The Wright Company: From Invention to Industry

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9780821420508: The Wright Company: From Invention to Industry

“Roach’s study digs deeper than technological and business history. By casting his narrative in an urban historical context and painting the sociocultural elements that affected the business, the author contributes to a clearer understanding of how seemingly unrelated elements affected the development of the Wright aircraft business.” —The HistorianFresh from successful flights before royalty in Europe, and soon after thrilling hundreds of thousands of people by flying around the Statue of Liberty, in the fall of 1909 Wilbur and Orville Wright decided the time was right to begin manufacturing their airplanes for sale. Backed by Wall Street tycoons, including August Belmont, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, and Andrew Freedman, the brothers formed the Wright Company. The Wright Company trained hundreds of early aviators at its flight schools, including Roy Brown, the Canadian pilot credited with shooting down Manfred von Richtofen — the “Red Baron”— during the First World War; and Hap Arnold, the commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces during the Second World War. Pilots with the company’s exhibition department thrilled crowds at events from Winnipeg to Boston, Corpus Christi to Colorado Springs. Cal Rodgers flew a Wright Company airplane in pursuit of the $50,000 Hearst Aviation Prize in 1911.

But all was not well in Dayton, a city that hummed with industry, producing cash registers, railroad cars, and many other products. The brothers found it hard to transition from running their own bicycle business to being corporate executives responsible for other people’s money. Their dogged pursuit of enforcement of their 1906 patent — especially against Glenn Curtiss and his company — helped hold back the development of the U.S. aviation industry. When Orville Wright sold the company in 1915, more than three years after his brother’s death, he was a comfortable man — but his company had built only 120 airplanes at its Dayton factory and Wright Company products were not in the U.S. arsenal as war continued in Europe.

Edward Roach provides a fascinating window into the legendary Wright Company, its place in Dayton, its management struggles, and its effects on early U.S. aviation.

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About the Author:

Edward J. Roach is a historian at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio.

Review:

“The book explores the one area of the career of the Wright brothers that remains least well known. It casts new light on the business career of the Wright brothers, and on the history of the Wright Company and the men who led it.... Taken as a whole, the book offers a concise and readable history of an important topic that has received all too little attention.”

Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator, Aeronautics, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, and author of The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright

This particular chapter in (the Wright’s) story hasn’t gotten as much press as their earlier, more daring exploits . This book reveals the inner workings of the Wright Company and shows how their creation was being transformed, adapted, and improved in a surging aviation industry that was just beginning to take off . (The Wright Company) contains fascinating bits of aviation history.” Dayton Daily News

As a specialist in the history of flight for over the past 30 years, I thought I had encountered everything there was to know about the Wright Brothers and their essential role in the birth and development of the airplane and the American aircraft industry. I was wrong. Edward J. Roach’s new book fills in many gaps in the story where none of us knew there even were gaps. This new study is a major contribution to aviation historiography.” James R. Hansen, New York Times bestselling author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

Roach’s chronicle of the birth, growth, and subsequent marginalization of the Wright Company adds a new and critical piece to the story of America's most famous sibling inventors. Recommended.”
Choice

A well-researched and fascinating look into an often forgotten chapter in aviation history . This detailed biographical, corporate, and industrial history is nicely illustrated with historical photos and advertisements.” Library Journal

“The Wrights were excellent self-taught engineers who achieved success through a process more akin to tinkering than systematic research and development. They were poor businessmen, however, as this fine discussion of their stint as ‘captains of industry’ illustrates.” —American Historical Review

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