Bishop Milton Wright

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Milton Wright's sons Wilbur (1867) and Orville (1871) were born after he returned to the Midwest from his missionary and teaching work in the west. In 1878, he returned from a trip with a present for his sons: a toy helicopter of cork, bamboo, and paper, powered by a twisted rubber band. This began the boys' investigations into flying, as they tried to make larger versions of the toy.

In 1896, while running their Dayton, Ohio bicycle shop, the two Wright brothers resumed their investigations into flight. They first tested their design in the form of a large kite and then as a glider. The model hanging above depicts one of their early glider with one of the brothers at the controls.

After adding a motor and propellers of their own design, the Wright brothers took their airplane to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On December 17, 1903, they achieved the first ever controlled flight of a powered heavier-than-air plane. The first flight, shown in this famous photograph, lasted 12 seconds and travelled 120 feet; later that day, they flew for 59 seconds, for a distance of 852 feet. They then used the dollar their father had given them for a telegram informing him that their Flyer had "made a successful flight" and that they'd be home for Christmas.

The Wright brothers continued to improve their plane. In 1904, Milton Wright wrote to a Philomath resident and former student, Mary (Mrs. Ezra) Wyatt, "My unmarried sons inseparable as the Siamese twins, I saw, each a few weeks ago, sail on their flyer, nearly three miles through the air, at one flight, each in five minutes time. They rise on the level and sail 30 ft. high."

In 1910, Milton Wright rode in one of his sons' planes for the first time. The flight lasted almost seven minutes and reached a height of 350 feet. Milton Wright is reported to have urged "Higher, Orville, higher!"


Used with permission: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum WEB13589-2013

Milton Wright postcard

Wright Brothers 1903

Bishop Milton Wright


© 2015 Benton County Historical Society & Museum
Philomath, Oregon

Oregon State University Horner Museum Collection
sponsored and supported in part by the
Horner Museum Fund