Claim to fame: One of the two famous Dayton Wright brothers who developed one of the greatest inventions of all time — the airplane — and manned the first powered flight. Orville, the younger of the two brothers, was the first man to fly.
Early accomplishments: Before that famous flight at Kitty Hawk that made history books, Orville and his brother Wilbur teamed up to accomplish many great things before moving onto solving the mysteries of flight. In 1889, Orville dropped out of school and went into the publishing business with his older brother. That year, they began to publish a weekly newspaper, the West Side News. The following year, they published a short-lived daily newspaper, The Evening Item. After limited success in the printing business, Wilbur and Orville Wright decided to sell and repair bicycles. They opened up the first of several bicycle shops in 1893, and three years later, the Wrights began building bicycles of their own design. The successful bicycle business provided the funds for their flight experiments, and it expanded their knowledge of building machines.
His legacy: Orville’s interests focused on the development of the engine that would power the aircraft. Working with Charlie Taylor, he built an engine in their shop. On Dec. 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville Wright was the first man to fly with a flight of 120 feet in 12 seconds. Following Wilbur’s death in 1912, Orville carried on their legacy. He also stayed active in the public eye, promoting aeronautics and the historic first flight that he made. He was a founding member of NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and served on that committee for 28 years. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) was created from the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics in 1958 (10 years after Orville’s death at age 76).
Did you know? Orville showed an interest in technology and science early in life, performing experiments and dismantling things to find out how they worked. He fit the stereotype of the budding inventor far more than Wilbur. Despite being known as a practical joker in his inner circle, he was painfully shy in public. Orville did not receive a high school diploma or attend college. Both brothers were committed to broad learning and supplemented their schooling with a great deal of private study. Orville really began to grow an interest in gliders and flight when he was recuperating from typhoid fever (which would claim the life of his brother Wilbur at age 45).
How to visit the Walk of Fame: See it in person on West Third Street in Dayton between Broadway and Shannon.
Where to go to learn more about the Wright Brothers: Carillon Historical Park and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Orville Wright’s Oakwood mansion Hawthorn Hill remains a tourist attraction today.
Sources: Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame, Wright Dunbar Inc.; Dayton History; NASA; National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; History.com.