Tuesday, December 17, marks the 116th anniversary of the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when two brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, from Dayton, Ohio, forever changed the world. December 17 is now officially known as Wright Brothers Day and people gather to commemorate the Brothers’ historic achievement.
The 25th anniversary of the first flight in December 1928 was marked by festivities all over the world. The City of Dayton kicked off the celebration with a dinner honoring Orville and Wilbur on December 10. Orville was the guest of honor at the evening ceremony and a wreath was placed at Wilbur’s grave. Orville then departed for Washington, D.C. to attend the International Civil Aeronautics Conference, which was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary. Many of the conference delegates stopped in Dayton on their way to Washington in order to participate in the celebration.
The International Civil Aeronautics Conference was held in Washington, D.C., from December 12-14 with Orville once again the guest of honor. To celebrate both the conference and the flight flight several postage stamps were issued. The two-cent stamp featured the Wright Flyer in flight between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. President Calvin Coolidge opened the conference with a tribute to the Wright Brothers. Then on December 16, Orville and 200 delegates traveled via ship to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This marked Orville’s first trip back since 1911.
One of the guests in Kitty Hawk was famed aviator, Amelia Earhart, who celebrated a first flight anniversary with Orville not once, but twice. At Kitty Hawk, Amelia helps dedicate the cornerstone for what would become the Wright Brothers National Memorial. While there Connecticut Senator Hiram Bingham, sponsor of bill to create the National Memorial, unveiled a granite monument on behalf of the National Aeronautic Association, to mark the exact location from where the first flight was made in 1903. Across the “Pond” in London, England, the Royal Aeronautical Society gathered in the Royal Science Museum and dined in honor of the Wrights under the original 1903 Flyer.
Five years later on the 30th anniversary of the first flight, December 17, 1933, Amelia again joined Orville, this time at the dedication of the aviation section of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.
In 1963, the U.S. Congress even authorized a joint resolution establishing December 17 as “Wright Brothers Day.” The act requests that each year the President of the United States issue a proclamation inviting Americans to “observe Wright Brothers Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” The first presidential proclamation was issued by President Lyndon Johnson on December 17, 1963.
Hopefully, on December 17, 2019, you will have the chance to participate in an official event or take a moment to celebrate the achievement of Wilbur and Orville Wright.