"For all his achievements and notoriety, it is difficult to view Orville Wright as anything but a sad and lonely man who never found his calling- and perhaps never sought it- and who died without ever making one genuine friend."
Why Lawrence Goldstone would write such a statement when the facts clearly show otherwise, I'll leave that for him to explain.
One of Orville Wright's genuine friends was Colonel Edward A. Deeds. In the book "Colonel Deeds Industrial Builder" by Isaac F Marcosson, 1947, Marcosson wrote "One of the closest friendships in the Colonel's life is for Orville Wright, his famous fellow Daytonian...Their kinship has ripened with the years."
|Orville Wright and E. A. Deeds, good friends. (Carillon Historical Park)|
As reported in the NCR Factory News, February-March 1948 issue, Colonel Deeds said, "In the passing of Orville Wright, the world has lost one of its great men, one whose contribution to its progress we have only begun to measure. It was our privilege to know him as a fellow citizen of our city, but he was no less a citizen of the world. Modest and capable, he was equally at home in the highest circles or in the workshop which has always been a part of his life.
I have known Orville Wright intimately for many years. He was one of my closest friends and his passing is a deep personal loss. There are no words which would adequately picture either the character or the achievement of this man who, from the most humble beginning, rose to world eminence."
|NCR Factory News, Feb/March 1948. "He was one of my closest friends...."(3)|
From "Wright Reminiscences", compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, Colonel Deeds stated "I treasure Orville's friendship highly. He is one of those great men who remain unspoiled by adulation. He is witty and has a keen sense of humor. While he never makes a public speech, he is an interesting and entertaining conversationalist, especially if the subject is a scientific one."
Colonel Deeds wrote the following letter to the President of the Diamond Chain Company, Guy A. Wainwright, 6 months after Orville Wright's death. The letter concerns restoration of the 1905 Wright Flyer III. The Diamond Chain Company provided chains for the original construction of the Wright Flyers, and was therefore also involved in supplying chains for the restoration. This will be a subject of another blog, but note that Deeds writes "...Mr. Orville Wright who I was privileged to know as a close and cherished friend."
|Portion of July 29, 1948 letter from Edward A. Deeds to Guy A. Wainwright discussing the construction of Carillon Park in Dayton Ohio, and the restoration of the 1905 Wright Flyer III. "Orville Wright....a close and cherished friend."(3)|
|Orville and life long friend Charles Kettering. From the Dayton Journal, January 31, 1948.(3)|
"Edward Deeds, Charles F. Kettering, and Orville often spent evenings together. After dining, they sat around spinning yarns. One of the men said he had heard it was a good idea to lie down after a heavy meal. Deeds and Kettering discussed the matter for some time, finally deciding that it was not a good idea because blood circulation needed for digestion slows down during a nap. Then Orville, who had said nothing, remarked, 'If what you fellows say is true, there must be a lot of sick dogs in the world.'"
From "Wright Reminiscences", Orville's dentist of 24 years, Dr. Theodore E. Lilly wrote:
"With his passing, I felt a tremendous loss. We had become good friends through the many years of physical closeness and personality rapport."
Orville's cousin Jay R. Petree:
"Only his immediate family and the few close friends would ever see and love that fine inner self that he reserved for the few. From that time, our friendship grew and became a deeply moving experience for me and, later, for my wife and family."
Robert Hadeler in "Wright Reminiscences", tells of Orville's Lambert Island property on the Georgian Bay in Canada. Robert had a summer job helping with chores there from 1928 through 1932. Robert wrote "O.W. appeared to be shy, retiring and diffident in public places. He was not at all unsure of what he wanted and thought, but he was not aggressive or forward. He was always extremely polite and thoughtful. In private conversation he was interesting and really quite a talker....Usually during the summer we would visit the Williams who had the cottage on an island several miles away....Also, the McKenzies who had an island nearby would some years invite O.W. over for a visit...Mostly our visitors were O.W.'s nieces and nephews and their families....Lorin's children, Milton (and wife and two young boys), Bus Wright (and wife) and Ivonette Wright Miller (and husband)....his brother Reuchlin's daughter, Mrs. Russel, and her three children...The island had lots of blueberries which I would pick and O.W. would make wonderful pies....
Another visitor came over from England each year to visit O.W. He was Griffith Brewer, the first Englishman to fly or at least a ballooning and aviation enthusiast...His visits were always eagerly anticipated as were those of the other guests."
|"Orville Wright smiles from his sleeping bag during a western camping trip with Edward and Edith Deeds"- Carillon Historical Park Archives|
Fred Howard wrote in "Wilbur and Orville", 1987, "But the protective coloration that enabled Orville to disappear into the background in public did not extend to his private life. He was anything but shy with relatives and friends, willing at the drop of a hat to express an opinion on issues of the day that interested him...Among family and friends, Orville had a reputation as a tease and a practical joker."
Frederick J. Hooven wrote "Longitudinal Dynamics of the Wright Brothers' Early Flyers", as recorded in The Wright Flyer, edited by Howard S. Wolko, 1987. Fredrick wrote "As a schoolboy of 15...(the year 1920) I became a designer of a machine that was being built by a group of schoolmates. Orville Wright was a trustee of our school and it seemed sensible to talk to him about our design. He received us with the same grave courtesy he would have accorded any visiting group, and talked to us in grownup terms. We were charmed, and went back to see him many times. He loaned us a little fixture he had made to shape wing sections of wax, and we made wings and tested them in his wind tunnel. He clearly enjoyed our visits and was never too busy to see us, and we loved him....He had a wonderful sense of humor and was very sharp witted.
Alone of that group I went back to see him many times during the later years and we were good friends until he died in 1948."
Wilbur and Orville were brothers, but they were more than that, they were great friends.
Wilbur Wright, 1912- "From the time we were little children my brother Orville and myself lived together. We usually owned all of our toys in the common, talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions and discussions between us."
Orville and his brother Lorin were also good friends.
In "The Bishop's Boys", Tom Crouch wrote "Fred C. Kelly ...had first met Orville as a young reporter...Kelly had actually been working as a newsman in Xenia at the time of the flights at Huffman Prairie in 1904-05, although he did not then know the Wrights. A free-lance writer and columnist, he published his first interview with Orville, 'Flying Machines and the War,' in the July 5, 1915, issue of Collier's. Kelly's sense of humor and way with words impressed Orville, and the two became fast friends. Over the years, Kelly would publish one article after another, many of them humorous, based on interviews and comments from the inventor of the airplane."
Fred Kelly wrote "The Wright Brothers: A Biography Authorized by Orville Wright", 1943.
Levitt Luzern Custer (as indicated in WSU MS-302) "was a Dayton-area aviator and inventor, and an associate of Orville Wright. During his lifetime he engaged in pioneering balloon experiments, served as an official timer for flight trials, collaborated with Orville Wright on various projects, and invented a wide range of mechanical machines from the statoscope to amusement park rides." Luzern had this to say concerning Orville, "My acquaintanceship with Orville Wright dates back to the days when he and his brother, Wilbur, operated their bicycle shop on W. Third St. He was one of my closest, personal friends and I had the highest respect for him. In his passing, I feel a keen personal loss. The world will yet come to a fuller appreciation of Orville Wright."(Dayton Daily News, January 31, 1948)
Paul E. Ackerman- "As a personal friend......it was my pleasure to accompany Orville Wright to the birthday celebration of Charles Kettering at Loudonville....You may be surprised to know that Mr. Wright himself drove me to Loudonville, and since we were the only occupants of the car, there were related to me by Mr. Wright many incidents and plans, purely personal, which had not been related to anyone else. On the return trip from Loudonville, Orville Wright became the passenger, during which time he engaged me in conversation constantly. He was a good friend who enjoyed and respected friendships." (The Dayton Herald, February 7, 1948, Rotary Club Speakers Pay High Tribute to Memory of Member, Orville Wright)
Frank D. Slutz- "I have cherished Orville Wright's friendship for many years. He has been an inspiration to me time and time again and was one of the men who was responsible for my coming to Dayton....One of the most gracious things about him was his ability to make his friends acquainted with each other. Many times he invited me to his home to meet the world renowned personages who were visiting him. He was willing to remain in the background, gaining his pleasure in the enjoyment of his guests. He was gracious beyond explanation...If I were to phrase my impression of Orville Wright, I would say, 'Quiet dignity is the badge of his spirit' ". (The Dayton Herald, February 7, 1948)
In December of 1933, during the 30th anniversary of first flight celebration, Col. Deeds said the following, "After we live a life, we have three or four or maybe five genuine, reliable friends. That's all of that type we can get out of life and I place Orville second on my list of such friends with Charles Kettering first." (4)
I could go on and mention more of Orville's friends, but I think I've made my point.
For more of Orville Wright, the "sad and lonely man", check out "Orville Wright's Sense of Humor"
Index of Topics
1. Revised January 26, 2016, letter of E.A. Deeds added.
2. Revised July 20, 2018, quotes italicized.
3. From Author's collection.
4. Dayton Daily News Dec 19, 1933, "Plane is Greatest Gift to National Defense, Says Pratt"