It was late December when two brothers had to finish their experimenting. The bike mechanics had to focus on producing the bicycles for next season. They had built a wooden box 6 feet long and 16 inches square with one open end and attached a fan on the other end. The box served as a wind tunnel to test wing surfaces for their dream to fly. That same month, the chief engineer of the United States Navy, Rear Admiral George Melville denounced the dream of flight as a shame in the respected North American Review. He was among many scientific authorities who believed this¹.
In the new book titled “The Wright Brothers”, historian David McCullough offers insight into the lives of Wilbur and Orville. The brothers owned the bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio that was just a few blocks from their lifelong home at 7 Hawthorn. Their shop had a bike showroom in front and a machine shop in back. They did their experiments using a generator as they didn’t have electricity.
Wilbur and Orville’s dream was to make human flight possible. In May of 1899, Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute asking for any information they had on human flight.
“I am about to begin a systematic study of the subject in preparation for practical work to which I expect to devote what time I can spare from my regular business. … I am an enthusiast, but not a crank in the sense that I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine.³”
We are inspired by successful pursuits like the Wright brothers, yet we often overlook the balance that was required. The Wright brothers were hard working bike mechanics. They had to refocus on their bicycle business after putting in jeopardy during their first trip to Kitty Hawk, NC. Their sister Katharine had to fire the man they left in charge. Their Sundays were a day off to spend time with neighbors, family or reading. They each were able to find the balance with their dream, their families, relationships, earning an income, passions and their numerous curiosities.
Once the brothers began demonstrating early success, a famous engineer and developer asks if they would accept funding from Andrew Carnegie to dedicate their lives full-time to advancing aviation. Wilbur responded with, “we do not wish to increase the temptation to neglect our regular business for it”².
While the brothers flying pursuit was clearly their life’s passion, they invented the first airplane with the modest proceeds from the bicycle business. After successfully demonstrating their airplane invention in December of 1903, their total investment at that point was about $1,000³. The total cost included building multiple versions and the several round trips from Dayton to Kitty Hawk. They didn’t need any outside investments, loans or government funding.
Our effectiveness and efficiency in the rest of our lives can be as important as the dream pursuit itself. Finding the balance could help you make almost anything happen.
¹The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, 2015, Simon & Shuster, p70,
²The Wright Brothers, p70,
³The Wright Brothers, p108