• The iconic first flight of the Wright brothers in their 1903 Wright Flyer

    Wright Brothers

    National Memorial North Carolina

Wilbur and Orville Wright

Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1909

Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1909


Family life: Wilbur Wright was born to Milton and Susan Wright on April 16, 1867 in Millville, Indiana. Milton, a Bishop in the United Brethren Church, moved the family to Dayton, Ohio where Orville was born on August 19, 1871. The famous Wright brothers had two older brothers, Lorin and Reuchlin, and a younger sister, Kather­ine. Their parents raised the children to be self-confident and to pursue whatever aroused their curiosity. Neither brother married, both continuing to live at the family home, Wilbur until he died at age 45 of typhoid fever; Orville until his death in 1948.

Education: Both were good students in school and their favorite subjects were math and science. The both excelled in math. Each attended high school but neither received a diploma. Wilbur had enough credit to graduate but the family moved to Dayton from Indiana. High school was not challenging for Orville so he dropped out in the 11th grade to start his own printing business. Although they never received a formal education, honorary PhD degrees from Harvard, Yale, and others schools were later bestowed upon the brothers for their invention of the airplane.

Occupation: Wilbur and Orville formed the Wright Cycle Company in 1892 selling, repairing, and manufacturing bicycles when they first thought of trying to fly. They began by reading all they could find about flight. They also watched birds and flew kites to observe flight first-hand. Then they traveled to Kitty Hawk each year from 1900 to 1903 to test their gliders and the Flyer. All of their experiments in flying were financed from their bicycle business. After 1903, their energies were devoted to aviation. By 1908, they formed airplane companies in Europe as well as in America and, by 1910, they had taught the world how to fly. Orville became a millionaire from their invention.

Age at first flight: Wilbur was 36 (born April 16, 1867, in Millville, Indiana); Orville was 32 (born Aug. 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio).

Did You Know?

Big Kill Devil Hill ca1900 (credit:Library of Congress)

Big Kill Devil Hill actually moved 450 feet to the southwest during the 25 years from the Wrights' first flight in 1903 until 1928, when the park was established.