Held at: The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute [Contact Us]222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA, 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Brothers Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) were American inventors and pioneers in the field of aviation, best known for being credited with building and flying the first successful airplane.
Wilbur Wright was born in Millville, Indiana in 1867. The family moved to Dayton, Ohio, where Orville was born in 1871. In 1888, Orville designed and built a printing press and the brothers started printing a newspaper together in Dayton. In 1892, they opened the Wright Cycle Co., a bicycle shop. The brothers became interested in gliders and in 1900 tested their first glider near Kitty Hawk, NC. In 1901, they tested another glider in North Carolina and built a wind tunnel in their bicycle shop in Ohio to experiment with wing designs.
After testing another glider in 1902, the Wright brothers participated in the first successful flight in a motor-powered airplane on December 17, 1903. The Wrights received the patent for their plane in 1906 and shortly after traveled to Europe to begin negotiations for selling their plane. In 1908 they sold the Wright plane to the United States War Department. They continued to fly several demo flights in the United States and in Europe and in 1909 established Wright Co. Inc. From 1909 to 1912 the Wrights were involved in patent infringement law suits. Wilbur died in 1912. Orville sold his interest in Wright Co. in 1915 and established Wright Aeronautical Laboratory in Dayton in 1917. Orville passed away in 1948.
Library of Congress. "Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress." Most recently updated 2014. Accessed September 8, 2016. http://rs5.loc.gov/service/mss/eadxmlmss/eadpdfmss/1998/ms998012.pdf.
The Orville and Wilbur Wright papers on aeronautical engineering, 1889-1930, include notebooks, data sheets, graphs, technical drawings and blueprints, photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings and other materials related to the brothers' aeronautical efforts.
Of special interest in the collection are the notebooks, data sheets, drawings, and graphs related to the Wrights' wind tunnel apparatus and the hundreds of tests they did with the apparatus in their Dayton, Ohio workshop in 1901. The wind tunnel simulated flight conditions, allowing the brothers to collect scientific data (e.g. observations, technical drawings, calculations, and measurements of lift and drag forces). Drawings of the wind tunnel apparatus, as well as graphs, notes, and measurements from wind tunnel and propeller tests, circa 1917-1921, are also available in the collection.
In addition to the wind tunnel materials, this collection includes drawings of early airplanes, including drawings for the biplane the brothers used for their first sustained powered flights in December of 1903 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Other drawings in the collection include those for the 1904, 1905, 1907, and 1910 biplanes; drawings of the Wrights' 1910 motor and propeller; and drawings and notes related to the Wright hydraulic pump. Photostats of the Wrights' 1902 glider and prints of the 1903 engine and biplane are also available in the collection.
Photographs in the collection include prints of images of the December 1903 flights in North Carolina, captured by John T. Daniels. The original glass plate negatives of these images are held by the Library of Congress.
An item level finding aid for the collection is available on-site. A number of artifacts are associated with this collection, but were not included as part of this survey.
Gift of Orville Wright
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute directly for more information.
- The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Access Restrictions
Contact The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute for information about accessing this collection.