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Friday, February 5, 2016

The Diamond Chain Company and The Wright Brothers

The Indianapolis Chain & Stamping Company was established in 1890 in Indianapolis Indiana. In Dayton Ohio that same year, Orville and Wilbur Wright were involved in printing "The West Side News", and then "The Evening Item" through July of 1890. In December of 1890, the Brothers provided services for Paul L. Dunbar, printing his "Dayton Tattler" newspaper. They later established their first Wright cycle shop in 1892 at 1005 West Third Street (current location of The Gem City Ice Cream Building). In 1899, the American Bicycle Company purchased the Indianapolis Chain & Stamping Company and renamed it as Diamond Chain Factory; Lucius M. Wainwright became the company's President. During these early years, the Wrights first purchased chains for their bicycles and then eventually, chains for their flying machines. In 1905, the Diamond Chain Factory was incorporated as the Diamond Chain & Manufacturing Company.

The Diamond Chain Factory as it appeared in 1911.

From 1911 Diamond Chain and Mfg Co. Power Chains and Sprockets catalog. From author's personal collection.

Lucius M. Wainwright's son Guy A. Wainwright, became President of the Diamond Chain Company after his father passed away in 1931. He wrote to Louis Christman June 29th of 1948 concerning the 1905 Wright Flyer III restoration project at Carillon Park, Dayton Ohio. Some portions of this interesting letter follow:
Diamond Chain Company and Wright Brothers Flyer III
June 29, 1948 letter from Guy A. Wainwright to Louis P. Christman mentioning his father's early relationship with the Wright Brothers. From author's personal collection.
1948 letter Guy Wainwright to Louis Christman

Guy Wainwright letter to Louis Christman
Portion of June 29, 1948 letter, Guy A. Wainwright quotes from August 11, 1911 letter written by his father.

From the quoted August 11, 1911 letter by Lucius to his son concerning chains provided by the company for the German Wright machines, he indicated they used the ordinary #155 chain initially. From the 1911 Catalog, this chain is pictured below:

From 1911 Diamond Chain Company catalog. From author's personal collection.

Wright Flyer III at Carillon Park, engine and propeller drive assembly. Author's photo.

Louis Christman responded to Guy Wainwright's letter on July 8th.
"Dear Mr Wainwright, We want to thank you for your letter of June 29th and for the interest you have shown....concerning chains for the reconstruction of a Wright Bros Aeroplane........

Carillon Park, Diamond Chain Company
Portion of Louis Christman July 8th, 1948 letter to Guy Wainwright, Diamond Chain Company concerning the restoration of the 1905 Wright Flyer III. From author's personal collection.

Portion of second page of Louis Christman July 8th, 1948 letter to Guy Wainwright. "This is authentic because Mr. Orville Wright personally gave us the propeller shaft with the sprocket and the crankshaft sprocket in Dec 1947...."

Louis Christman further writes "It is Col. E. A. Deed's wish that we make every effort to restore the Aeroplane as near as possible in conformity with the 1905 status. We are using all available original parts and replacing missing parts with duplicates conforming to the design and construction in accordance with the Wright Bros practices of that time and, for this reason we are requesting that the chains should conform to the sample submitted."

The letter continues, and Christman indicates another chain type which was used for "driving the exhaust valve cam shaft from the crank shaft", a type #45. This "has a diamond shaped hole pierced thru..."

Louis Christman July 8th, 1948 letter to Guy Wainwright, "this type of chain has a diamond shaped hole pierced thru the connecting links which conform to photograph records of the "Kitty-Hawk" and 1905 model Aeroplanes."

Chain type 45 from the 1911 Diamond Chain and Mfg Co catalog.

Guy Wainwright responded to Louis Christman's July 8th letter on the 12th with the following....

Portion of July 12th, 1948 letter from Guy Wainwright to Louis Christman. "We consider it a privilege to participate in Col. Deed's interesting project."

Col. Deeds responded to Guy Wainwrights kind offer of providing the chains (at no cost) for the 1905 Wright Flyer III restoration......

Portion of first page of July 29th, 1948 letter from Col. Edward Deeds to Guy Wainwright. "Mr. Wright immediately became interested, and he very shortly suggested reconstructing the 1905 plane which made its many important flights in Dayton, and on which most of their important improvements were developed. We had originally planned a replica of the 1903 Kitty Hawk plane......A colonial and fireproof building is now under construction. It is to house the plane......" From author's personal collection.

"A colonial and fireproof building", Carillon Park, March of 2015 photo by author.

A short History of the Diamond Chain Company is also available at the Diamond Chain Company website.

The Diamond Chain Company Papers, 1890-1993, Collection #M 1019, are available at The Manuscript and Visual Collections Department at The William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society.

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