Today is the 115th anniversary of flight! Here are 5 treasures you can see at the re-imagined Wright Brothers National Museum

One hundred fifteen years ago today, Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flights only days before Christmas. The brilliant Dayton brothers uncovered the secrets of the birds.

Orville wired home to share the news. Their father, Bishop Milton Wright, who kept a daily diary, chronicled the colossal event with scant more gusto than used to describe the “1/2 in. snow” he recorded the week before:

“In the afternoon about 5:30 we received the following telegrarm [sic] from Orvill[e], dated Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17: “Bishop M. Wright: “Success four flights Thursday morning all against a twenty-one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through the air thirty one mile—longest 57 seconds. XXX home Christmas.” 

>> Dayton now home to Wright Brothers National Museum

But despite the Bishop’s casualness, the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright was miraculous. At a time when flight was considered “impossible,” two completely self-funded brothers invented the airplane in the back of their West Dayton bicycle shop.

Up to that point, unsuccessful attempts had occurred, time and again, by experts of far greater means and formal education. (Wilbur never officially picked up his high school diploma and Orville dropped out of high school to focus on his printing enterprise). Working part time, in roughly six years, the Wright brothers’ changed the course of history.

Earlier this year, federal legislation designated Carillon Historical Park’s completely re-imagined aviation center as the John W. Berry, Sr. Wright Brothers National Museum. One of Dayton’s most acclaimed exhibit complexes has stepped onto the world stage.

The Wright Brothers National Museum displays more Wright family artifacts than any place in the world. On this 115th anniversary of flight, here is a list of five highlights — three new features and two standbys — from the re-imagined Wright Brothers National Museum.

>> PHOTOS: Historic images of the Wright Brothers 1909 homecoming

Orville Wright, dressed to the nines 

Orville Wright's tuxedo and suede Stetson shoes — featuring a special lift required following his 1908 Fort Myer crash — are displayed at the Wright Brothers National Museum. Wilbur paid little attention to fashion; Orville took great pride in his overall appearance.

“I don’t believe there ever was a man who could do the work he did in all kinds of dirt, oil, and grime and come out looking immaculate,” said Orville’s niece, Ivonette Wright Miller.

Amongst the thousands of photos of Orville, it is difficult to find an image of him in disarray. His tuxedo is a new component of the National Museum.

>> 5 key places in Dayton that tell the story of the world-famous Wright Brothers

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and Archive, Wright State University

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and Archive, Wright State University

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree 

The Wright brothers credit their mechanical aptitude to their mother, Susan Catherine Koerner Wright. A new display at the National Museum features Susan’s hand-knit cape; hand tools belonging to her father, John (Johann) Gottlieb Koerner; and two tintypes featuring images of her parents, John and Catherine Freyer (Fry).

The Wright brothers’ father, Bishop Milton Wright, was a bishop in the United Brethren Church. A new display highlights a pair of his spectacles, two of his canes, and a 1668 Holy Bible.

A lifelong tinkerer 

Orville was a natural born mechanic and engineer, ever inventing, creating, and tinkering. The Victrola on display in the Wright Brothers National Museum is both a new addition and a prime example of Orville’s propensity to take things apart and put them back together.

Orville attempted to modify the Victrola into a record changer. He never finished the project, but his modifications are visible.

>> How the Wright Brothers are coming to life at nationally famous sites in Dayton

Credit: Skip Peterson

Credit: Skip Peterson

Not bad for a first photo 

Accomplished photographers, the Wright brothers even sold photo supplies in their bicycle shop. In 1902, they purchased a Korona V — the camera that took their world-famous first flight photo at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

For this historic image, Orville positioned the camera, while John T. Daniels, a member of the nearby U.S. Life Saving Service Station, squeezed the bulb and snapped the picture. It was Daniels’ first photo.

The only airplane designated a National Historic Landmark 

On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville won a coin toss and became the world’s first pilot. In the 1940s, toward the end of his life, the world’s first pilot’s last project was to restore the original 1905 Wright Flyer III for Carillon Park. And while Orville died before Carillon Park opened in 1950, he had a hand in designing Wright Hall: the building that houses the Wright Flyer III.

The 1905 Wright Flyer III is the only airplane designated a National Historic Landmark, the world’s first practical airplane, and what Orville considered the Wright brothers’ most important aircraft. It remains the crown jewel of Carillon Historical Park.

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