December 1903

Telegram from Orville Wright in Kitty Hawk
  • At approximately 10:35 in the morning on December 17, 1903, Orville Wright made the first powered, controlled, and sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet (37 meters). Orville and his brother Wilbur made three more flights that day, the longest of which covered 852 feet (260 meters) in 59 seconds. With this telegram, sent from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in the late afternoon of the same day, Orville informed their father of the achievement. The text reads: “Success four flights this morning all against twenty one mile wind started from Level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas”. The Wright brothers ran a shop in Dayton, Ohio, where they rented, sold, and manufactured bicycles. Their father, the Most Reverend Milton Wright, was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, whose gift of a toy “helicopter” to his sons in 1878, when Orville was seven years old and Wilbur aged eleven, has been credited with helping to kindle in them their fascination with mechanical flight. The brothers chose Kitty Hawk as the location of the first flight based on information provided by the Weather Bureau in Washington, DC.