The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough
ON A WINTER day in 1903 a couple of bicycle mechanics from Ohio did what was presumed to be impossible. They flew a heavier-than-air powered machine across the sand on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. David McCullough has written a well-documented account of this feat and the story of these two young men who began the revolution of human flight. This remarkable book begins with a quote from Wilbur Wright: “No bird soars in a calm.” Wilbur studied birds in detail to learn about wind and wings.
Wilbur and Orville were the sons of Bishop Milton Wright of Dayton, Ohio. McCullough has well researched the Wright family, the ministry of Milton and the contributions of sister, Katharine. The focus, however, is on the two men who devoted their minds and hands to build something which lifted man from the constraints of gravity. The Wright Cycle Shop is the setting for the great feat of engineering and imagination.
Readers will meet the Tate family of Kitty Hawk whose hospitality and assistance allowed the Wright brothers to set up shop for their initial test flights. North Carolina’s people and landscape are well acknowledged in this book. The amazing photo in the book of the 1902 glider soaring above the sands shows the remoteness of the Outer Banks at that time. The pictures and illustrations here are extensive.
The Wrights, according to McCullough, built their airplanes by using a mixture of hard work and clever ingenuity. Wilbur is quoted as saying: “We had to go ahead and discover everything ourselves.” The author makes this case well as he places the work ethic and design abilities of Wilbur and Orville as the center of the story. He also describes in detail the relationship of the brothers, at times disagreeable, but mostly so close they were symbiotic.
Much of this book covers the effort of the Wright Brothers to convince world leaders that wing-powered-flight is possible and useful. Wilbur’s months in France, along with his correspondences sent back home, reveal the frustrations. McCullough describes in detail the earth shattering test flight at Le Mans, France in 1908 where, for the first time, a small crowd of people witness the true nature of the success of Wilbur and Orville. That was the day the brothers first celebrated the triumph they richly deserved.
In 1909 Wilbur circles the Statue of Liberty in New York. David McCullough’s biography of the brothers and of flight celebrates American initiative and inventiveness. The author has given to readers a definitive account of this great story of hard work and persistent courage.
Emerald Isle Books
The Wright Brothers