Orville Wright diary/1902

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Orville Wright diary by Orville Wright
1902
[The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright, Including the Chanute-Wright Letters]

August[edit]

  • August 25

Left Dayton at 9:00 a.m.

  • August 26

Arrived in Norfolk at 11 a.m. Left for Eliz. City at 4:00 p.m. Reached E. City at 5:45. Got freight aboard ship.

  • August 27

Started for Kitty Hawk at 3.45 a.m. on Capt. Midgett’s boat Lou Willis, in perfect calm. Floated downstream 10 miles during day. Anchored at 4:00 o’clock p.m. Slept on deck over night.

  • August 28

Sailed at 4:30 a.m. Reached Dosher’s Wharf at 4:00 p.m. Dan Tate took us to camp in spritsail boat.

  • August 29

Spent day in arranging kitchen and driving 16-ft. well. Building sank about two feet at each end. Took picture of interior of building at 10 a.m. ¾ sec., 11 stop.

Note.—Machine raised off ground and came bouncing over & over towards camp. Knocked prop from one end of door, and was stopped after going about 150 ft. and breaking one upper spar.
  • August 30

Set up bicycle. Fixed up table & upholstered seat. Will took trip to Kitty Hawk on bicycle, bring back can of oil with him. Left order for Cap. Midgett for groceries & sunds[1].

  • August 31

After dinner Will went over to Kill Devil Station. Will wrote letters to father & Kate.

September[edit]

  • September 1

Spent day raising building with assistance of Dan Tate. Sawed lumber for addition. Made up bed for 6 months.

  • September 2

Continued raising of house & sawing of lumber.

  • September 3

Did nothing in morning but measure height of Big Hill. Angle 10 ½º : 545 ft. = 99.32 ft. high. In the afternoon laid foundation & floor to addition to building. Dan Tate not present (wife sick); Tom brought milk, nails, etc., and mail.

  • September 4

Continued erection of addition to building. Erected frame, put on roof slates and siding. Work interfered with by rain.

  • September 5

Put on tar-paper roofing. O.W. sick. In bed most of day. Saw buzzard soar on north side of Big Hill, standing in one position.

  • September 6

Put on lath on new part of building. Moved kitchen to new part. Built “patent” beds under roof. Saw eagle sail out from top of Big Hill, rising higher & higher till it finally sailed away.

  • September 7

W.J. Tate came down at 10 a.m. and stayed for dinner. Will wrote letters to M.W. [2] & C.L. Wood, taking them to Kitty Hawk in the afternoon.

  • September 8

Cleaned out building preparatory to beginning work on new machine. Killed two mice, one with stick, the other with gun. Chased hungry razorbacks, and finally began work on machine at a little after 2 p.m. Worked till 5:30. Completed frame of upper surface ready for ribs.

  • September 9

Worked 8 hours each on machine. Fastened ribs to frame and put on cloth. Wind of 40 miles at 12 o'clock and during the night.

  • September 10

Worked about 5 ½ hours each, tacking and sewing on cloth. At 5 p.m. took surface out for test of efficiency

Surface complete except part of covering to rear spar.

  • September 11

Completed covering rear spar. Erected poles for testing angles at various velocities of wind. Tests not satisfactory.

Dan Tate spent day in lathing up cracks in building.

  • September 12

Worked eight hours each on machine. Put on ribs and cloth. Took out upper surface on Big Hill a little before noon. Find that much better results are obtained by walking with machine.

  • September 13

Finished lower surface at four p.m. Dan Tate came down in morning with gal coal oil and warning of a storm from S.W. We have decided to make a change in upper surface to straighten one end. Wind blowing about 30 miles per hour.

  • September 14

Very windy during night. House shook a great deal. Temperature much lower. Took trip to abandoned house at Hamans Bay. Saw a flock of small birds, probably gulls, flying eastward till they reached large hill, when they began to rise drifting off to S.W. with wind and going higher & higher turning all the time in small circle, till they finally faded from sight.

  • September 15

Worked 10 hours each on machines. Straightened end of upper surface. Took old machine apart, varnished uprights, and put them in new machine. Put in a part of the wires for the trussing. Two surfaces, with uprights, wires & hinges 87

  • September 16

At 8:30 saw buzzards soaring over sand hills. Conditions seemed to be such that they were not able to soar over plains but took to hills where they had considerable trouble in gaining altitudes of more than 50 to 75 feet above top of large hill. We watched them with a field glass at a distance of 1200 ft.

At 10:30 took machine out (only upper & lower surfaces) to take tests of efficiency.

Worked in afternoon on front rudder. Completed surface ready for attaching to frame.

  • September 17

Received White River Conference tracts in the morning. Began work on machine at 10:30 o’clock. Put in rest of day on front rudder.

  • September 18

Completed front rudder and end torsional gears, and began work on rear vertical tail.

  • September 19

Completed the rear vertical tail at 10:30. After dinner took machine to small hill, and after taking two pictures, flying it as kite, began gliding with assistance of Dan Tate. We made no entirely free flights. Made about 25 glides during afternoon.

We are convinced that the trouble with the 1901 machine is overcome by the vertical tail.

Received registered letter containing $25 from K.W.[3]

  • September 20

After making change in attachment for keeping rear tail in position (using wire to hold it at proper height) we took machine to large hill for experiments. [...] In the afternoon we continued the gliding, Will making one glide of 11 seconds covering a distance of a little over 200 ft.

We concluded our experiments for the day with making a free glide (Will on the machine) of 140 feet down the northeast slope of the small hill. Relative wind was estimated at 18 to 20 miles per hour. This estimate was based on a run I made downhill over course of glide with anemometer and watch, in which the anemometer recorded 69 meters and the watch 6 3/5 seconds. My speed probably greater than that attained by the machine at any time by 2 or 3 miles

  • September 21

Rained all day. Wind from ten to 15 meters per sec during day and more at night.

  • September 22

After altering truss wires so as to give an arch to the surfaces. We took the machine out ready for experiment. We had a steady wind of 11 to 12 meters. After waiting a while for Dan Tate to show up, which he failed to do at all during the day, we took the machine to the small hill where we flew it as a kite, with very satisfactory results.

The machine flew beautifully and at times, when the proper angle of incidence was attained, seemed to soar, although the angle of the hill was only a little over 6 ½º.

  • September 23

We put truss braces on this morning, and at 10:30 were ready for gliding, on the arrival of Dan Tate. We took the machine to the smallest hill, where we put in ¾ of an hour in practice. I made a number of short glides to learn the use of the new method of working the front rudder. Will made a number of glides in which he remained practically stationary in the air, without descending the hill nor losing his altitude from the ground for periods of four or five seconds After dinner we took the machine out again (having housed it on account of threatening rain) and began gliding on the N.N.W. slope of the big Kill Devil Hill, where the slope at its greatest was 9 ½º. I here took my first free flight, and after about a half dozen attempts made a glide of 160 feet, with a total angle of decent of 6º57’.

Soon after, Will began use of the end controls, and we found that with the changes we made yesterday they worked perfectly, or would when we have learned to manipulate them properly. Will made a number of glides in which he descended from almost a standstill in the air with one end down, however landing, with no damage to the machine, on one wing.

I now became thoroughly convinced that the trouble in the fore-and-aft control was a result of one wing getting higher than the other, or in the relative wind being at an angle to one side of the longitudinal axis of the machine. Will maintained that the trouble was just the reverse, and that the lateral tipping of the machine was the result of the loss of forward motion with the wind blowing across the wings from one side. Will soon became expert enough in the manipulation of the wing ends that he could make a glide of over 200 feet and keep the ends practically level, though through an excessive twist of the wing tips he caused the machine to sway from side to side, sidling one way and then the other a half dozen times in the distance of the glide. On my third or fourth glide with the end control loose so that it could be used, I was sailing along smoothly without any trouble at all from the fore-and-aft control, when I noticed that one wing was getting a little too high and that the machine was slowly sidling off in the opposite direction.

I thought I must have worked the twisting apparatus the wrong way. Thinking of nothing else than the end control, after assuring myself as to what was the proper motion, I threw the wing tips to their greatest angle. By this time I found suddenly that I was making a descent backwards toward the low wing, from a height of 25 or thirty feet, which fact I had not noticed at all while occupied in the manipulation of the wing ends, but which had been witnessed by Will and Dan with alarm for several seconds before. The result was a heap of flying machine, cloth, and sticks in a heap, with me in the center without a bruise or a scratch. The experiments thereupon suddenly came to a close till repairs can be made. In spite of this sad catastrophe we are tonight in a hilarious mood as a result of the encouraging performance of the machine both in control and angles of flight, which we are convinced will be at least 3º better than any machine ever tried before. We have come to the conclusion, now, that the cause of the sudden rise of the front of the machine is a result of the wind striking on the under side of the front rudder when the relative wind is from one side.

Wind velocity in morning was 12 meters on top of Small Hill, 11 meters on level. In afternoon 11 meters well up big hill and from 8 to 10 lower down. A few mosquitoes to-night.


  • September 24

Spent the day in making repairs to the machine. We took the cloth off of last section of both upper and lower surfaces, splice the broken spars and ribs, and are ready for tacking on cloth again. The Lou Willis came in today with provisions and Mr. Chanute’s multiple-wing machine which Will and Dan Tate carried from the Sound to camp.

The day was very warm, especially as we had no wind, the anemometer often registering less than one meter per second. The mosquitoes became a little troublesome in evening, and we built a fire and smoked them out.

  • September 25

We passed the night without any trouble from mosquitoes. The wind has changed to southeast, and blows about 9 meters per second. We finished repairs to upper & lower surfaces and have begun work on new skids to prevent machine from digging into sand in landing. They will probably add five to six pounds to weight of machine which already weighs 112 lbs.

  • September 26

Will continued repairs on machine, completing them this evening. The machine is now ready for use at first favorable weather. I put in a part of the day in constructing a “death trap” for a poor mouse that has been annoying us by prowling about our kitchen shelves at nights. We are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of the “victim.” 8 p.m. We go to bed.

Day opened with rain, but sky cleared before noon and the rest of the day has been fine excepting for a lack of breeze. The ground is now mostly covered for a mile on all sides with ponds. The mosquitoes have been very thick out on the hill and in the grass, but few have bothered us in camp.

  • September 27

At 11 o'clock last night I was awakened by the mouse crawling over my face. Will had advised me that I had better get something to cover my head, or I would have it “chawed” off like Guillaume Mona had by the bear. I found on getting up that the little fellow had only come to tell me to put another piece of corn bread in the trap. He had disposed of the first piece. I have sworn “vengeance” on the little fellow for his impudence and insult.

The weather has been very changeable today, the wind swinging the whole 360º a time or two. However for the greater part of the day it was from the south and east, or southeast. We did not take machine out on hills till afternoon, and then with no satisfaction as the lightness of the breeze and the unfavorable direction of the wind made starting very difficult and landing dangerous to machine

  • September 28

We went to bed at 7:30 last night and got up at 8:15 this morning. We had no trouble from the mosquitoes.

The wind has been light today, blowing from the west and southwest most of the time. We went out before dinner on a tour of inspection of hills, measuring many of the slopes of the large and small Kill Devil Hills. We had a number of good opportunities for watching the buzzards soaring on the Big and Little Hills. We cannot see that they are able to glide or soar on less than 8º. We watched them many times gliding down the west slope of the large hill, and whenever they maintained their altitude above the ground slope of hill they always seemed to lose speed, and were compelled to begin flapping. After much flapping and after gaining an altitude of about 200 feet they had no more trouble in soaring.

Saw two bald eagles fly over beach fighting.

  • September 29

Received letter from KW. announcing that Lorin would probably come down to visit us. Attached springs to our end-twisting mechanism. Took machine N. side of Big Hill in a wind of 7 meters per second, which soon decreased till we had almost perfect calm.

After dinner we continued our gliding on west slope of the large hill but were compelled to keep moving more and more to the south by the change of the wind.

The wind died out and compelled us to quit for the day.

We sent telegram to Capt. Midgett to inquire for L.W. [4] at the hotels.

  • September 30

Took the machine at 10:30 to the Big Hill, and were just about ready to begin experiments when saw two heavily laden persons making across the sand from the sound for camp. We supposed at once it must be Spratt, but found to our surprise on reaching camp L.W. who had started Saturday night instead of Monday morning as we had expected. We went back to hill again.

The wind during most of these glides was blowing about 8 or 9 meters per second, but was drifting more and more to the south until we were compelled to leave the large hill, having no favorable slope. After inspecting the other two hills, we went to camp. We spent rest of day in building bed for L.W. We shot at mark with result that W.W. beat me with a record of 5 ¾ inches total from center to my 5 ⅞”. L.W. 7 ¾”.

October[edit]

  • October 1

We made the following glides on the west slope of the Big Hill.[5]

The wind during these glides was blowing from four to seven meters per second.

Spratt arrived in the afternoon, coming down on the Lou Willis. L.W. spent afternoon in fishing. Caught one “robin” and an eel.

  • October 2

Stayed up till 10 o’clock discussing “tangential” with Spratt.

  • October 3

Lorin and Spratt went fishing, spending the whole morning in catching enough crabs for bait for a short time’s fishing in the afternoon. They returned about 4 o’clock p.m. with an eel, and a few small chubs and robins, and a good deal of sunburn.

The wind was very low, and after making a number of glides we were compelled to quit. No record was kept of the morning glides and only a few of those of the afternoon.

While lying awake last night, I studied out a new vertical rudder.

  • October 4

The day opened with so little wind that we were unable to determine its direction, and the wind vane would stand in any direction. We did nothing in morning but sit about building. At noon Dan Tate brought telegram from Chanute announcing that he would try to get boat from Elizabeth City. In afternoon we began making new vertical rudder, one that is operated at same time as end tips.

We made it with only one surface five feet by 14”, which we think will be sufficient. Provisions are very low. We have neither butter nor bacon, and the canned goods are at a low ebb.

  • October 5

The day opened cloudy, and a rain set in about 10 o’clock which continued for the rest of the day and most of the night. Mr. Chanute & Herring arrived at 12 o’clock in the rain, coming over from Manteo by spritsail boat. The rest of the day was spent in discussions of various subjects, flying especially. Will and Mr. Herring went to Baum’s south of camp about a mile & a half on the Sound, for blankets which had been left there in the morning. They were caught just before reaching camp in a heavy downpour and were soaked to the skin. Were up till ten o’clock chatting and arguing on points that came up in conversation.

  • October 6

Will took order for groceries and sundry articles, also order for the delivery of the Lamson machine to Capt. Midgett, to Kitty Hawk after breakfast. He returned at ten o’clock with a large mess of bluefish and spots which the men at the Kitty Hawk life saving station had given him. We completed the change in the vertic. Tail, which we have reduced to one surface of 6 ft. area, and which is now operated in conjunction with the wing tips, turning toward the wing with the smaller angle of incidence so as to give it more resistance, and thus allow the wing with the larger angle, to rise more quickly. Mr. Herring put in the day setting the multiple-wing machine together, and in the evening took it to the large hill to attempt a few glides to ascertain its center of pressure. On the second glide down a hill with an inclination of about 12 ½º with an estimated velocity of 16 or 18 miles over the ground and a wind of five meters per second, after leaving the ground he alighted about 20 feet distant on then right wing and broke the main cross-span to the lower surface. We took the machine to camp where the wing was repaired temporarily in a few minutes. We erected the fifth cot “upstairs” and arranged camp so that the machine could be more easily stored. Mr. Herring makes predictions as to the relative lifts of the two machines, both with and without operator. With operator, Wright 18 miles, Chanute mult. wing 24 miles. Wright machine alone 10 miles, Chanute 7 miles.

The multiple wing machine contains 150 feet of surface beside the horizontal & vertical tails. The smart little mouse was found dead under trunk.

  • October 7

Wind from east most of the day, with a velocity at times of 4 to 5 meters, but most of the time much less. Mr. Herring spent day in taking observations in center of pressure and ratio of lift to drift on several surfaces on Mr. Spratt’s testing machine. Lorin & Spratt went drum fishing in afternoon. Spratt hooked a small mullet and Lorin caught a bluefish weighing over a pound. Lorin found a small pike on beach which with other small fish had been driven ashore.

  • October 8

The wind blew all day from the north and northeast, reaching 9 meters per second about 10 o’clock, and then gradually dying during the rest of the day. We took both our own and the mult.-wing machines to the north slope of the large hill, where Mr. Herring attempted to glide on a slope of 13º but could not get sufficient speed to sustain and glide on that angle. We then began gliding, with Messrs. Chanute, Spratt, and Herring taking records. In the afternoon we sent Dan and Lorin to Kitty Hawk to get our provisions and the Lamson machine which had just come in on the Lou Willis. In the evening Mr. Herring attempted to figure the relative number of pounds per horsepower sustained by our machine.

  • October 9

Wind about 3 to 4 meters from west. We attempted but two glides, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Settled with Mr. Chanute on expressage on his machines.

  • October 10

The day opened with a calm, which was followed about 7 o’clock with a northeast wind that grew stronger & stronger as the day advanced. We took the machine to the Little Hill where we spent some time in practice, after which, we went to a steep slope of the Big Hill, where Lorin took pictures of Will gliding. In two of these glides he came to a stop high in the air, turned with one wing up, and landed with the wind blowing directly from the side of the machine. We went to the small hill again, and then to the second hill, where I spent most of the afternoon in practice on the end control, caused the machine to bounce a great deal by turning the front rudder too far. Will had no trouble in the control of the machine and made a difficult glide from the top of the second hill over a course of about 280 feet, in which the wind came at great angles from one side and then the other.

Mr. Herring took the mult.-wing machine to the large hill in the morning where he made several unsuccessful attempts to glide on a slope of about 15º and with a wind of nearly nine meters per second.

  • October 11

On account of rain which continued for the greater part of the day, we kept indoors until about four in the afternoon when we took out the mult.-wing in a wind ranging from 12 to 20 meters per second to fly it as a kite with a man on. We could not get sufficient lift, even when running with the machine, and so we finally gave up. We found the reversal of the cent. Of pressure to be very decided, so that the man in control had great difficulty in managing it.

After dinner we took the Lamson machine out of the crates and took a look at it. Mr Herring has decided that it is useless to make further experiments with the mult.-wing. I think that a great deal of the trouble with it came from its structural weakness, as I noticed that in winds which were not even strong enough for support, the surfaces were badly distorted, twisting so that, while the wind at one end was on the underside, often at the other extreme it was on top. Mr. Chanute seems much disappointed in the way it works.

The wind cut several feet off the tope of the Big Hill, and is filling up, or blowing away, the ponds about camp. Wind 60 miles per hour or 2 minutes, accord. to Weather Bureau.

  • October 12

We had a high wind during the night, which changed from the south to northeast. Anemometer registered as high as 28 ½ meters per second on top of Big Hill, and 16 to 20 meters about camp. In the afternoon we went over to the Kill Devil Station, and while there saw a fish hawk catch a fish, carry it about a quarter mile inland, when it suddenly turned about and flew out over the water again. This particular maneuver aroused our curiosity. Suddenly a flash out of the sky explained all. A bald eagle made a swoop on the hawk, which evidently had long before perceived the eagle, and attempted to get the fish. The fish was finally dropped by the hawk into the water.

  • October 13

Lorin left for home on the Lou Willis. Will went to the boat with him, and during his absence, Herring, Spratt, and I set up the Lamson machine. In the afternoon we took it to the small hill for trial. The wind was quite steady at about 9 meters, I took one picture of the machine flying as a kite, and one with Mr. Herring gliding—the longest glide he has made so far—probably 50 feet. These flights were only partly free.

  • October 14

We were all awakened about 2 o’clock in the morning by an announcement by Mr. Herring that the chicken had been stolen by a fox. As he had not always proved a true prophet in his previous predictions that it would be stolen in the night, we took little stock in the announcement. Daylight revealed the chicken safe and sound. After breakfast we took the Lamson machine out in front of the building ready for gliding, but Mr. Herring soon decided to take it inside again to take its weight and ascertain its center of lift. Its center of lift proved to be about 19 inches back of the front edge of the middle surface at its center. The weight was 40 lbs. Messrs. Chanute and Herring left in the afternoon for Manteo, with Dan Tate, in Tillett’s boat. This leaves only three in camp, Dr. Spratt, Will, and myself.

  • October 15

We went to bed last night at 7:30. About half past ten we were awakened by the swaying of the building, and found a storm raging from the north. A large bottle lying at the north end of the building began to whistle, and kept it up for the rest of the night, though I made the attempt to find it. The Weather Bureau anemometer registered 50 miles per hour. We found it exceedingly cold before morning, abut what we could call a five-blanket night, and as we only had four we were compelled to suffer some. The Lou Willis came in early and Dan brought the groceries down with him. By the time of his arrival the wind had died until after several attempts at gliding we gave it up till after dinner. After dinner found the wind weaker still so that after two flights from the top of the Big Hill we brought the machine back to camp. I made a “nigger shooter” and am anxiously awaiting the appearance of a pig.

  • October 16

Wind very light all day. In afternoon we attempted a few glides on the east slope of Big Hill, but without success. Bill Tate called and ate dinner with us. Towards evening we went over to the old Haman house, where we heard a great variety of birds in the trees and swamps but could see but few of them. In morning I found live star fish on the beach, which I killed with gasoline.

  • October 17

The wind shifted to N.E. early in the morning. We took measure of Big Hill which we found to be 100 ft. 8 inches high. The storms of the past week have blown 5 or 6 ft. off, but it is now higher than when we arrived. On Dan’s arrival we carried the machine to the ridge of hills south of the Big Hill where we found a pretty good slope for gliding in east winds.

After dinner in a very light wind Will made five or six glides off of the east slope of the Big Hill for the purpose of obtaining pictures. Dan and I did the starting and Spratt operated the camera. We went to the seashore in the evening, and gathered a “quantity of shells and starfishes for the children.” We are going to use the gasoline burner tonight, as we did last night, to keep thing a little warmer. All found it very comfortable last night.

  • October 24

Tried new end control. Steamer came in to watch exper. Glides about 200 ft. on West Hill.


  1. sundries
  2. Milton Wright
  3. Katharine Wright
  4. Lorin Wright
  5. Here, he included 24 glides