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National Park Mystery Photo 18 Revealed: The Wright Brothers Memorial

The bottom photo was taken at the memorial's dedication in 1940. Unfortunately, the caption at the Dayton Aviation website didn't specify which of the gentlemen was Orville. Top image National Park Service, bottom image Wright State University Special Collections and Archives.

Yes, this week's Mystery Photo was none other than of the Wright Brothers Memorial at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio.

I suppose this could be considered something of a trick Mystery Photo, as there also happens to be a Wright Brothers National Memorial in the National Park System, but you have to go to Ohio -- where Orville and Wilbur Wright were born and raised -- to see this memorial. (The other one is in North Carolina.)

Interestingly, one of the neat things about this week's photo is that the National Park Service has a companion image of when the memorial was dedicated in 1940. In attendance was none other than Orville Wright!

Of course, the Wright brothers brought us manned flight. They achieved it among the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where, after four years of experimentation they achieved the first successful airplane flights in 1903.


I'd like to point to Gustave Whitehead, who flew a powered airplane two years before the Wright Brothers but discontinued his experiments early and had no influence on the further history of aviation.

MRC, don't you think it's a bit disingenuous to say that Whitehead beat the Wright brothers to the punch without mentioning that the Whitehead "first flight" claim is highly controversial and has been discredited by many (most?) aviation history experts? That said, I personally believe that Whitehead may have managed a power flight before the Wright brothers.

Found this shot of Orville that would lead me to believe he's the third from left in that photo.

The Wright Brothers estate held a contract with the Smithsonian stating that in order to receive the Wright Flyer the institution could make no mention of any possible flights prior to the Wright flight at Kitty Hawk. As a Dayton native, I would love to see the Wrights receive the credit but the evidence for the possibility of a previous Whitehead is disturbing.

The Wright Memorial has a wonderful National Park Service visitor center with many more historical photographs and history of the Wright brothers. In addition, the Memorial overlooks Wright-Patterson AFB and the Huffman Prairie where the Wrights perfected controlled flight in the years after Kitty Hawk.

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