Cover

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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

More than a century after his untimely death from typhoid fever, Wilbur Wright remains a famous man. His younger brother Orville, who died an elderly man in 1948, is also internationally famous. During the summer of 2012, Wikipedias in eighty-five different languages, from English and German to Kalmyk, Papiamento, and Võro, contained articles (of varying lengths) about...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book began as a revision of an unsubmitted 1989 National Historic Landmark nomination for the Wright Company’s factory buildings in west Dayton; over the past few years, it has evolved into a much larger project with a variety of supporters and assistants. The National Park Foundation provided a grant that supported the acquisition of a variety of primary and secondary...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

In west Dayton, Ohio, an empty factory complex quietly stands. Wedged between U.S. Route 35 and West Third Street, two of Dayton’s major roads, the site is similar to many other former industrial sites throughout the Rust Belt, awaiting redevelopment and new investment. The site, though, contains two buildings built when Dayton was an industrial powerhouse, a city famous...

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1. “We Will Devote . . . Our Time to Experimental Work”: Creating the Wright Company

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pp. 5-16

In 1905, nearly two years after their first four flights on the North Carolina coast, Wilbur and Orville Wright succeeded in developing what they deemed a practical airplane—one in which a pilot could take off and land repeatedly as long as it maintained a sufficient...

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2. Bringing an Aeroplane Factory to Dayton

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pp. 17-36

Nineteen hundred and nine, like most years, was full of important events. For the Cincinnati-born lawyer, judge, and former secretary of war William Howard Taft, it was his first year in the White House. The U.S. Mint introduced a cent bearing the portrait of...

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3. “A Substantial, Commodious, Thoroughly Modern Factory”: The Wright Company Enters the Market

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pp. 37-54

Aviation was a new industry, in Dayton and in the United States. The 1910 Statistical Abstract of the United States, issued by the federal Department of Commerce and Labor, unsurprisingly ignored the new field (which had no statistics worth recording). If...

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4. “Our Machines Are Sold on Their Merits”: Patents, Profits, and Controversy

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pp. 55-70

Though neither Wilbur nor Orville Wright would ever have the resources of a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt, aviation brought them wealth. They made generous Christmas gifts to their brothers and sister, built the Boyd Building in west Dayton as a commercial...

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5. World Records for Wright Aviators: The Exhibition Department

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pp. 71-82

The Wright Company did not want its only appearances in the press and in the public imagination to be connected with its lawsuits. It hoped to attract positive press coverage (and drive sales) with its exhibition department, and so it hired young, daring, if...

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6. To Change or Not to Change: Creating New Airplanes and New Pilots

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pp. 83-112

Not only did the Wright Company lose a valuable revenue stream when its exhibition department closed, but also it lost a convenient way for its pilots to test new technologies and designs in the rough and tumble of field use before incorporating them...

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7. Turning Buyer Attention the Company Way: Advertising

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pp. 113-128

The Wright Company’s lack of commercial success was not the result of the sort of secrecy that the brothers demanded in the years before 1908. Hundreds of thousands of people saw their flights in New York and in Europe, and newspapers closely covered...

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8. Managing the Wrights’ Company

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pp. 129-154

Early Wright Company advertisements boasted that Wilbur and Orville Wright personally supervised the designing and building of “everything that enters into the construction of our machines” at the factory. For once, advertisements did not lie. The brothers...

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9. “It Is Something I Have Wanted to Do for Many Months”: Exit Orville

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pp. 155-174

Much had changed in the world and in Orville Wright’s life between 1909 and 1915. Europe was no longer a welcoming destination; trenches filled with soldiers divided Germany from Belgium and France. Ohio Republican William Howard Taft had been...

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Epilogue: The Wright Company’s Legacy

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pp. 175-180

Physically, the Wright Company left a slight legacy. Few of the airplanes its workers built remained intact, and its archives are dispersed and incomplete. Grover Bergdoll’s Model B, at the Franklin Institute, and a skeletal Model G exhibited by Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park are two of the most accessible Wright Company airplanes exhibited in museums. The...

Notes

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pp. 181-204

Bibliography

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pp. 205-212

Index

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pp. 213-218