Thursday, August 9, 2012

From the Stacks: A Piece of the Wright Brothers' Airplane

Guest post by Esti Brennan, Social Media Intern

On August 19th, 1871, Orville Wright was born. The contributions that he and his brother Wilbur made to American history and technology require little explanation--the image of their fragile-winged plane is imprinted in the memory of every American school child, not to mention on two different State Quarters--their first flight at Kittyhawk, North Carolina is featured on that state's coin while a later model of their airplane appears alongside an astronaut's suit on the coin representing Ohio, birthplace of the Wrights as well as several pioneering space travelers.

Though the famous plane itself is housed in the Smithsonian Institute, the Clements Library also has a piece of this history--a piece of the cloth that covered the wings. The cloth had been damaged by a leak in the barn that housed the plane, and was left behind when the machine was taken to the Smithsonian. It was then, according to Clements docent Tom D., distributed to friends of the Wrights, including their lawyer, Charles Funkhouser. Funkhouser practiced in Dayton, Ohio, but had graduated from the University of Michigan Law School--and so ended up donating his piece to the Clements Library.

Further Reading:

Famous First Flights that Changed History, by Lowell Thomas and Lowell Thomas Jr. in the Clements Collection.

The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age at the Smithsonian Institute.

Information on the Wright Brothers at The Henry Ford.

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