JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 324
Lorin Wright--the Zeppo and infrequently-heard-of brother of Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) —was the one responsible for disseminating the information of the first successful heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk in December 1903. It was on the 17th of December that the brothers—following several incomplete attempts and a crash several days earlier—launched their plane and flew 852 feet, Wilbur staying aloft for 59 seconds. They were going to try again but an errant gust of wind threw their aircraft and damaged so that there could be no further attempts.
[CLICK on image to enlarge; courtesy of the Library of Congress]
After literally chewing the matter over during lunch, and after several hours had passed, the brothers decided to release the news to the rest of humanity. Their dad had prepared the text and Lorin was responsible for getting the message out.
This image of the telegram that the Wright brothers sent to their father for the go-ahead is incredible for its brevity, its understatement and its misspelling. Of course sending a telegram was relatively expensive and the Wrights didn’t have very much money, so, perhaps the brevity can be sort of explained. Sort of; after all, they did just become the first people to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft, and perhaps a little excitement would be present. But no, the Wright family had a plan and a plan well worked out, so the quick note would suffice, no matter how momentous the achievement. I should also point out that the outcome was unexpected.
But the other bits about this telegram that make it so utterly delicious was the telegrapher’s misspelling of Orville’s name (“Orevelle”) and the two word summons to “inform Press” [sic]. And oh yes, “home Christmas” rounds out the momentous communication very nicely.
As it turns out the local papers near the Wright community in Ohio gave the achievement scant notice. (The reverential Scientific American by the way gave the Wright flight inside notice—it wasn’t front cover material for them.) The papers were a little shortered though because the results of the experiment were leaked to the local Norfolk paper, and the rest of the world got scooped.