor biplane, with its 150 horse power motor and a speed of eighty-five miles an hour."
|The New York Times February 9, 1917 Aero Exposition and display of 1903 Wright Flyer.(6)|
June 15-18th, 1918, the 1903 Flyer was displayed at the Society of Automobile Engineers Summer Meeting in Dayton, exhibited at a large hall at Triangle Park. The evening of the 18th, a banquet was given in honor of Orville Wright.
|From Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering issue July 1, 1918. A "first model Wright machine with its 12 hp engine" was displayed, the 1903 Flyer.(6)|
March 1919, displayed again at the New York Aero Show.
January 1921, set up at South Field Dayton for a week or two for lawsuits evidence.
Then, in October of 1924, the Flyer was displayed at the International Air Races at Dayton. Per Fred Fisk and Marlin Todd, "The Wright Brothers from Bicycle to Biplane", they indicated that "The Wright brother's original Kitty Hawk 1903 Flyer was exhibited in the old 1910 Wright Company, Huffman Prairie- Simms Station hangar at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. This was during the International Air Races in Dayton on October 2, 3, and 4, 1924. The admission charge was to benefit the National Aeronautic Association. Orville and his sister Katharine attended these races."(5)
|1903 Wright Flyer on display at the March 1919 New York Aeronautical Exposition. Thank you to R. Terrell Wright of North Carolina for identifying this photo event(6)|
|Simms Station Hangar display of 1903 Wright Flyer during the October 1924 International Air Races in Dayton, Ohio.|
Then back to storage at 15 North Broadway.
1925, new cloth was installed.
As mentioned in Fisk and Todd's book, "The Wright Flyer was at Orville's Laboratory where he showed it to Charles Lindbergh on June 23, 1927. Before sending the 1903 Flyer to England, Orville Wright had the Flyer recovered again with 127 1/4 yards of "Pride of the West" muslin at a cost of $24.69."(5)
January 28, 1928, sent to Science Museum South Kensington, England, where it remained until 1948. During this time, was removed to storage for a period of time, twice, for fear of damage during WWII. Refer to my post "Samuel Langley and the Wright Brothers" for information on why the Wright Flyer was sent to England in 1928.
|Wright Flyer at Science Museum, South Kensington, England.(6)|
|Wright Flyer at Science Museum, South Kensington, England, 1928.(6)|
|Dayton Daily News, January 31, 1948- "Will the first plane be returned to the United States? Perhaps Mr. Wright's last will and testament will provide the answer. "(7)|
The executor's of the estate (Harold Steeper and Harold S. Miller) hired Landis, Ferguson, Bieser & Greer for assistance in settling the estate. In an interview with Co-Executor Harold S. Miller's daughter Marianne Miller Hudec, in September of 2000 by Ann Deines, Marianne quoted her father "In my opinion, Bob Landis is the best lawyer in Dayton and he is the man I want to represent me....This is a difficult case. We have the first plane coming back to the United States. I want a first class lawyer representing the estate. It turned out that Bob Landis was everything my Father thought he would be...."
Below are two letters I obtained, written by Bob Landis, addressed to Harvey Geyer and to Carl Beust. Geyer, Beust, and Louis Christman were involved in the restoration of the 1905 Wright Flyer III under the direction of E. A. Deeds, and also involved in providing an engine casting for the reproduction being prepared in South Kensington, London.
|Harold S. Miller, husband of Ivonette Wright Miller (daughter of Lorin Wright).(8)|
|Robert Landis, attorney, confirming that the return of the Kitty Hawk is assured, May 5th, 1948(8)|
Louis Christman, writing to Guy Wainwright, President of the Diamond Chain Company, wrote the following on July 8, 1948:
|Handwritten letter by Louis Christman, concerning return of 1903 "Kitty Hawk", July 8, 1948 to Guy Wainwright. The Diamond Chain Company provided chains for use in the construction of the 03 Flyer and later flyers.(9)|
December 17, 1948, the Flyer was displayed at Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building, and remains on display at the Smithsonian to this day, per this link The 1903 Wright Flyer on Display.
Wright State University- History of the Wright Flyer
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum-The Wright Flyer First Public Display
2/21/19 added picture of Wright Hangar, 1924, Display of Wright Flyer.
(3) The Bishop's Boys- Tom Crouch, 1989
(4) The Beginning of Human Flight- The Wright Company, 1916.
(5) The Wright Brothers from Bicycle to Biplane- Fred C. Fisk and Marlin W. Todd, 2000
(6) From Author's personal collection- press photos and vintage newspapers.
(7) From Author's collection- Dayton newspapers collected by Louis Christman following Orville Wright's death.
(8) From Author's collection- Letters archived by Louis Christman related to return of Wright 1903 Flyer.
(9) From Author's collection- From archive of Louis Christman notes concerning 1903 and 1905 Flyers.