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Wright Brothers: Topics in Chronicling America

Wilbur and Orville Wright began creating gliders from their bicycle shop. The gliders would later become planes. This guide provides access to material related to the "Wright Brothers" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Wilbur Wright (left) and Orville Wright (right). September 21, 1908. The Spokane Press (Spokane, Washington), Page 2, Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

On December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers’ “flying machine” lifts off for the first time in history. The journey, lasting roughly twelve seconds, happens “as easily and graceful as a bird.” Over the next three years the brilliant brothers work on their plan to conquer the sky, acquiring an official patent for their invention in 1906. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1900-1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright begin to build "gliders" with profits earned from their bicycle repair shop. Flight experiments begin at Kill Devil Hill of the Kitty Hawk region in North Carolina.
December 17, 1903 Wright brothers achieve the first piloted, sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
January 5, 1904 Wright brothers make an announcement to the Associated Press about the success of their flights.
1904-1905 Wilbur and Orville continue their experiments and make improvements to their airplane.
May 22, 1906 U.S. Patent Office issues patent 821,393 to the Wright Brothers for their flying machine.
June 1909 Wright Brothers receive National, State and City honors (medals) in honor of their aeroplane invention.
October 25, 1911 Orville Wright breaks the world's gliding (non-engine) record in his experimental trials at Kill Devil Hill.
May 31, 1912 Wilbur Wright dies from Typhoid Fever.
1925 Orville Wright decides to send the Kitty Hawk aboard to the Science Museum at South Kensington, London due to a dispute with the Smithsonian Institute.
January 30, 1948 Orville Wright dies at age 76. Executors of his estate determine it was his desire to return the Kitty Hawk plane to the Smithsonian Institute.