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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Amos I. Root Much A Buzz About the Wright Brothers

(Update 6/10/17) You may be familiar with the famous first published account of the Wright Brothers 1904 Huffman Prairie flights by Amos Ives Root as written in his January 1st, 1905 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture. But you may not be aware of what led up to that first historical eye witness account. What follows is the rest of the story.

Gleanings in Bee Culture and the Wright Brothers, first issue
Amos I. Root wrote of his sharing with his Sunday School class of boys about two other boys in Dayton, Ohio who actually made a machine that flew through the air. He would later witness flights first hand at Simm's Station, and eventually write about it in the 1905 January 1st and 15th issues of Gleanings in Bee Culture.
James Tobin, author of "To Conquer the Air" wrote "In 1856, at the age of 26, (Root) took up beekeeping as a hobby. His correspondence led him to start a beekeeping trade journal which he called Gleanings in Bee Culture. Gradually he shifted his business from jewelry to beekeeping equipment. By 1880 he was selling his equipment to 150,000 customers and sending Gleanings in Bee Culture to roughly 4000 subscribers...Root was eccentric and contrarian-deliberately so. He liked to be the first to try new machines....In the 1870's he became the first man in northern Ohio to own a bicycle. He powered his machinery with a windmill of his own design....In the 1870's Root became what evangelicals call a professing Christian, and he seems to have professed his faith to practically everyone he spoke to, including his employees, who were expected to attend daily prayer meetings on the job...He frequently told his readers that technology was as much a gift from God as the natural world."(1)

Amos Ives Root wrote "May God be praised that He has permitted me to live at the same time when the Wright Bros. came here to earth and still more that it was my privilege to feel at least to some extent that they are my personal friends."


Having read in the news of the December 17th 1903 flights at Kitty Hawk, Amos first contacted the Wright Brothers by writing them a letter dated February 16, 1904, asking for permission to witness their experiments.

February 16, 1904- letter from Amos to Wilber & Orrville Wright, Dayton, Ohio (Wilbur and Orville misspelled) (2)
Gentlemen:-
I hope you will excuse me, friends, for the liberty I take in addressing you. Let me say briefly that I have all my life had an idea in my head that a flying machine should be made on the principle of flying a kite, and years ago I made some experiments on a small scale in this line. Now when you make any more experiments with your machine I want to be on hand if you can manage to permit me to go along. I am not going to make any experiments of my own and I think I can assure you that I won't undertake to borrow any of your ideas, and at my age I do not care to make investments in the project. In fact, we have a good business already that uses all our capital, but I want to be in the crowd and see you work and if I can be of any assistance in any way I should be exceedingly glad. By consulting Dun or Bradstreet you can easily find out what my financial standing is. Another thing, if you have any models of your apparatus in Dayton, Ohio, I should be exceedingly glad to pay you a visit very soon to look them over; that is, if I may be permitted. I can give you any guarantee you wish in regard to my honesty and integrity. I saw your account in the Independent. I expect you are already overrun with a vast amount of correspondence, but I hope you will find time to give me some sort of an answer soon. Yours truly, A. I. Root.

The account in the Independent that Root makes mention of, was from the February 4, 1904 issue, the article "The Experiments of a Flying Man" by Wilbur Wright.....except that Wilbur didn't write the article. Amos mentions in his second letter to the Wrights (March 22nd letter which follows) that he saw the apology offered by the Independent (February 25th issue) and adds that he assumes Wilbur gave a reporter at least a foundation for their article. Wilbur had not. And this required a further apology from the Independent in the March 10th issue. For more on this, see the post "The Wright Brothers- Getting the Story Wright"

After receiving a letter from the Wrights on February 23rd, Root wrote his first account of the Brother's experiments in his company's journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture. Amos taught a Sunday School class to a group of young boys, and wrote, "Usually, before closing a lesson I give the boys a hint of what is going on in the scientific world....On this particular Sunday, I said, just before the last bell rang, "Do you know, friends that two Ohio boys, or young men, rather, have outstripped the world in demonstrating that a flying-machine can be constructed without the use of a balloon?.....Their names are Orville and Wilbur Wright, of Dayton, Ohio......"

Gleanings in Bee Culture, Our Homes by A. I. Root, March 1st, 1904, portion of article. Root's account of sharing the story of the Wright Brothers with his Sunday school class. "When they make their next trial, I am going to try to be on hand and see the experiment." From author's collection.

In response to the letter he received from the Wrights, Amos wrote again, March 22, 1904-
Wright Cycle Co, Dayton, O.
Gentlemen:-
Permit me to thank you, friends, for you letter of Feb. 23rd and your promise that I may have an opportunity of witnessing your experiments. I am exceedingly anxious to be on hand when you make your first trial this season, and I think I can promise you that I won't be a hindrance even if I do not do any good, and I hope to be able to help you a little in some way. I suppose you have noticed what the Independent has said in the way of an apology. The particular point to me was to know how much of the matter in the Independent was truth and how much was fiction. I suppose of course you gave some reporter at least a foundation for their article. I have made one or two references to flying machines in our journal. We send you copies of these marked with blue pencil. In consequence of these articles our readers are sending me items in regard to flying machines. I enclose one of them. You may have seen it already. Now if you could tell me about when you expect to make your first experiment if would be quite a favor because I want to arrange my business no (so) as to be away from home a week or two, or as long as I can be of any service. Resp. yours, A. I. Root.

May 21, 1896 note, A. I. Root, President of A. I. Root Company, author's collection.


Amos then wrote again May 10, 1904-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Gentlemen:- Please excuse me, friends, but I am getting quite anxious to see some experiments with that flying machine, and inasmuch as you have promised me an opportunity of seeing them I would be glad to know if you wont' get to working now pretty soon. If you are crowded with business and no time to write just tell me on the enclosed postal about when you will commence making the experiments, that is, if you know already. I have heard some talk to the effect that you are having some trouble about getting patents. Now I do not want to be inquisitive, or seem to be meddling with somebody else business, but if I can be of any assistance in any way I should be very glad to help you. I am now 64 years old and have had quite a little to do with patents and patent office business.....
From you old friend, A. I. Root.

Waiting patiently two weeks, Amos writes again May 23, 1904-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Friends:- I have no particular right to kick even if you have tested the machine without letting me know, for you did not promise to let me see your first experiment; but you did promise that I should have a chance to see the machine; indeed, I would willingly make a trip to your city or most anywhere else just to see the machine standing still, but I would make a half dozen trips gladly to see it move even if it did not go more than 30 feet. I know something about how it is to have a big crowd around when you are making experiments and have got your hands and brains full, too, for I ran an automobile from Medina to Traverse City, northern Michigan and back again. My son, who was with me, said one day, "Father if we are going to have any more repairs to make we want to go out in the country where there is not a house in sight. I cannot stand it to have a big crowd of folks asking fool questions when I am bothered with something I do not understand."(3) Now I promise to keep it all to myself, if you say so. Can I have a chance to stand off at a respectful distance when you make your next experiment. If the weather should be bad and you have to wait, why, I can wait too. Won't you tell me, please, on the enclosed postal card how soon you will make another trial. I am sorry to be importunate but I am tremendously interested. Yours truly, A. I. Root.

The day Root wrote the above letter, the experiments were to begin at Huffman Prairie. From Ian Mackersey's "The Wright Brothers", he writes, "...Wilbur sent a letter to every daily newspaper in Dayton and Cincinnati announcing they would begin flying at Huffman Prairie on Monday 23 May. With what today seems incredible naivety, he made two requests of the papers; that reports 'not be sensational', and that no photographs be taken. Around forty people turned up for the Monday morning demonstration. They included Milton and Lorin, who brought his entire family along, and a dozen rather cynical reporters......The new Flyer accelerated sluggishly, its motor firing badly. There was now very little breeze. The aeroplane struggled down the rail in a succession of explosive fits and starts and flopped off the end, crunching awkwardly on to the ground. Grumbling bitterly, most of the reporters left, never to return."(4)

Apparently not hearing from the Wrights, and watching the news carefully, Amos writes again July 6, 1904-
Wright Cycle Company, Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Sirs:- I see by the papers, friends, that you have made two tests of your apparatus during the month of June. I suppose you were too busy or did not see fit to let me know when these tests were made. I hardly need to tell you it would be a great favor if you would wire me at my expense when you next make a trial trip.......From your old friend, A. I. Root.

Root seemed to be applying a lesson from the Bible, Luke Ch 18: 1-8, the parable of the persistent widow.  His persistence paid off. The Brothers responded this time. In response to their letter, Root writes again on July 12, 1904-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Sirs:- Many thanks for your very kind promise to let me know as well as you can before another experiment. As I have relatives in Xenia I should stay two or three days without any particular inconvenience. If you should want to make a trial on short notice I would consider it a great favor if you would wire me at my expense. I would be ready to go to your place by the first train upon notification.....A. I. Root.

Again, Root writes on July 20th, 1904-
Wright Cyce Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Sirs:- May I be permitted to bother you a little once more. I would prefer to make the trip to your place on my automobile. I expect I could get down in one day but I would a little rather make the trip in two days and this is to ask you to be so kind as to give me notice about when you make the next experiment say two or three days ahead...... Yours old friend, A. I. Root.
Feeling anxious, Root again wrote July 26th, 1904-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Sirs:- Please excuse me, friends, but I am so anxious to see that airship I can hardly sleep nights. Won't you please tell me on enclosed postal if there is any prospect that you will make a trial with it this week. If there is I want to start down there right away. May be I can run errands for you or do something with my automobile; if so, it will be entirely at your service while I am around there. Yours truly, A. I. Root.


A. I. Root letter, July 26, 1904, "..I am so anxious to see that airship I can hardly sleep nights." Courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives.

Amos finally makes an extended automobile trip (from July 28th through August 13th) including a stop in Dayton, when he likely met Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine.(5) He writes of his experiences of the trip in Gleanings in Bee Culture, but at Wilbur and Orville's request, he makes no mention of the Wright's experiments, though he does write of his 400 mile automobile trip "And by the way, we are already, at least to some extent, ignoring not only mud roads, but roads of every kind, and climbing through the air, and I do not mean by means of the gas balloon either. But I am not at liberty just now to tell all I know in regard to this matter." In his next letter to the Wrights, Amos writes, "I am very anxious to know in regard to that plan of dropping a weight from a little derrick, that is, if you decide to undertake anything of that sort." Apparently when visiting with the Brothers, they shared their plans to build a derrick to aid in the launching of the Flyer. During the same week of Root's visit, Wilbur wrote to Octave Chanute (August 8, 1904),  and mentioned "It is evident that we will have to build a starting device that will render us independent of wind, and are now designing one.")(6) During the time duration of Root's automobile trip, the Wrights made flights on Aug 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th (not successfully), and the 10th. There would have been ample opportunity for Amos to have witnessed a flight depending on the timing of his visit. Though, if he had witnessed a flight, one would think he would have mentioned it in his August 23rd letter. Yet Root was anxious to meet the Wrights, and it is likely he reached Dayton within the first two days, so he may have witnessed an engine test, or reconstruction of the Flyer on the 30th. He could have visited with his Xenia relatives, and then returned to Simms to view a short flight, the first week of August. For as anxious as he was to see a flight, he surely would have returned day after day until he was able to witness enough such that he could sleep at nights.......

August 23, 1904, Amos Root letter to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friends:- I have not laid awake nights thinking about your work quite as much since I got home as I did before, but my mind is still on it a great deal, and I am getting hungry for even a brief report as to how you are succeeding. If  you could spare the time to make a brief mention on the enclosed postal I would be exceedingly glad. I am very anxious to know in regard to that plan of dropping a weight from a little derrick, that is, if you decide to undertake anything of the sort. It may be that bright sister of yours might consent to gladden the heart of an old man by a little report if she feels so inclined. At any rate give her my regards with grateful thanks for the part she had in making my recent visit one of the bright spots of my life. If she will give me her address I will take pleasure in mailing her our journal. She may be interested in my account of my trip through Ohio on the automobile. Of course I did not say anything about the flying machine experiments. I believe this is almost the first incident in my travels where I have failed to let our readers know what is going on in the world especially in the line of new inventions and discoveries......May God be praised that He has permitted me to live at the same time when the Wright Bros. came here on earth and still more that it was my privilege to feel at least to some extent that they are my personal friends. May God give you wisdom and understanding in the great work you have undertaken. From your old friend, A. I. Root.
 
September 12, 1904, Amos Root letter to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Sirs:- Many thanks, dear friends, for yours of Sept. 10th and especially for your very kind invitation. I began to fear that perhaps my presence was more of a hinderance than a help, of course, I do not expect to be very much help just yet......Please give kindest regards to your good sister. We send you copy of our journal for Sept. 1st. If you do not have time to read my travels you might turn it over to your sister. From your old friend, A. I. Root.

From Ian Mackersey's The Wright Brothers, Ian writes "On 20 September their performance took another leap when he (Wilbur) stayed up for 1 minute 35 seconds, successfully flying a complete circle traveling nearly four-fifths of a mile. The flight was watched by a beekeeper, Amos Root, to whom the world is indebted for a full account of the event. Root, hearing of the Wright's experiments, had, in a remarkable feat for 1904, driven the 175 miles in his primitive motor car from his apiary at Medina in northern Ohio in the hope of seeing the Flyer in the air."(4)

September 22, 1904, Amos Root letter to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Company, Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friends:- Enclosed clipping was just mailed me from a relative in Xenia, Ohio. Now, if everybody else is putting you into the papers, what harm will it do for me to give you a little write-up that has already been submitted to your inspection?....I do not know the date of the enclosed clipping but it was evidently made since you have got up the derrick. .I am thinking about that air-ship all day long and dream about it at nights....Yours very truly, A. I. Root

Clipping from Amos Root to Wright Brothers, sent September 22, 1904, courtesy of Library of Congress Archives.
Amos then writes letter after letter to his Wright friends, pushing for permission to publish in Gleanings in Bee Culture, the account of what he witnessed on September 20th at Huffman Prairie.


Undated, likely September 23 or 24, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Dear Friends Wright: I inclose (enclose) herewith what I have written up just as I should like to do it--that is, just about what I should like to put in print; but, of course, it subject to your approval; but if you say so, any part of it or all of it will be withheld from the public; but it would make your old friend exceedingly glad if you would consider that, as it is already so near the public, it would do but little harm, and, better still, if you would let me give your names and place of residence. You see it has been in the papers already, even such periodicals as the Scientific American and the Independent, besides the clippings I have shown you......Perhaps there is a little pride in wanting to be the first to give the great world the real facts in the case.......

September 27, 1904, Amos Root letter to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Gentlemen:- Many thanks for your kind favor of Sept. 26th, dear friends. You need not bother to make changes in the manuscript I have sent you until you are ready to have it given to the public, for I should have no use for it unless it could be given in our journal. I suppose you have decided that withholding all names and the places where the experiment occurred would not sufficiently disguise it.....

September 30, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friends:- I promised you I would not put in print anything referring to your invention without submitting to you. Therefore I submit another paper for our next issue. I beg pardon for troubling you so much, but I wish you would go over this hastily and cross out anything you would prefer not made public......

October 5, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Gentlemen:- I am sorry to trouble you, friends, but our printers are wanting copy of the last article I mailed you. I hope this will not be objectionable after you have crossed out all references to yourselves in the matter. I will however, of course, keep my promise and not say anything in print about flying machines in general if you so prefer......

October 8, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Friends Wright:- Since writing you yesterday I have been thinking over what my good friend Wilbur said in his kind letter and I infer that he would prefer I should not mention in my forthcoming article that I am in possession of some secret I am not at liberty to reveal. In other words "the best way to keep a secret is to avoid mentioning that you have a secret."........

October 8, 1904, Amos to Wilbur Wright-
Wilbur Wright, Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friend Wright:- I am sorry to have put you to the trouble of writing me so much at length. With your explanation I fully appreciate your position and I will be careful in the future not to say anything more until I have your permission. I have repeatedly already explained to my friends that I was not at liberty to mention what I witnessed and they have always take it kindly......Perhaps you do not want to make any machines for sale at present; but my impression is there are a thousand people that would buy one in the United States if they just saw what I saw. May be I better cut it down to one hundred, but it would not be long before a thousand would be wanted. Now friends don't let the grass grow under your feet or let somebody else get ahead of you by delays. That is only my opinion though. As ever, not only your old friend, but one who is ready and anxious to start out any minute to help you along with that wonderful gift that God has seen fit to entrust you with. A. I. Root.

In the October 15th, 1904 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture, Amos wrote at the close of an article on the new inventions of the age, under his section Our Homes, "We want a machine that will float as easily and safely as the bees, the butterflies, and the carrier pigeons. May the Lord be praised, this is already in sight." 
(So much for the October 8th understanding that "the best way to keep a secret is to avoid mentioning that you have a secret").

October 17, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Friends Wright:- We take the liberty of marking you for Gleanings complimentary......If you think best to let your invention rest where it is until next spring, all right; you are the boss and I am simply a spectator, but I am hoping some day the thing will get loose and astonish the world.....


October 20, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friends W:- Nothing preventing I expect to go up to our place in north Michigan....it will be quite convenient for me to call on Mr. Freeman to see how he gets along with his $10,000 flying machine.....
November 7, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Friends W:- I am home again from Michigan, but I did not call on Mr. Freeman because I learned in Traverse City his machine had never yet got off from the ground. They said he made some tests to see how much it would lift, but my impression is he could not find anybody willing to go up in it; but a machinist said, who had been working for him, that he was offering a thousand dollars for a man that would go to St. Louis and make the flight. Nobody wanted the thousand dollars and he has given up competing. Now I am to be in Columbus next week and if the weather is favorable I expect to drop in as Simms Station sometime in the afternoon. If you are not there of course- I will take the next car to Dayton......

Amos was present on November 22nd at Huffman Prairie. Wilbur wrote in his diary for that day "Made five trials (88,89,90,91,92) but owning to improper gasoline regulation did not get a single start. Flights ranged from 150-250 ft. Furnas & Root & others present."(6) Root may also have witnessed the flights of November 25th, based on his description of Orville's making of curves. Five flights were made on the 25th, ranging from 335 meters (25 1/5 sec) to 890 meters (1 min-3 sec), with Orville and Wilbur alternating flights.

November 28, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Friends:- I want to extend my congratulations to my good friend Orville for the good flight he made just as I left for my car. It was especially gratifying because the wind was in the wrong way and he once struck the ground, but when he picked up and went ahead the machine worked as handsomely and was managed as gracefully as anything I ever saw in the line; in fact, a swallow could not have made the curves any better until the machine went down. I suppose that was the fault of the engine and no fault of Orville's. If that was the last flight for the season it certainly was a big success so far as managing the machine is concerned. Should there be any more experiments I would be very glad to have a brief account of same. I shall be counting the days, weeks and months from now on until April or such a time as you see fit to start up. Please give my kind regards to your sister. As ever your old friend, A. I. Root.

December 6, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Sirs:- Hurrah for my good friend Orville. By the way I think I will have to explain that I sent Torrence Baird some postal cards and asked him if he would briefly report if you made any more flights yet this winter. He just tells me that Orville went around four times without stopping on Dec. 1st. It was a pretty cold day up here. Now if Orville sailed that thing as gracefully and steadily as he did on the last trip I witnessed he certainly is not a back number to any man living at present. I rejoice and thank God that you two have been able to make such a record before winter sets in, and I declare I begin to believe that may be you will get the knack of flying in cold weather so you may keep it up more or less all winter. I hope I did not transgress any in asking Torrence to keep me posted. Of course I shall not make any mention of it until I have permission. Yours old friend, A. I. Root.
 
December 12, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
The Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Friends:- The enclosed is from the Scientific American. The only point that interests you is perhaps the last sentence. Now Baldwin is going to work on a flying machine that will fly without a balloon.....May be I am mistaken, but before it gets to be an old story I would like to have the privilege of telling the world something of what I know about it, and I hope that I may be able to help prove your priority of invention. If I am making myself busy over your affairs you will have to excuse me the best way you can. My only excuse is that I am deeply interested in the whole matter........

Apparently Amos finally received permission from the Wrights to publish his eye witness accounts of their 1904 flights. His persistence having paid off, he again visited Dayton. From Milton Wright's diary entry, Root visited the family at their home at 7 Hawthorn Street, meeting Milton for the first time.

Milton Wright diaries, entry for Monday, December 19-
"I go on 6:00 car to Dayton arri. at 7:20. Read letters, slept 2 hours, Mr. A. J. Root (A. I. Root) came at 4:30. He read his articles for his bee Journal. He went on 8:00 car to Springfield. Mr. Root seems to be a fine old gentleman. He lives in Medina, Ohio."

December 21, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Sirs:- Please do not forget to send me cut representing your gliding machine. The one on page 20 of your little pamphlet "Soaring" would suit me very well.....we want to get out a little earlier on account of its being the 1st of January. I am going to give our Sunday School Christmas gathering a little talk about God's latest new gifts showing them a little model of the gliding machine. Your old friend, A. I. Root.

December 24, 1904, Amos to Wrights-
Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Sirs:- Enclosed find proofs of the forthcoming article on the flying machine. As we want to get it in the issue for January 1st will you please look it over.....

December 29, 1904, Amos to Orville Wright-
O. Wright, Dayton, O.
Friend Orville:- Thanks for your card of December 25th....Some time in the future I hope to have the privilege of showing our people a good picture of the complete machine. As ever yours, A. I. Root.

Finally, Amos, with the Wright Brother's blessing, published the first eyewitness account of the Wrights' flights-
"Dear friends, I have a wonderful story to tell you- a story that, in some respects, out rivals the Arabian Nights fables- a story, too, with a moral that I think many of the younger ones need, and perhaps some of the older ones too if they will heed it. God in his great mercy has permitted me to be, at best somewhat, instrumental in ushering in and introducing to the great wide world an invention that may outrank the electric cars, the automobiles, and all other methods of travel, and one which may fairly take a place beside the telephone and wireless telegraphy......I am now going to tell you something of two other boys, a minister's boys, who love machinery, and who are interested in the modern developments of science and art. Their names are Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton Ohio......"

The entire four page article can be viewed here. (But be sure to return to read the rest of the post).


Wright Brothers flights at Huffman Prairie
Gleanings In Bee Culture, January 1, 1905, Amos I. Root provided the first published eye witness account of the Wright Brother's flights. "God in his great mercy has permitted me to be, at least somewhat, instrumental in ushering in and introducing to the great wide world an invention that may outrank the electric cars, the automobiles, and all other methods of travel......"


Correspondence between Amos and the Wright Brothers would continue throughout 1905 as the experiments continued at Huffman Prairie, and the Wright Flyer III was perfected.  Amos would write 32 letters in 1905 to the Wrights, and his son Ernest would join in and write several letters. The letters would continue the following years, but in much less frequency. A sampling of some follow.

October 21, 1905, Amos to Wrights-
Wilbur & Orville Wright, Dayton, Ohio.
Dear Friends:- May the Lord be praised for the good news that comes in yours of October 19th. I just got home last night and if I thought you would be making flights I should not stay home a minute. Please do not fail to let me know when you think of making another trial.....I take it for granted that you do not wish any mention made of what you have done at present. This is rather hard for me because they keep saying to me tauntingly "What has become of the Wright Bros?"....I will keep still or I will wake up the whole sleepy world, just as you say... From your old friend, A. I. Root.

August 9, 1906, Amos to Wrights-
The Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, O.
Dear Friends:- .....May God speed you in the important work you are trying to do for coming generations, at least that is the way I look at it. Yours very truly, A. I. Root

Milton Wright diaries, entry for Wednesday, November 14, 1906-
"I go on 7:17 tr. to Richmond & home, arriving at Dayton at 12:00 noon. Mr. A.I. Root supped with us, on his way to St. Louis. He is from Medina County, Ohio, the bee culture man, very friendly to our boys."


In the September 15, 1910 issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture, in the article "Then and Now. The Wright Brothers and Their Flying-machine up to Date", Amos wrote, "Day before yesterday, Aug. 29, it was my pleasure to get around once more to the old familiar field between Dayton and Springfield, Ohio, where they have so long made their experimental flights.....In a little while people began gathering in from all directions, with automobiles and other vehicles. An ice-cream wagon came on the ground; the popcorn boy was in evidence, and on of the Wright machines was easily slid or pushed outside of the building. The track that the machine used to run on had been dispensed with, and also the weight dropping to shoot the machine up into the air. Two pairs of pneumatic tire wheels, not unlike what we see on automobiles, were so placed as to lift the car a little above the runners, made something like a sled-runner.....During my first visits, years ago, before their patents were secured, I was asked to omit certain things in my write-up; but when I to-day asked if I could describe all I saw Wilbur replied, "Mr. Root, you may tell any thing you choose about our work, providing you tell the truth." God knows we as a people want the truth always and everywhere."

A. I. Root and the Wright Brothers
September 15, 1910 Gleanings in Bee Culture, from author's collection. Amos writes "Gleanings was the first periodical on the face of the earth to announce to the world the crowning success of their years of experimenting in order to make a machine that would fly without a balloon."

A. I. Root in passenger seat at Medina County Fair, 1915, photo courtesy of Medina County Historical Society.

September 14, 1915 letter to Orville Wright-
Friend Wright:- When you have time you may be interested in the clipping enclosed.......I suppose your good father is still alive as I have heard nothing to the contrary and I trust your bright and able sister is still living to see the success of her brother's work....May God be with you and guide, direct and strengthen you in the work you are doing, and may the Flying Machine finally be an emblem of peace and good will to the world rather than an engine of warefare (warfare). Give my regards to your father and sister and any others that may be interested in Your old friend, A. I. Root.


April 30, 1923 letter to Orville Wright-
Dear Mr. Wright: 
My father, A. I. Root, passed away early today. The end came peacefully and triumphantly, his last words being an expression of faith and thanks to God.
Father had a very warm place in his heart for you, and I am sure that he would be glad to have me express to you for him a final word of friendship........Yours sincerely, Earnest R. Root

From June 18, 1920 letter, author's collection. Amos's son communicated with the Wright's multiple times over the years, and his letters are on file with the Library of Congress, as are the letters of Amos I. Root.

May 8, 1923, response to Ernest R. Root from Orville Wright-
Dear Mr. Root:
Your letter announcing the passing away of your father has been received. You and the other members of your family have my heartfelt sympathy. Your father was a man of unusual character and intelligence, and his passing is a real loss to the World as well as to his family. I look back on the times when your father used to visit us while we were carrying on our early flying experiments with much pleasure; and though we had not had the opportunity of seeing him in his later years we often thought and talked of him. If some account of his life should appear in "Gleanings" I would be very grateful if you would send me a copy of it. Sincerely yours, Orville Wright. (7)

May 16, 1923, response from Ernest to Orville-
Dear Mr. Wright:
....Father often spoke of you two men and your sister Katharine, of the very high character of you all. While he claimed no credit in your great invention, he seemed to feel a great deal of pride in that he knew both of you men personally...Father left us a very wonderful heritage that carries with it a deep responsibility upon us, his children, to carry out his life work....Most sincerely yours, E. R. Root



Additional Recommended Reading-
The First Witness: Amos Root at Huffman Prairie, by James Tobin

Chapter 8, "What Hath God Wrought?", "To Conquer the Air" by James Tobin 2003

Associated Web Links-
A. I. Root and the Wright Brothers

Bee Culture 

Nova- The First Reporter  

Updates-
June 10, 2017, added Bishop Wright diary entry of November 14, 1906.


Notes:
1.  From "The First Witness: Amos Root at Huffman Prairie", James Tobin, Wright State University CORE Scholar, Following in the Footsteps of the Wright Brothers: Their Sites and Stories, 2001.
2. Letters of Amos I. Root from the Library of Congress Archives. There are roughly 75 letters written by A. I. Root to the Wright's and another dozen letters written by his sons Ernest and Huber. The letters span from 1904 through 1935. Amos wrote many of his letters in 1904, 1905, and 1906. This post concentrates on the 1904 letters leading up to his famous January 1, 1905 article. Root's letters after 1904 enter into discussions about aviators Maloney, Whitehead, Santos-Dumont, and other various topics as they appeared in the news of the day.
3. An interesting comparison to a similar statement Orville wrote to his sister August 27, 1908, from Ft. Myer, "I haven't done a lick of work since I have been here. I have to give my time to answering the ten thousand fool questions people ask about the machine." From Miracle at Kitty Hawk, 1951, edited by Fred Kelly.
4. The Wright Brothers, by Ian Mackersey, 2003, Chapter 16, Shattering the Five-Minute Barrier, (1904).
5. I believe from the contents of Amos's August 23rd letter, it is obvious he met Wilbur, Orville, and Katherine during his stop at Dayton. He asks specifically about their plan to build a derrick, thanks their bright sister Katharine for making his stop so pleasant, and thanks God that he can call the Wright's his personal friends. The real intent of his automobile trip was to visit Dayton, as is evident in his repeated desire to do so as stated in his previous letters. He likely did not visit their home at 7 Hawthorn on this trip, as he asks for Katharine's address, indicating he did not know where she lived.
6. McFarland's The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright, Vol 1, 1953.
7. A note from the desk of Orville Wright read "See letter Mrs A E McLaudon Dec. 1938 offering for sale, letters W Bros to Root, clipping & pictures found in attic of Root home at Brandentown, Fla." A letter to Fred C. Kelly, November 5, 1943, from the A. I. Root company, reads ..we have heard nothing further from the woman in Florida.....She seems to think the original letters of A. I. Root and Orville and Wilbur Wright ought to be worth a small fortune....The next time I do (go) down there I shall try to go over whatever letters she may have. She offered to show them to me when I was there the last time." I have not investigated where these letters now reside, if they're in private hands, or available for research. It would be interesting to see the contents of the responses of letters sent to Root from the Wrights. Anyone with information concerning these letters, I would appreciate it if you would send me a note. Better yet, send me the letters.......


For more posts, see:
Index of Topics


Sunday, October 23, 2016

1127 West Third Street- The Wright Cycle Company

(Updated 2/27/19) The Wright Brothers Cycle Shop formally located at 1127 West Third Street in Dayton Ohio is currently preserved at the Henry Ford Museum Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan, purchased by Henry Ford in 1936, relocated there in 1937, and opened to the public in 1938 with the blessing of Orville Wright. The brothers relocated their business numerous times through the 1890's, and 1127 West Third was their last location. The reason this location was of major significance is of course that this is where their aviation experiments took place; where they performed their wind tunnel experiments, where Charlie Taylor constructed the engine, where the gliders and flyers were constructed.
Prior to 1896, this structure was a residence. The owner, Charles W. Webbert, remodeled the home during the winter of 1896/97, constructing the addition to the front for conversion of the residential structure to a commercial building. When the remodeling was completed, the Wright Brothers moved their Cycle business Wright Cycle Company, and their printing business Wright & Wright from 22 South Williams to the west half of this building (1127). The original pitched roof of the residence is visible on the west side as seen in the photo below the Sanborn maps. The vertical brick line bisecting the west (left) face of the building provides reference of the extent of the addition to the front of the original home.The east side, 1125, was occupied by the office of Fetters & Shank, undertakers and embalmers.

1125 West Third Street is shown here in this view from the 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, courtesy of Library of Congress Archives.  Note the changes over the next 10 years in building footprints, compared to 1897 Sanborn map below. Many of the changes appear to be due to more concise measurements of existing structures.

1127 West Third Street is shown here in this view from the 1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives. The additions can be seen at 1125/1127, and now identified as providing Bicycle Repairing and Hand Printing. Frank Hales residence can be seen just to the west at 1129.

1910
1127/1125 West Third Street, around 1910, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection. The original pitched roof of the residence dating to before 1896 is visible at the west (left) side of the building.

1127 West Third Street, around 1910, rear of building, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection..


View from rear, similar to 1910 photo above. Taken by Author at Greenfield Village, 2011.


Workshop located north (behind) of 1127 West Third. Postcard from Author's collection.

The 1897 Dayton Directory listing reads "Wright Cycle Co. (Wilbur Wright & Orville Wright) bicycles, 1127 W. 3d. It also lists "Wright & Wright, (Wilbur & Orville) printers, 1127 W. 3d. The 1900 Dayton Directory lists only the Wright Cycle Co, as the brothers discontinued the printing business.(1) In Wright & Wright Printers, Charlotte and August Brunsman note that "In 1897 they moved both the bicycle and printing businesses to 1127 West Third Street....The printing office was in the southeast corner of the second floor with the printing shop in the room behind that." Edwin Sines was their printing agent, and "When Sines' injury to a lame knee in 1899 caused him to seek other employment, the printing business and equipment were sold to Thomas R. and Marion J. Stevens who operated "Stevens & Stevens," a printing company, at 1225 West Fifth Street. (2)

Stevens and Stevens, Frank B. Hale, West Third Street ads
From Author's copy of Steele High School magazine, December 1906 Steele Review- Stevens and Stevens at this date is shown located at 1029 West Third. Frank B. Hale Fine Groceries was located at the Hoover Block, 3rd and Williams, at the first floor level. Frank Hale lived at 1129, immediately to the west of the Wright Cycle Company. Wright &Wright Job Printers had been located at the 2nd floor of the Hoover Block from 1890-1895.

From Wright Reminiscences, compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, Milton Wright (Ivonette's brother, Lorin Wright's son) said, "In the years before 1903, I spent whatever time I was allowed playing about my uncle's bicycle shop. The odor of the glue pot, the spruce shavings on the floor, and the many gadgets whose use I did not understand, were all a great attraction to a small boy. The matter of fact way in which my uncles used the gadgets and planed the spruce strips and glued them together into ribs for their "flying machine" left me with the impression that all bicycle shops did the same thing. It was all very commonplace."
Ivonette recalled "When we were growing up we lived about a city block from the bicycle shop. When my mother had an errand taking her downtown, and had one child she couldn't take with her, we were dropped off at the bicycle shop, and either Orville or Wilbur, or both, baby-sat with us. They were never too busy to entertain us, though there was much activity in the shop- motors being tested on the block, and wheels and belts running."

From March 1911 Aeronautics issue, author's copy, The Wright Company, 1127 West Third Street.
1127 West Third Street business in 1915
From ad page 31 in the February 1915 issue of Steele Magnet, a student published magazine from Steele High School. Leontine Wright, class of 1916, was listed as assistant Local Editress (Leontine's father was Lorin Wright). Note A. H. Pearson Delicatessen located at 1127 W. Third Street. From author's library collection.

John Upshaw Tailor once located at 1127 West Third Street Dayton Ohio
From 1915 Steele H.S. yearbook, John Upshaw Tailor located at 303 West Third. John relocated to 1127 West Third in 1918. From author's library collection.


The small narrow single story building to the east was replaced with a building addition to 1127/1125, and in 1913, Fred W Ritter Florist occupied the new section, address 1123 1/2. He remained in this space through 1921. The center 1125 section was occupied by West Side Electric Shoe Repair Company from 1915 through 1921. Albert H Pearson, Delicatessen occupied 1127, as did the office of Orville Wright at the second floor level in 1915. 1915 was the last year Orville leased space here; he moved to his newly constructed Lab at 15 North Broadway in 1916. Albert Pearson remained through 1917, and John Upshaw, Tailor occupied 1127 in 1918, 1919, and possibly 1920.(3)
 
Wright Cycle Company
1127/1125 West Third Street, around 1920, courtesy of Dayton Mont Co Library. 1129 residence to west is partially visible. An addition has been constructed to the east end of this building, the location of a florist in this photo. The C. W. Webbert sign at roof level has been removed. Note the windows that have been added to the west face of the building.


The residence 1129 to the west, the east edge visible in photo above, was occupied by Z. T. Hoover and Mary Hoover, and their son-in-law Frank Hale and daughter Lura Hale. By the 1920 census, Frank is listed as head of household, as Z. T. had passed away. Frank B. Hale Fine Groceries (see ad earlier in this post) was located across the street to the east, corner of Williams and Third.

1923 Press photo of 1127 West Third building, decorated for the 20th anniversary of first flight at Kitty Hawk.(13)

Frank Hale and Lorin Wright served as two of the five members of the City Commission. Frank held title of mayor and served from 1922 through 1925, while Lorin Wright served on the City Commission from 1920 through 1927. Frank and Lura remained at 1129 West Third through 1926, and then moved to Auburndale Florida by 1927. The home remained vacant in 1927 until it was demolished and replaced with a two-story commercial building, which still stands today with current day address of 1135, but in 1928, the address was 1129. The 1928 Dayton Directory lists this building as occupied by Charles O. Johnson, real estate agent, and Stanley's Furniture Store.(4) By 1936, 1129 was occupied by The American Wall Paper & Paint Corporation, and Deuser's Inc Dry Cleaners. The building's apartments were occupied by Henry S Marshall and Ralph W Reynolds (at 1129 1/2). The photo below likely shows Orville Wright in 1927 as he observes the empty lot of 1129, as he faces the west side of 1127, the former Wright Cycle Company location. This would be the brief time period between the demolition of the Frank Hale residence and construction of the commercial building.
 
West side of Wright Cycle Company indicated as around 1930, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.. The more likely date is 1927, after demolition of Frank Hales home, and before construction of the Commercial Building. This brief time period provides the only possible time frame of a full view photo of the west side of 1127 as it stood in Dayton. The man pictured observing in forefront is believed to be Orville Wright.


On the 25th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, the Dayton Chamber of Commerce issued "The Shop That Became A Shrine". This eight page pamphlet tells the story of the Wright's inventive process, and of the shop on West Third Street. Dayton recognized the prior significance of this building in 1928, but the message of the pamphlet is confusing, in that on the one hand, the shop is labeled a shrine, but on the other hand, it is viewed as already gone from history. The author wrote, "From all accounts of the conversion of this shop on West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio, into an international shrine the two repairman who worked therein possessed some definite ideas of what they hoped to achieve long before that epochal flight along the wind-swept dunes of Kitty Hawk.....Even in this modern age flights with heavier-than-air machines were attempted. Without exception they failed until Orville and Wilbur Wright in the secret places of their bicycle repair shop in Dayton, Ohio, designed and finally emerged with a type of flying machine that, jeered at first, nevertheless furnished the basis for modern aeronautics.....We in Dayton know a little bit more about this invention of the airplane than most people, because it was born among us. Long years ago the little shop has passed into the scrap heap, but the product of its crude laboratory has filled the skies the world over.....It is a far cry back to that little crudely built bicycle shop in West Third Street, Dayton. Time has obliterated all marks of it. New structures have taken its place; and yet it has become hallowed in the history of the world. It is a Shrine today, made so by the acclaim of millions who upon the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first successful flight made by man in a heavier-than-air flying machine, pay tribute to Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors and pilots of that craft which pointed the way to all that we have in the world of aviation at this moment."
From this pamphlet, the people of Dayton in 1928 were told that the little shop had passed into the scrap heap, time had obliterated all marks of it, and new structures had taken its place. Yet, there the Gem of Dayton remained at 1125/27 West Third Street, waiting for a man from Detroit to rescue it from a sleeping City.

Wright Cycle Company
The Dayton Chamber of Commerce, "The Shop That Became A Shrine", December 17th, 1928, from author's collection.

In 1928, Time had not obliterated all marks of the West Third Wright Cycle Company. The Gem of Dayton would be preserved by Henry Ford within the decade.


By 1936, the building was occupied by Harry Rubin, shoe repairer, in 1125; by Bela Darabos in 1125 1/2 (second floor apartment); William L Winbourne, barber, in 1127; Dayton Daily News branch supply station, also in 1127; and by Amelia Glatthaar in 1127 1/2 (second floor apartment). The 1123 1/2 space was vacant.(5)

1127/1125 West Third Street, 1936, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection. . Residence to west has been replaced with commercial building which still stands today. Building to the east no longer stands. In 1936, the building was occupied "by Harry Rubin, a shoe repairer; Louis Winbourne (William L. Winbourne), barber, and Bunny and Jess garage. The second floor has a number of apartments."(6)

The Henry Ford Wright Brother Archives
Interior of former Wright Cycle Company storeroom at 1127 West Third looking out toward Third Street, 1936. From exterior picture above, "Barber Shop" can be seen at the window just right of the Garage sign for reference. Courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.

Wright State University Archives
Orville Wright and Henry Ford standing within 1127 West Third, looking out to West Third Street, October 27, 1936, courtesy of  Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University. The two are standing in front of the right most pane of glass in the picture above this one (under the Garage sign).


1127 West Third Street, Dayton, Ohio
Panoramic view of interior of 1123 1/2 / 1125 / 1127 West Third, 1936. These three areas were separated by walls, but if walls were removed, this would be the view. Area to left was not original to the structure when the Wrights occupied the building. In 1903, the center area was occupied by Fetters & Shank, and the right side by Wright Cycle Company. Click on the image to enlarge. Images courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.


The Henry Ford Wright Brother Archives
1125/1127 West Third Street, 1936, rear of building, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection. The rear details have changed significantly from the time the Wright's occupied the building in the earlier years of 1897 through 1903.(7)

1125/1127 West Third Street, 1936, west side view of rear of building from roof of adjacent building, courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.
On July 3, 1936, Henry Ford purchased the 1125/1127 building. "Ford plans to move the building to his historic Greenfield Village at Dearborn, Mich. There it is to be restored to its original state and preserved to posterity as it was at the time the Wright brothers first occupied it in 1896 (actually 1897). The purchase concluded a long period of negotiations started by William E. Scripps, president of the Early Birds, an association of airmen who were among the first students of aviation...It was through the efforts of Scripps and Edsel Ford that Orville Wright and Henry Ford were brought together in Dearborn last Saturday to discuss removal of the building....The purchase was made by a member of the Ford law staff from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Webbert, who have owned the building since it was built in about 1875.....A barber shop now occupies the ground floor where the Wright brothers had their bicycle manufacturing plant and repair shop. The second floor, where they labored over their drawing boards, making plans for the first power-driven airplane, contains several small apartments. One apartment occupies the space where the Wrights conceived and constructed what is now known as a wind tunnel. Through the tunnel they drove a stream of air over miniature airfoils and made the first comprehensive measurements of lift and drag on various types of flat and curved wings. Working with crude but carefully calculated balances, it was in this old building the Wright brothers accurately analyzed for the first time what aeronautical engineers call the "travel of the center of pressure" on an airplane wing. It was their analysis of this that makes it possible to construct an airplane light enough to fly, yet strong enough to carry a load and withstand all the strains of flight. In this same old building the Wrights designed and built the first successful airplane propellers, and the first automatic pilot. A lean-to at the rear to the building formerly housed the shop in which they built and tested the first airplane engine. The building is to be dismantled as soon as the tenants vacate, probably within 60 days. It will be taken down carefully, brick by brick and board by board. Expert workmen will mark and number each piece to insure faithful re-erection at Greenfield. Alterations made since the Wright brothers vacated the building in 1916 will be eliminated and restoration made from drawings by Orville Wright himself."(8)

Sketch courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection. Original Cycle shop illustrated with addition to east. To restore the building back to the condition when occupied by the Wrights, the east addition will be removed.

Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection, October 1936. The joint is apparent between original Building to the west, and addition to the east.

Image from 1936 Dayton newspaper from Wright Brothers Scrapbook 1933-1939, courtesy of Dayton Montgomery Co Library Genealogy Center. "Detroit workmen of Henry Ford are shown boarding the front of the former bicycle shop of Orville and Wilbur Wright, 1125-1127 West Third street, preparatory to dismantling it for shipment to Detroit, where it will be reconstructed in Greenfield Village museum." See photo below for interior view.



Deconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company building, November 5, 1936 Dayton news photo from Wright Brothers scrapbook 1933-1939, courtesy of Dayton Montgomery Co Library Genealogy Center. From the article, "Ford Motor Co. trucks Thursday were backed up to the rear of the building, and bricks and shingle debris tumbled down wooden chutes to be carted away as fast as the trucks were filled. The dismantling, being directed by Edward Cutler, was undertaken following the visit here of Henry and Edsel Ford nine days ago....Bricks, shingles and lesser pieces of the framework are not being marked for exact replacement. The building is to be precisely as it was 35 years ago, when the Wright brothers conducted their bicycle business here..." West Third street is just beyond the temporary wood frame barrier to the left side of this photo.
From the Dayton Journal July 5, 1936 article, "Daytonians Stirred to New Appreciation of Wright Brothers by Removal of Old Building, Some Approve, Others Lament Purchase by Henry Ford", the other shoe hadn't dropped when the following was written, "As far as Henry Ford is concerned, acquisition of the Wright shop is along the lines he has been pursuing and I am sure it will be well preserved. Some time ago he acquired Edison's home at Milan and removed it to Greenfield, making it a sort of shrine. We still have the Wright home where Bishop Wright, Orville, Wilbur and Katharine all lived at the time the boys were making their first successful efforts in aviation." (9) George W. Lane, realtor, is quoted in this article, "Dayton has been rather backward in many things they might have done for the Wright brothers. So far as this particular matter is concerned, I am not particularly disturbed, because the shop has been so changed from its original form that it has practically lost its identity, but I do think that something should be done to preserve the original hangar at Simms Station.....But we here in Dayton let it decay."
Then, another Dayton article from July 12, 1936 "Bicycle Shop Not Only Building of Historical Interest" reads, "Just because Henry Ford has purchased the old bicycle shop on West Third street where Orville and Wilbur Wright built some of the parts for their first gliders and airplanes, Daytonians need not lament that there is nothing left which bears a distinct relationship to these two boys and their epochal achievement....First there is the house at 7 Hawthorne street where the Wright family lived for years....It was in this house that the boys planned and accomplished much of their early work....Close after the war, Orville built for himself the special laboratory at 15 North Broadway...One of the earliest remembrances of the Wright boys and their local experiments is the old hangar...still standing on the Huffman prairies......Orville insists that this is not the original hangar, that having disappeared, but it is one of the earliest, possibly the second."
The home was moved to Greenfield Village, the 15 North Broadway Lab was demolished, and the hangar fell into decay.


Display of 1903 Wright Flyer during International Air Races, 1924, Dayton.
Image of the Wright Hangar at Huffman Prairie, Oct 2-4, 1924 during the International Air Races held in Dayton. The restored 1903 Wright Flyer was on display within the hangar.(12)

From the Dayton Journal October 28, 1936, Henry Ford and Edward Cutler walked the Wright Cycle Company building taking notes as Orville Wright "explained that a certain partition was not there originally....Mr. Cutler..was busy jotting down notes on changes as they were recalled by Mr. Wright. He is the man (Mr. Cutler), it was explained, who has general charge of all the restorations Mr. Ford makes when removing a famous birthplace or landmark to Greenfield village. Mr. Ford seemed very particular regarding the exactness of the dimensions. "I'll know within a couple of inches," Orville explained....Every window, every floor, every door came under the scrutiny of Mr. Ford, who persistently requested information as to whether this or that was the original or had been replaced later. Upstairs, Mr. Wright showed him the room in the rear where the boys painted and enameled bicycles they repaired. He explained that there was a gas oven there, but that electricity was something too new and expensive for them to enjoy. Even the stairway to the second floor came in for attention and correction. Mr. Wright said that originally it went up through what is now a closet and Mr. Ford indicated that when restored the stairway would be in its original place...Through the inside and all around the outside of the old bicycle shop the visitors were escorted by Mr. Wright. It seemed not a detail was overlooked." (Except concerning the two windows on the west face of the building- see comments on sixth photo below).
From the Dayton Journal, December 12, 1937, "Investigators for Mr. Ford found that the Wright Cycle company shop at 1127 West Third street underwent a number of changes during the years that the boys occupied it. It seemed logical, however, that the reconstructed shop should represent the now famous period of 1903, natal year of the first successful airplane."(10)

Beginning of reconstruction of Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Reconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village. Basement construction underway, photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Reconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village. Storage of block and brick, rear of construction area, photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Reconstruction of the Wright Cycle Company 1937, Greenfield Village. Rear shed has been constructed. Compare to second photo (from 1910) in this post of this structure at its original Dayton location. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Construction of Wright Cycle Shop, March of 1937, Greenfield Village. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Construction of the Wright Cycle Company, 1937, Greenfield Village. Note the windows installed on the side (original west face of building). These windows were not present in the earlier years when the building was occupied by the Wright Brothers, but were added at a later date. This error was likely pointed out by Orville Wright, and the windows were removed prior to the dedication of the buildings. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection.



Wright Cycle Company near completion at Greenfield Village, Dearborn Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Collections of The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center Wright Brothers Collection. Compare to 2011 photo below taken by author, and note the infill of bricks at location of removed windows.

From The Edison Institute Dedication of The Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village, "In 1936, largely through the efforts of the Early Birds, an organization of aviators who learned to fly before December 17, 1916, both the house at No. 7 Hawthorn Street and the shop at 1127 West Third Street were acquired by The Edison Institute and re-erected in Greenfield Village. There, on April 16, 1938, the 71st anniversary of Wilbur Wright's birth, these buildings were formally dedicated in honor of Orville Wright and in memory of Wilbur Wright."


Wright Cycle Company, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan, photo by author 2011.

Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan overhead Bing view of Wright Cycle Company and home.


Family group photo, April 16, 1938 at dedication of the Wright Cycle Company building and Wright home at Greenfield Village. Orville Wright is in center, three rows back, Lulu Wright (Reuchlin Wright's widow) is just in front of the right porch post, and her grandson Wilbur Herbert Wright is back row furthest to the left, in uniform. Lorin Wright is third from the left in front, holding a white folder. Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, Wright State University.


1938 Wright Brothers Cycle Shop and Homestead, Greenfield Village postcard from authors' collection. This postcard was mailed by Wilbur Herbert Wright to his father Herbert Wright on April 16, 1938, the day of dedication of the buildings, and when the above family photo was taken. Herbert Wright did not attend the ceremony; Herbert was the son of Reuchlin and Lulu Wright. Note that the two windows on original west face of Cycle Shop have been removed.


Postcard mailed by son Wilbur to father Herbert Wright from Greenfield Village, the day of the dedication, April 16, 1938.

The Edison Institute Dedication of The Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village Dearborn, Michigan April Sixteenth Nineteen Hundred Thirty-Eight, 62 page booklet, authors' copy.




Former location of 1127 West Third Street Wright Cycle Company, Dayton, Ohio. Single story creamed colored building sat on footprint of location of the Wright Cycle Company. This photo is by the author, from 2001. This building has since been demolished.


Sign at site of original location of the Wright Cycle Company, photo by author 2012.


1135 West Third Street, immediately to the west of former site of 1127 Wright Cycle Company, photo courtesy of Mongomery County GIS. This building can be seen in the 1936 photo of the Wright Cycle Shop earlier in this post.


Three photos by author of West Third Street Dayton Ohio combined in panoramic view, taken October of 2016, former location of Wright Cycle Company. Click on picture to enlarge view.

Though the building has been relocated to Michigan, the original site on West Third Street where the building long stood is most definitely worth visiting. On these grounds the Wright Brothers manufactured bicycles, they experimented with their wind tunnel, they fine-tuned the science of aviation. Here is where the echos of their engine tests reverberated, and their loud discussions concerning the design of the propellers took place, where Wilbur always enjoyed a "Good Scrap" with his brother Orv.

Rear view of former location of Wright Cycle Company from French Lane looking south, photo by author, October 2016.
Timothy Gaffney, in his book "The Dayton Flight Factory" 2014, wrote "Standing in front of the wrought-iron fence at 1127 West Third Street in Dayton, all you see today is a large grassy lot that makes a gap in a row of late nineteenth-century commercial buildings. But here is where the airplane was born." (11)


Reproduction of the Wright Cycle Company at Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio, photo by author, 2012.

Additional Recommended Reading:
"Allowing the Bicycle Shop to go to Michigan", Ch 84 of Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers, Louis Chmiel, 2013. 


Pictures of Ads added 11/10/16
The Shop That Became A Shrine, added 11/12/16
Correction to family group photo caption, 12/14/16
Wright 1911 Ad added 1/6/17
1887 and 1897 Sanborn maps, workshop postcard, Greenfield Village photo added 7/21/18
Minor revisions 8/29/18
Photo of Wright Hangar at Huffman Prairie added 11/22/18
Photo of Wright Cycle Shop 1923 added 2/27/19

Notes:
1. I found an interesting entry in the 1902 Dayton Directory, apparently an occupant of the second floor apartment in this building- "East, Fred, blacksmith, res. 1127 West Third Street." In the 1913 Dayton Directory, it lists "Black Geo chauffeur rms 1127 W 3d.
2. The Other Career of Wilbur and Orville, Wright & Wright Printers, Charlotte K. and August E. Brunsman, 1988.
3. Information is from researching the 1910 through 1922 Dayton Directories. It appears the addition to the building was constructed in 1913 after the flood. Likely the flood destroyed the single story wood structure. The three tenants in this photo, John Upshaw Tailor, West Side Electric Shoe Repair, and Fred Ritter Florist, were all present only from 1918 through possibly 1920, thus the date of the photo around 1920. I was not able to access the 1920 Directory.
4. The Montgomery County GIS Commercial property data for 1135 West Third lists the building construction date as 1900. This is in error, and the likely date is 1927/1928.
5. From 1936 Dayton Directory.
6. From July 4, 1936 Dayton News article "Removal of Old Wright Laboratory From Dayton to Ford Museum Starts in 60 Days", from Wright Brothers scrapbook 1933-1939, Dayton Mont Co Library Genealogy Center.
7. I am not clear on when the changes were made to the rear of 1127/1125. It appears the wooden pitched roof structure in which the Wrights performed their aviation experiments was totally replaced by the flat roof two story wooden structures shown in the 1936 photos before 1920. My guess is nothing was left of the original, and that this portion of the building at Greenfield Village is therefore a reproduction. Anyone having more information, please contact me, and I'll revise this post.
8. From July 3, 1936 issue of The Detroit News, "Historic Wright Workshop Will be a Michigan Shrine", by James V. Piersol, aviation editor of The Detroit News, copyright, 1936.
9. Quote from Howard S. Smith, chairman of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce aviation committee.
10. "Home, History of Wright Bros. Preserved For Posterity by Efforts of Ford at Dearborn", by A. S. Kany, Journal Dec 12, 37.
11. Timothy Gaffney further writes "The original building...stands in Henry Ford's Greenfield Village...But its foundation still lies largely intact beneath the surface." Now, that is just plain cool!
12. This photo was recently offered on E-bay, misidentified as Wright Hangar at Kitty Hawk. I attempted to purchase it, but bid went over $125, beyond my budget.
13. Press photo from the Author's collection. Back of photo reads, "Wright Brothers honored on 20th anniversary of first airplane flight- Dayton, Ohio....Shown is the building here, which was used as a storehouse and factory by the Wright Brothers in 1903. It was here that Wilbur and Orville Wright constructed their first airplane, in which they made successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. On the 20th anniversary of that epochal flight, the entire nation paid honor to the Wright Brothers for their achievements in pioneer aviation."


For more posts, see:
Index of Topics