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Wright family strikes licensing deal with Detroit manufacturer


Descendants of the Wright brothers have struck a licensing agreement with American manufacturer Shinola to produce high-end, American-made watches and bicycles using their forbears’ images.

An event was held in Dearborn, Mich. Monday to celebrate the agreement, unveiling for the first time a bicycle and watch to be produced under the pact. The unveiling took place at Greenfield Village, where Henry Ford moved the Wrights’ original bicycle shop in 1936.

Privately held Shinola prides itself on American manufacturing and plans to build up to 50,000 watches this year, at prices around $600 per watch, according to web site BusinessofFashion.com.

Shinola has a 30,000-square-foot watchmaking workshop with the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. It produces bicycle frames in Wisconsin and assembles them in Detroit, reports say. The company did not return messages seeking comment.

The licensing agreement calls for 5 percent of the proceeds from bike and watch sales to go to the Wright Family Foundation, said Mike Parks, Dayton Foundation chief executive. In January, Amanda Wright Lane, the great-grandniece of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, told the Dayton Daily News she hoped the foundation’s licensing strategy would raise much-needed funds to care for Hawthorn Hill, the Oakwood mansion where Orville Wright lived for decades.

Wright Foundation transferred ownership of Hawthorn Hill this summer to Dayton History, but has committed to pay an annual grant to Dayton History to cover the costs of maintaining the home.

Reached Monday in Detroit, Wright Lane said the home remains her focus.

“My brother and I have made a commitment as Wright Family Foundation trustees to continue support the house and hopefully build a nice endowment for it some day,” Wright Lane said.

Shinola, with its emphasis on American production and quality goods, attracted her right away, she said.

“The moment we met the leads for the company, we knew we were all speaking the same language,” she said.

It remains to be seen whether the agreement will go beyond watches and bicycles, Wright Lane said.

Visual Marketing Associates in Dayton worked with the foundation to craft the licensing strategy.

Shinola describes itself as a producer of “handcrafted watches, bicycles, leather goods, and journals.”

Another company, Corbis Images, oversees usage of Wright Brothers-related “personality rights” — names, images, likenesses —in commercial advertising.

Dayton engineer Edward Andrew Deeds, a friend of Orville Wright and an NCR Corp. executive, saw that NCR bought Hawthorn Hill in 1948 after Orville Wright’s death. (His brother Wilbur Wright died in 1912). In 2006, NCR gave the home to the Wright Family Foundation and the Dayton Foundation.


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