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Special Collections & Archives

Information Packet

The Wright Brothers Information Packet online consists of a variety of primary sources taken from the Wright State University Wright Brothers Collection as well as a few secondary sources that detail the lives of the Wrights.

It is our hope that these materials develop your knowledge of Wilbur and Orville Wright as well as spark your interest in further research on these two very important individuals in history.

The Wright brothers' invention of the airplane led to a transformation in human travel patterns, military advancement, and globalization. Wilbur Wright, born April 16, 1867, and Orville Wright, born August 19, 1871, became interested in flight at a young age when their father brought them home a small toy “helicopter”. In 1896, Otto Lilienthal, a German pioneer who experimented with gliders, inspired the Wrights to begin developing gliders of their own in 1899. The Wright brothers’ gliders eventually led to the first successful powered flight on December 17, 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Over the next few years, the Wrights refined their design and sold the first airplane to the United States Signal Corps, a division of the U.S. Army, in 1908. In 1908 and 1909 they travelled to Europe to demonstrate the flyer, and returned to Dayton, Ohio as heroes. They would go on to manufacture their airplanes, train pilots at the Wright School of Aviation, and defend their patent. Wilbur died from typhoid fever on May 30, 1912 at the early age of 45. Orville lived to see the impact of the airplane in times of peace and of war. Orville died January 30, 1948 of a heart attack at the age of 77.