Katharine, the Wright Sister of Wilbur and Orville

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
I never heard of Katharine Wright, and her involvement in the "Flying Machine".

"Katharine Wright was born at the Wright home at 7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio on August 19, 1874 -- her brother Orville's third birthday".

"She was the youngest of the offspring of Milton and Susan Wright, and the only girl to survive. (Her only sister Ida died in infancy.) Like all the Wright children, she had no middle name -- her father claimed that he gave his offspring distinctive first names so they wouldn't need middle names".

"This may be the reason for the unusual spelling of her name. Her brothers called her by the nickname "Swes," an affectionate German diminutive for "little sister." Most of her friends called her "Kate."


Katharine's portrait upon graduating from Oberlin in 1898.



Katharine ready to take off with Wilbur in Pau. Orville is on the left. Note the string around Katharine's skirt.



Katharine christens a flying boat, the Wilbur Wright, in 1922. The aircraft had been designed by Grover Loening, an engineer that once worked for the Wright Company.
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS PLUS ONE; THE INFLUENCE OF THEIR SISTER

"Two years earlier in 1901, the prospect of success had not seemed so sure. After Wilbur and Orville’s glider experiments at Kitty Hawk, they returned thoroughly discouraged. Their glider didn’t fly as their calculations on wing lift had predicted. A frustrated Wilbur proclaimed, “Man won’t be flying for a thousand years.”


"Shortly after returning home to Dayton, Wilbur received a letter from Octave Chanute, the President of the Western Engineering Society, inviting him to speak at their upcoming meeting of the society. Wilbur knew Chanute and had had previous discussions with him about the problems of flight".



Speech Leads to Further Research


"A discouraged Wilbur intended to refuse the invitation after the poor results at Kitty Hawk. But Katharine intervened and talked him into accepting the invitation. She thought it was a great opportunity to expose the relatively unknown Wilbur to the aeronautical community. She even helped Wilbur prepare for the speech".


She made sure that Wilbur’s appearance would make a good impression. She substituted Wilbur’s baggy suit with one of Orville’s. Orville, unlike Wilbur, had a reputation as a sharp dresser.


"The speech was well received and served to bring Wilbur out of his funk. Re energized, Wilbur and Orville decided to find out why the glider didn’t behave as predicted by published engineering data. This led them to design and build a wind tunnel in which they tested some 200 wing configurations. Their test results enabled them to correctly calculate lift and drag, leading to the design of an efficient wing. All of this was made possible because of Katharine’s intervention.

The brothers were by nature, shy, quiet and reserved. They didn’t like crowds. She told them how to behave and what they should wear. Unlike her brothers, Katharine was not only outgoing, but also poised and charming. King Alfonso pronounced her the “ideal American.” Crowds in Paris followed her everywhere she went while shopping in Paris and she became famous for her stylish hats with long plumes. She even flew twice as a passenger with Wilbur, wearing a fancy dress, the second time in front of King Edward. In so doing, she became one of the first women to fly in an airplane".
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
"Katharine Wright, born three years to the day after Orville, was essentially the only female figure in Orville and Wilbur’s adult lives. Orville constantly exchanged letters and telegrams with Katharine whenever he left to spend time at Kitty Hawk. They were confidants".


"Their mother died when they were teenagers, leaving Katharine as the “woman of the house,” McCullough said. The two oldest Wright brothers — Reuchlin and Lorin — had already departed the nest, and their father frequently traveled for religious missions.


However, the extra responsibilities didn’t impede her intellectual pursuits, which were on par with Wilbur’s and Orville’s, McCullough said".


“She was very bright, about 5’1 in height, and the only one of the family who had a degree from college,” McCullough said. “She had a terrific sense of humor and was more sociable than the brothers.”


"And her social skills came in handy when the family became world famous. She was very savvy at talking to the press and navigating the family’s fame. “The brothers had no interest in the limelight,” McCullough said".


"Neither brother was interested in marriage. Orville responded to questions on the topic by saying that Wilbur should marry first as the older brother. Whereas Wilbur famously told reporters that he didn’t have time for both a wife and an airplane".


"Orville cared so much for his sister Katharine that when she did marry at the age of 52, he was inconsolable. He refused to attend the wedding and didn’t speak to her for two years. It wasn’t until she became fatally ill with pneumonia that he finally visited, right before her death in spring 1929".
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
Q&A with David McCullough (Video)
David McCullough talked about his book The Wright Brothers, in which he talks about the personal stories of Wilbur and Orville Wright, the roles their family played, and the time period in which they lived. Mr. McCullough also spoke about his own experiences as he researched and wrote the book.
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
The Wright Brothers: The Invention of the Aerial Age




1912: Wilbur Dies of Typhoid

"After the brothers formed the Wright Company and began manufacturing airplanes for sale in 1910, Wilbur became preoccupied with tending to the many patent infringement suits the Wrights filed. It was as much a matter of principle as money".

"The Wrights believed their invention was uniquely their own and revolutionary, and that they should be duly credited and compensated for their contribution to the world".

"Tired and stressed from the burden of litigation, Wilbur contracted typhoid fever in April 1912. He succumbed on May 30. He was only 45 years old".

“A short life, full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadily, he lived and died.” – From Bishop Milton Wright’s diary, May 30, 1912


1948 – Orville Dies of a Heart Attack
"Orville lived his later life as the elder statesman of aviation and folk hero".
"Orville sold his interest in the Wright Company in 1915 and settled into the role of aviation elder statesman and national folk hero. He spent much of the remaining 33 years of his life upholding the reputation he and Wilbur had earned".

"In 1916 Orville finally gave up the lease on the modest bicycle shop in which he and Wilbur did their pioneering aeronautical work and moved into a new laboratory he had built nearby".

"He served on many government aeronautical boards and commissions and was a consultant with several private aircraft companies. He received 11 honorary degrees from universities in Europe and the United States, as well as dozens of medals and awards".

"Orville suffered his second heart attack in four months on January 27, 1948, and died three days later at the age of 76".

 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
Katherine Wright Haskell: The First Lady of Flight LINK 🛩

Karen Schaefer- "No one will ever forget the Wright brothers' historic first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. But history seems to have almost forgotten the third member of the team--Katharine Wright Haskell".









Joan Hrubec- "I've had people come up to this exhibit. It's got the name onthere. It's got her brothers all over the place and they'll say, who was Katharine Wright? And of course then we'll say, well, the Wright brothers had a sister".
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
Katharine Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s younger sister, loved to read.
Here is a quotation from Katharine about books:

"It does my heart good to get hold of a book that doesn’t “hit you between the eyes” or “grip you” or do anything but let you drift along with it, in company with pleasant thoughts and a new idea or two".

Katharine wrote these lines in a letter to her future husband Harry Haskell, about 1924.


Katharine Wright reading on porch of Hawthorn Hill home in Oakwood, 1920
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
New book explores life of Katharine Wright (2016)

"He’s also the step-grandson of Katharine Wright. Who is, of course, the sister of the renowned Wright brothers. (This makes him their step-grandnephew.) Anyway, more importantly to Haskell’s latest work — a recounting of Katharine Wright’s personal life — Haskell is also the grandson of the Star’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Henry J. Haskell".

 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
"Ardent suffragist Katharine Wright was one of the key organizers of the suffrage parade in Dayton on October 24, 1914, in support of the amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot. Her father, Bishop Milton Wright, and brother, Orville, proudly marched beside her".......

".....But the measure failed once again. It would be nearly five more years — June 16, 1919 — before Ohio became the sixth state to ratify the 19th amendment by a General Assembly vote of 74 to 5".
 

Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
Katharine Wright — aviation’s unsung heroine

"Katharine Wright — Kate or Katie, to her friends — was the bright, lively, and strong-willed sister of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. As vivacious as her brothers were shy, her dedication to them was an essential factor in their triumphs".

"Over the years Katharine Wright deftly managed their affairs and championed their legacy — all the while effortlessly charming those around her. ".



"Katharine had risen to prominence while in France in 1909, where she emerged as an important figure in the story of early aviation. Orville and Wilbur were there to demonstrate their planes and garner support, and while the people of France were dazzled by their exhibitions, they were less impressed by the brothers themselves".

"Oberlin Alumni Magazine reported that they were ‘not the kind of guys you would want to invite to dinner. You could picture them coming over [...] and not saying a word".’

"Katharine, though, made a much more positive impression on the European public. The only Wright to speak French, she dominated the social scene with her Midwestern charm and candour, landing invitations to exclusive dinners (including the Aéro-Club de France, where she was reportedly the first woman ever in attendance). The French would award all three Wrights the Legion of Honour". (Read More)
 
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Meanderer

Senior Member
Location
PA, USA
The Wright Stuff: The Day Orville Wright Visited GE Aviation’s Future Headquarters

In the summer of 2019, "employees at GE Aviation gathered for a festive celebration outside the GE unit’s global headquarters in Evendale, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. The star of the party was a massive jet engine — its front fan alone spans more than 11 feet in diameter — that GE developed for Boeing’s next-generation 777X widebody jet".

"On June 12, 1941, 900 miles from Lynn, a diminutive man with white hair and a white mustache drove alone from his mansion near downtown Dayton to the massive Wright Aeronautical piston engine factory about an hour away, near Cincinnati. He came to witness the new complex’s grand opening. Known then as the Lockland Plant, it was one of the country’s largest and most modern defense factories, even though the United States was still months away from joining the Allied war effort".


Orville Wright

"Looking sporty in his suit and Panama hat, the elderly gentleman arrived early at the badging area, where he quickly made the rounds, shaking hands and chatting with Wright Aeronautical executives and local dignitaries clearly thrilled to meet him. With good reason: His name was on the company they had assembled to honor". (Read More)
 

Kaila

SF VIP
Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for posting , @Meanderer

The article you linked, continued to be riveting, informative, and moving...historical , yet personal.
Great writing and excellent content.
 

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