What Were You Doing on the Day of the First Flight?


First Flight Photograph, December 17, 1903 (MS1_16_2_8)

Today marks the 113th anniversary of the first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The events of that historic day, December 17, 1903, are well recorded, including Orville Wright’s observations in his diary. Orville closed the entry with the mention of a telegram to M.W., better known as Milton Wright, the father of the Wilbur and Orville. Bishop Wright recorded the following in his own journal:

Thursday, December 17. In the afternoon about 5:30 we received the following telegram from Orvill(e), dated Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17. “Bishop M. Wright: “success four flights Thursday morning all against a twenty-one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through the air thirty one miles—longest 57 seconds. XXX home Christmas. Orville Wright.”

Now wouldn’t it be fun to see what other Miami Valley residents were doing at home on December 17, 1903, while Orville and Wilbur were changing the world over the sands of Kitty Hawk? Special Collections & Archives holds a variety of letters and diaries from the time period that provide insight into life on that December day.

The Dayton Daily News forecasted the weather as “partly cloudy” and The Temperature Report on page 2 reported the mercury at 14 degrees at 7am and before climbing to 20 degrees at 10am. The bitter cold morning, and an even colder recorded temperature, was echoed in the diary of Reverend Van Buren Christy (1841-1923), pastor of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church and resident of Union Road in Jefferson Township.


Van Buren Christy Diary, December 12-17, 1903 (MS-235)

Just to the northeast in Yellow Springs, Katherine Carr (1878-1960), a teacher at the high school, was writing her soon-to-be future husband, George Harris on the day’s events ( Incidentally, Katherine and George married on January 7, 1904). She discussed the cold weather and went on to describe for several pages the pet crow living in their greenhouse. If you would like to see the entire 7 page letter, please contact the SC&&A staff.


ms160_1_8_dec-17-1903_p-2 Katherine Carr to George Harris, Yellow Springs, Ohio, pages 1-2, December 17, 1903, MS-160, Box 1, File 8.

Now it is your turn! This is a great time to record, in a diary, blog entry, letter, Tweet, Facebook post, or email, your thoughts, observations, and activities of First Flight Day 2017. You just never know when it might be used someday in the future by an archivist or historian!

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