Guess who had Dayton's biggest party ever?

By the spring of 1909, Orville and Wilbur Wright had shown in a series of European exhibitions that powered flight was real and safe. When they returned to the United States, their hometown of Dayton threw a party like it never had, before or since.

On June 17-18, 1909, the entire city stopped to celebrate the brothers in a massive outpouring of respect.

Here are 15 reasons it was the biggest party in the city's history.

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The anticipation built for months. In April, the Dayton Daily News reported that Lyman H. Howe would be in town to showcase his "moving pictures" of Wilbur Wright's exhibitions at Le Mans, France. The Daily News gave away seven box parties to the Victoria Theater show in a contest asking readers to submit their best 10-word welcome telegrams for the Wrights.

A large planning committee was put together. Citizens were told on May 5 that the committee in charge of organizing the celebration had given it a name and estimated that it would cost $15,000.

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Estimating size. The organizing committee ordered 100,000 buttons to sell at 5 cents apiece to help cover the cost. They began selling the buttons about a month before the celebration so as many people as possible would be wearing them when the Wrights arrived.

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There were engraved invitations. Literally. The organizing committee sent them to President William Howard Taft, every member of Taft's cabinet, all Ohio Congressional delegates, all Supreme Court justices and other Washington officials.

An American flag made up of an estimated 2,000 children stands behind Orville, Wilbur and Bishop Milton Wright on stage at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds during their homecoming celebration in Dayton in June 1909. (Courtesy of Special Collections and Archive, Wright State University)

The Wrights received a personal invitation. A group that included organizing committee chairman J. Sprigg McMahon, son of U.S. Rep. John A. McMahon, and Dayton Mayor Edward E. Burkhart met personally with the Wrights in May to invite them to the celebration.

The city had built a love for flight. Two days before the celebration began, the Dayton Daily News printed a full-page advertisement announcing that, in honor of the Wright brothers' return, it would do the world's first airship delivery route. It said that "Cromwell Dixon, the famous boy aeronaut, will fly his monster air craft over the city of Dayton Wednesday afternoon, starting from Lakeside Park and dropping miniature balloons along the route. Each balloon will have a card attached entitling anyone capturing a balloon to a free copy of the News. Hand the card to any newsboy."

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It completely took over the news. On June 16, the day before the celebration began, the Dayton Daily News devoted seven full pages exclusively to content related to the Wright brothers. It included stories about the biggest celebrations in city history, famous Daytonians, the background of flight progress, American inventions and the Wright brothers and their family.

Front page of the Dayton Daily News, June 17, 1909.

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