In the waning days of the 19th century and on the eve of a new technological era, French, English, and American inventors (as well as a host of charlatans, stuntmen, and profiteers) were racing to be the first to achieve powered, heavier-than-air flight. At the center of this activity were two little-known bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio — Wilbur and Orville Wright.
This highly regarded volume, considered by many to be the definitive study of the Wrights, tells the full story of the brothers' lives and works: from their early childhood and initial fascination with flight, through the years of experimentation with gliders on the sand dunes of Indiana, to the exhilarating days on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where they perfected the design for the initial flyer, culminating in the historic first flight in December, 1903, at Kitty Hawk. The book also relates in detail the bitter patent fight and exhausting legal battles that followed as well as Wilbur's untimely death and Orville's later years.
Author Fred Howard, an expert on early aviation technology and member of the team that edited a multi-volume edition of the Wright brothers' papers for the Library of Congress, is uniquely qualified to tell this story. He not only provides a remarkable account of the brothers' enormous achievements, but has also captured the spirit of an extraordinary era, paying tribute to the contributions of such legendary aviation pioneers as Octave Chanute, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Glenn Curtiss, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Louis Blériot, and many others.
Unparalleled in its scope and colorful depiction of the Wright brothers and their times, this authoritative and thoroughly entertaining work will thrill and delight aviation buffs, students of American history, and anyone fascinated by the early days of flight.
Reprint of the Ballantine Books, New York, 1988 edition.