* Click on images to enlarge

Wilbur Wright is born in Millville, IN, to Milton and Susan Wright, joining older brothers Reuchlin and Lorin.

Wilbur writes to the Smithsonian to request any and all papers it has published on flight.

Wilbur begins experimenting with “wing warping,” learning the fundamentals of aeronautics.

Wilbur Wright arrives at the remote beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC, part of the state’s archipelago known as the Outer Banks, to begin glider experiments. Orville joins him a few weeks later.

The Wrights return to Kitty Hawk for another round of glider tests, enduring swarms of mosquitos throughout the summer.

The Wrights make their first controlled turns with a steerable rudder at Kitty Hawk.

Orville pilots the first flight of the Wright Flyer I using an engine he and Wilbur conceived, designed, and built.
“I don’t think I ever saw a prettier sight in my life,” says John T. Daniels, a Wright helper and confidant.

Wilbur pilots the flying machine in a complete circle at Huffman Prairie, not far from Dayton.

The Wrights send a letter to Secretary of War William Howard Taft about their success, but receive a form rejection letter.

Wilbur circles Huffman Prairie twenty-nine times—a distance of about twenty-four miles—making it a longer flight than all previous 160 attempts combined.

A delegation from France arrives in Dayton to watch the Wrights fly and discusses a business partnership, but the two sides cannot strike a deal.

A patent for The Wright Flying Machine—patent No. 821,393—is issued, three years after the Wright brothers filed it.

Wilbur Wright arrives in Paris to demonstrate the flying machine and reopen business negotiations. He spends much of his downtime at the Louvre.

“Gentleman, I’m going to fly,” Wilbur Wright says to a group of helpers in Le Mans, France, before taking the machine up for a short flight. Ensuing demonstrations draw massive crowds as the news quickly spreads around the globe.

Orville Wright takes a machine into the sky with army officer Lt. Thomas Selfridge when disaster strikes. A piece of propeller snaps loose, sending the machine into a spiral. Orville suffers a severely broken leg and ribs. Selfridge is pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Orville and Katharine join Wilbur in Paris. Katharine’s gregarious personality, especially in contrast to her brothers’ reserved nature, endears her to the European press.

President Taft welcomes the Wrights to the White House and presents them with medals on behalf of the Aero Club of America.

With thousands lining both banks of the Hudson River, Wilbur takes flight from Governor’s Island in Manhattan and flies up the Hudson to Grant’s Tomb at West 122nd Street before returning to the island. He attaches a canoe to the bottom of the flyer in case of an emergency water landing.

The Wright Company, a commercial aviation company, is established with offices in New York City and a factory in Dayton, Ohio.

Wilbur dies from symptoms related to typhoid.

Orville sells The Wright Company, estimating it produced 120 flyers in various models in five years.

Katharine marries former college sweetheart and newspaperman, Henry Joseph Haskell, much to Orville’s chagrin. Orville refuses to attend the ceremony and he and Katharine become estranged.

Katharine dies. Orville is by her bedside, after much persuading from older brother Lorin.

Orville dies.

Orville Wright born in Dayton, Ohio.

The Wright Cycle Exchange opens for business. Within a few years the brothers are selling about 150 bikes per year and soon begin fabricating and selling their own models, most notably the Van Cleve.

Katharine Wright born in Dayton, Ohio.

Susan Koerner Wright dies from tuberculosis.

Wilbur Wright suffers injuries to his jaw during a pond hockey game. The injuries take a psychological toll upon him and he becomes a recluse, spending much of his time reading.

1885 (late) -

1886 (early)

Winter

Orville contracts typhoid and nearly dies.

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Author photograph © William B. McCullough