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WRIGHT, ORVILLE - The Inventor of the Airplane is Related to the Inventor of the Submarine!
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WRIGHT, ORVILLE - The Inventor of the Airplane is Related to the Inventor of the Submarine!

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WRIGHT, ORVILLE. (1871‑1948). American inventor and aviation pioneer who, with his brother Wilbur, completed the first sustained and piloted flight of a heavier-than-air machine. TLS. (“Orville Wright”). 2/3p. Small 4to. Dayton, October 12, 1917. On his personal stationery to Mrs. William F. Lake.


I received your letter enquiring as to my connection to the Lake family. Will you please pardon this tardy answer? It was on my father’s side, I believe that there was some connection with the Lake family; but I do not know just what this connection was, nor do I know to what branch of the family. It may be that I will find some reference to it in some of father’s papers when I have an opportunity of going over them…”


The Wright Brothers’ ongoing interest in all things mechanical was put to its first practical application in their Dayton, Ohio, shop when they began producing bicycles on a small scale in 1896. That same year, Wilbur became fascinated with aviation after reading about German aviator Otto Lilienthal’s accidental death. Serious aeronautical work and experimentation began in 1899 when the brothers wrote to the Smithsonian Institution to request copies of everything available on the topic, having exhausted their own resources. In 1901, the first Wright glider was tested at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and, after several years of intensive experimentation, the brothers returned to test a motor-powered airplane. On December 17, 1903, they made four successful flights, the first sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under a pilot’s control, and by 1906 they had received a patent for a flying machine from the U.S. government. Despite his brother’s untimely death in 1912 from typhoid fever, Orville remained extremely active in the field of aviation.


Our letter discusses the Wright genealogy which was of special interest to the Wright’s father, Milton Wright (1828-1917), a bishop in the United Brethren in Christ church and “a dedicated genealogist who boasted that he could trace his lineage back eleven generations to ‘his great-grandfather’s great grandfather,’ Sir John Wright, Lord of Kelvedon Hall in Essex County, England, born 1485, died 1551,” (“A Genealogical History of the Wright Family,” wright-brothers.org, Engler). To complete such an extensive family tree, the elder Wright would have “depended on notes kept in a family Bible, hints from family letters and oral traditions, and correspondence with far-away clerics and government officials who often had better things to do than answer a query about a long-dead parishioner or citizen. For Milton to trace his family back through four centuries and across two continents was a singular accomplishment in his day,” (ibid.). Milton Wright had died just six months prior to our letter, having lived long enough to witness his sons’ great achievements. Neither Wilbur nor Orville Wright married or had children but the Wright family name endured through their two older brothers and their offspring.


On December 21, 1925, Wright wrote a letter to aviation pioneer Christopher J. Lake (father of submarine developer Simon Lake) regarding the connection between the Wright and Lake families, now in the special collections of Wright State University. It revealed that the two families were related through the Reeder family, distant relatives of Milton Wright. Normal folding and fine.


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