Wilbur Wright, one-half of the famous Wright brothers, was born in a small farm house in eastern Henry County. Halfway between Millville and Mooreland, the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum commemorates one of the greatest early pioneers of flight. With his brother Orville, Wilbur designed, tested, and eventually accomplished the first sustained flight with a powered, heavier than air aircraft.
The Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum honors his life’s work and provides a great way for visitors to learn more about one of the greatest achievements in early 20th century.
Wilbur was born in 1867 to Milton Wright and Catherine (Koerner) Wright in a small farmhouse in rural Henry County. Wilbur was the third child born to the couple (his other siblings at the time were Reuchlin and Lorin). Within two years years, the Wrights moved to nearby Dayton. In Ohio, Wilbur’s brother Orville was born in 1871 and his sister Katharine arrived in 1874 (two other brothers died in infancy).
The family moved back to Indiana in 1881 and briefly lived in Richmond, but by 1884, they returned to Dayton to stay. Although an athletic child, Wilbur became withdrawn in the mid-1880s after a hockey accident left him without several front teeth. He eventually pulled out of his depression and began a printing business with his brother Orville in 1889. Around this time, the brothers also began a bicycle repair shop, the Wright Cycle Exchange. At the shop, the brothers began modifying existing bicycle designs, which ultimately resulted in the brothers’ own models.
The Wright brothers’ tinkering eventually led to experimentation with kites, including large gliders that could hold a grown human aloft in the air. In the early 1900s, the brothers traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and began testing their models, taking advantage of wind and open spaces. After years of continued tinkering, Wilbur and Orville modified their aircraft to include controls, wing-warping, and eventually an engine to power the new invention.
On December 17, 1903 Orville made the first successful powered flight in an aircraft at approximately 10:35 AM, he traveled 120 feet. Wilbur made the next flight, going 175 feet and Orville made a third flight covering 200 feet later in the day. Over the next several years, the brothers made new models and tested more advanced systems, often facing substantial skepticism from the public. In 1909, the brothers began the Wright Company, which capitalized on their designs and experiments.
After traveling extensively in Europe and the Eastern seaboard to defend his company’s patents, Wilbur returned home to Dayton 1912 extremely ill, eventually dying of typhoid fever in on May 30. He was 45 years old.
The Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum commemorates his legacy, while allowing visitors to explore the early decades of aviation and late 19th century Henry County. Along with the extensive museum, the site also offers visitors a chance to explore the original home, barn, and grounds. A community center is available for private events and a gift shop offers a great selection of books, biographies, and games for kids.
For me, the most exciting part of the museum is the full-size replica of the Wright Flyer (Flyer 1), which offers visitors a great way to really appreciate the complexity of the design.
Visitors can explore the site on their own, or schedule a tour. The cost is $8 per person ($2 for children). The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sundays from 1:00-5:00 PM.