Orville and Wilbur Wright's fascination with flight started in Dayton, Ohio in the most unlikely of ways, with a toy. Orville and Wilbur Wright were fascinated by a gift their father gave them in 1878. It was a toy that was powered by a rubber band and could fly. From that point forward, they were obsessed. The nation was equally obsessed. Newspapers were filled with stories about flying machines, but all these contraptions lacked one very important feature: controls for the pilot. Though they had no formal engineering training, the Wrights believed they could solve the problem of controlled flight. To fund their experiments, the brothers went into business in Dayton Ohio, first with a print shop, and later with a cycling store. The Wright Cycle Company began as a sales and repair shop, but the Wright brothers soon began to build their own bicycles. In 1899, Wilbur devised a simple system that would allow the pilot to control the wings in order to turn right or left. They tested this system on kites, and later, a series of gliders. For two years, the brothers struggled to design a glider with enough lift and control for sustained flight. By 1902, they finally had it. The glider was put to the test at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a place that had two very important conditions: one, strong winds for the lift, and two, soft sands for the potential crash landing. Laying flat on his stomach on the lower wing, Orville controlled the flight by shifting a cradle that was attached to his hips. Though the flight lasted just one minute, it made history. Within two years, the Wrights had improved their invention dramatically, building a machine capable of flying for half an hour. They tirelessly pitched their product to the United States Government and abroad. They had no takers. In 1908, the Wright brothers staged two public flight demonstrations in New York and in Paris. Spectators were amazed and they became instant celebrities, but there was one problem. Once their airplanes were on display, they were easy to copy, and for the rest of their lives both brothers were mired in lawsuits over the patent rights to their invention. Dispirited and exhausted, Wilbur contracted typhoid and died on May 30, 1912. Four years later, Orville sold their company, but the brothers will always be remembered as first in flight.
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