Thursday, May 15, 2008

Photos of history

Most Americans (and especially North Carolinians and Ohioans) recognize the photo from December 17, 1903 of the Wright brothers' "plane" gliding a few feet above the ground with Orville Wright lying down on the flyer and Wilbur on the ground nearby.

"That picture has struck awe and inspiration in generations of aviation enthusiasts ever since," writes News 14 Carolina's Heather Moore.

According to Moore, Outer Banks lifesaver John T. Daniels took a now famous picture of the first flight on December 17, 1903.

This week is the 100th anniversary of when most of the world first saw proof of flight from Kitty Hawk. It was, after all, five years after the first flight, but up until May of 1908, there hadn't been any published pictures of flight.

Most North Carolinians know the story of the Wright brothers. While the Daniels picture was the first taken of successful flight, it was not the first picture that went public. The world didn’t get a chance to see aviation in action until several reporters and photographers secretly saw a later flight, in May of 1908.

“As far as the world is concerned, the 1908 flights were much more important than the 1903 flights,” said Larry Tise, Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University. “Until 1908 nobody had seen the Wright brothers fly and suddenly in May of 1908 at Kitty Hawk, they were viewed by seven reporters who got the story, got a photograph, and sent it out across the world.”

The 1908 Wright flyer was also different from the 1903 machine.

“In the 08 flight, they weren't lying down, they were sitting up,” explained Tise. “In the 08 flight they controlled the plane basically with a stick which would become the way planes were controlled. Also in 1908 for the first time, they carried a passenger. On May 14, 1908 was the Wright brothers’ first passenger flight.”The Charlotte Observer was the first newspaper to publish a story about the Wright brothers flying. However, when newspapers allacross the world published the first pictures of flight, the Wright brothers became instant international celebrities.

Those first public pictures were later lost, until recently.

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