As a child, did you ever receive a gift from your parent or a family member that had such an impact on you that as an adult, it shaped your way of thinking, dreaming and responding to the world?
In 1878, Milton Wright was returning home from his work travels; Milton Wright was a Bishop for his local church and traveled extensively to preach. Upon returning home one evening the Bishop gave the brother’s a toy, this toy impacted their young lives appealing to their intellectual senses and curiosity. The toy was a simple gadget, a helicopter of sorts made of bamboo, paper, and cork made motorized by a rubber band. The helicopter, an engineering design of Alphonse Penaud of France, a French pioneer of aeronautical science who achieved remarkable headway in the field of aeronautics during the 1860s to 1870s. Penaud developed the Planophore, a mechanical device that used propellers, which were powered by rubber bands to sustain short periods of flight. This remarkable gadget, a loving gift from their father would credit the spark into the Wright brothers’ future aviation endeavors and history-making achievements.
“Our first interest (in flight) began when we were children. Father brought home to us a small toy actuated by a rubber spring which would lift itself into the air. We built a number of copies of this toy, which flew successfully….But when we undertook to build the toy on a much larger scale it failed to work so well. The reason for this was not understood by us so we finally abandoned the experiments.” – Orville Wright
It would take a little bit of time and discovery before the brothers’ reached the threshold that would carve their names in history. The journey of discovery that would include a Printing business and a Bicycle Shop! Remarkably each step along their path ultimately laid foundational learning and practices that lead them to achieve their aeronautical aspirations. The printing shop enriched the brothers’ mechanical, writing skills and business aptitudes. The business engagement from the printing shop fostered an environment that developed their engineering talent, documentation, protection of work and the promotion and sale of their airplane. In the business of their bicycle shop, the brothers’ combined their mechanical skills and engineering talents to build and brand their own line of bicycles. Beginning in 1896, the brothers’ developed and carried a line of three different bicycle models.
Though Wilbur and Orville did not graduate from high school, it was the encouragement from both of their parents that fostered an environment to discover and acquire knowledge through hands-on engagement and responsibilities. Respectfully, they were self-taught engineers who loved to learn. And through their constant evolvement of organic studies as children at home and then through their business endeavors as young adults. Wilbur and Orville matured into highly intelligent individuals whose engineering labor and tireless efforts produced man's first powered flight, all because of a toy!
#WrightBrothersDay is December 17th - What would they think?