Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wright Cycle Shop

"It was December 17, 1903, a cold, windy day on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Two inventors stood by the aeroplane they so carefully made. The engine was started and the over-sized bicycle chains began to turn on the two specially designed bicycle sprockets. The bicycle spoke wire used to hold the wings taut was checked. The modified bicycle hubs on the skid were pushed back and forth by the wind. Orville lay down on the aeroplane and braced himself. Wilbur held onto the end of the wings to steady the aeroplane. A restraining wire was released, and the engine and propellors increased in speed. The aeroplane began to go forward then started into the air. The machine took off on its own power for twelve seconds and 120 feet. The bicycle and aeroplane builders had done what no man had ever done before - Orville had flown in a heavier-than-air machine on its own power with a safe lift off and touchdown."
(From the book "The Wright Brothers: from Bicycle to Biplane" by Fred C. Fisk and Marlin W. Todd).

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Along with the Dayton, Ohio Wright home and the out buildings, Henry Ford also acquired the Wright Cycle Shop, originally built around 1875 and located at 1127 Third Street in that city.
The Wright Brothers began their bicycle business in 1892. The building consisted of a salesroom, office, store room, repair room, and machine shop.

This is the room where the first aeroplane was constructed

Money earned from the bicycle business financed the brothers' flying experiments. They built their early gliders and planes in this building, often referred to as the "Birthplace of Aviation." And, yes, it was here that they constructed their first successful plane.

Much of the original machinery that the brothers used to manufacture the first airplane had been located with the assistance of Orville Wright, and was re-installed in the shop in the exact location when originally in the building in 1903. The wind tunnel, however, which the brothers used in making many of their discoveries in aerodynamics, had to be reconstructed.

When brought to Greenfield Village in 1937, this brick shop received the same attention to detail as the brother's home: Orville and his one-time assistant Charles E. Taylor, who began working for the Wrights in 1901 and built the engine for their first plane, studied the surveyed drawings for accuracy, along with architect Ed Cutler and Mr. Ford.

For most of 1937 the construction took place on the home and shop until finally, on April 16, 1938, the dedication ceremony commenced. This included a banquet for the dignitaries at the Clinton Inn (Eagle Tavern), including Orville Wright, which was broadcast to a radio audience.

The Wright Cycle Shop and home as they now stand in Greenfield Village.

Because of all involved in the reconstruction process, the Wright Brothers collection was meticulously restored.


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