Column: Wright brothers’ history in Dayton


Today, in our continuing visits to sites within easy driving distance of Indianapolis, we come to Dayton, Ohio, where we learn more about the Wright brothers.

In 1884, Wilbur and Orville Wright moved with their parents back to Dayton, Ohio.  Wilbur had just left high school in Richmond, without receiving a diploma. In 1889, Orville dropped out of high school after his junior year and opened a printing business in Dayton, using a printer he had built. Wilbur soon joined the business, which printed, among many other things, the Dayton Tattler, a weekly newspaper published by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, a renowned local African American poet.

In 1892, the brothers opened what became known as the Wright Cycle Co., repairing and selling bicycles. Four years later, they began selling their own model that included improved brakes. They named the model Van Cleve in honor of their great, great grandmother, the first white woman to settle in the Dayton area. The bicycle business was soon earning about $3,000 a year, which the brothers used to finance their growing interest in flying machines.

In 1899, Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution on Wright Cycle Co., letterhead, successfully seeking all the materials it had on flight.

Today, a number of sites in and around Dayton remember the Wright brothers’ early activities, many now run by the National Park Service as the Dayton Aviation National Historical Park. The park includes a bicycle shop where the brothers fixed and built bicycles. On the same street is the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, which includes items related both to Wilbur and Orville Wright and to Paul Dunbar. On the second floor is the recreated Wright & Wright Job Printers, featuring some of the equipment the brothers owned and used. Next week, we will visit other Dayton sites related to the Wright brothers.