Even today some people wonder why Dayton, Ohio is called the home of aviation and the mention of McCook, Wright and Patterson fields seems like another mystery. Even the news media before 1910 missed the big story. In Dayton the two sons of Bishop Milton Wright, Wilbur and Orville, bicycle builders and repairmen, thought that they could fly with an engine, and at the same time there was Samuel P. Langley, the head of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., doing the same thing. The Dayton boys corresponded with everyone they thought would have some experience with flying. Octave Chanute in Indiana, Otto Lilienthal the German glider expert who made many flights before he was killed in 1896, and his understudy Percy Pilcher in England, wrote to the Wrights. By trial and error they found that the air flow charts which Lilienthal was using and which he shared with them, were wrong. They learned that by using elevators and stabilizers they could avoid shifting the weight of the operator's body, and many other things. Since they could find no gasoline engine to fit their needs they had to build their own. Any bicycle enthusiast viewing the "Wright Flyer" will notice how they used the sprocket chains from bicycles to carry power from the motor to the propeller. Aside from an understanding father and an energetic sister, there did not seem to be many in the Wright hometown who had confidence in Wilbur and Orville. According to tradition, another Dayton boy, John Hertz, a friend with ideas, foresaw the time when rented cars would replace livery stables, and Mr. Hertz suggested that the Wrights should do something useful like building an automobile, while he may have thought that his own son must have been in the sun too long.
Ruppell, George S.M.
"Dayton and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 12:
3, Article 9.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol12/iss3/9