Whether you’re traveling by plane for your summer vacation or just watching planes buzz by overhead, remember the two Ohio men who helped make flight possible for humanity. August 19, Orville Wright’s birthday, is National Aviation Day.1 Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first people in history to successfully make a “free, controlled and sustained flight in a power-driven, heavier than air machine.”2 Wilbur Wright was born in Indiana on April 16, 1867, and Orville Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio on August 19, 1871. 3
According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Wright brothers “were proud to be from Ohio and believed that growing up there gave them certain advantages in life.”4 Although the Wright brothers made their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they spent much of their lives in Dayton, Ohio. Though neither of the brothers ever attended college, they had brilliant minds, and they spent much of their childhoods in Ohio inventing various machines.5
As they grew up during the late 1800s, the pair operated a printing shop, published newspapers, and ran a bicycle business called the Wright Cycle Company together.6 After years of aviation research and speculation, the brothers traveled to North Carolina to begin testing their aircraft. Despite initial failures, the Wright brothers made their first successful flight on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.7 They returned to Dayton and began fundraising to produce their flying machines.
In 1906, the brothers received a patent for their invention. In 1909, the Wright brothers created the Wright Company to “manufacture and sell their airplanes.” The Wright Company buildings became the site of the first airplane factory in America.8 The Wright brothers manufactured airplanes and operated a flight school at Huffman Prairie Flying Field, located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.9 In 1915, a few years after Wilbur died in 1913 from typhoid fever10, Orville sold the company to a syndicate. From then on, Orville primarily focused on his own aviation research, though he still served as a consulting engineer for the Wright Company.11 Orville died from a heart attack on January 27, 1948.12
Ohio citizens keep the Wright brothers’ memories alive through preserving many places associated with them. You and your students can visit several Wright landmarks in Ohio, including Huffman Prairie, the Wright Company Factory, Hawthorn Hill, the Wright Cycle Company, and the Wright Brothers National Museum. Even if you don’t physically visit these sites, you can still blend history and STEM in your classroom by teaching your students about aviation history in Ohio.
Soar your way to success with the educational resources listed below.
- The Inventive Wright Brothers Classroom Materials from the Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/inventive-wright-brothers/
- The Wright Brothers – Inventors from Mars Hill University https://www.mhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Wright-Brothers-Inventors-Journey.pdf
- The Wright Brothers: Inventors of the Aerial Age from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers/online/pdf/classact/teach_resources.pdf
- From Wheel to Wing from the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park https://www.ebzb.org/educator-tool-kit/study-guidestheatre-etiquet/from-wheel-to-wing.pdf
- History and Science of Aviation from the Alberta Teachers’ Association https://teachers-ab.libguides.com/c.php?g=709799&p=5057110
- Ohio’s Aviation Heritage Teacher Resource Guide from the National Museum of the United States Air Force https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Portals/7/documents/education/teacher_resource_ohio_aviation_heritage.pdf
- Dayton Aviation Heritage Curriculum Materials from the National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/daav/learn/education/classrooms/curriculummaterials.htm
Blog image citation: “Wilbur Wright at Controls of 1902 Wright Glider.” Photograph. 1902. Wright Brothers Collection. Audiovisual material; MS 1 Box 15 File 6 Item 9. Wright State University, Fairborn, Ohio. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/23841/rec/15. (Accessed June 14, 2022).