Ohio Statehouse Goes to Mat for Wright Brothers' Legacy

click to enlarge Ohio Statehouse Goes to Mat for Wright Brothers' Legacy
John T. Daniels / U.S. Library of Congress
Statehouse leaders in Ohio — the birthplace of aviation, according to our license plates — are mounting a defense against Connecticut lawmakers who insist that it was one of their own who took the historical "first flight."

It's the latest hook in a fight that's been going on for decades.

A 2013 Connecticut law — and subsequent annual "Powered Flight Day" in that state — honors a man named Gustave Whitehead for flying in 1901, two years prior to Dayton residents Orville and Wilbur Wright's claim, according to the AP. ("The law provides no evidence that Gustave Whitehead ever designed, built, and flew a successful powered flying machine," Ohio lawmakers state.)

Note the passive-aggressive tone throughout the Ohio resolution, which passed out of committee this morning: "From time to time some individuals, publishers, and lawmakers revive the claim that Gustave Whitehead (1874-1927), a resident of Connecticut, made a sustained, powered flight in a heavier than air machine at Bridgeport on August 14, 1901, two years before the Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio, flew on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina..."

Ohio and North Carolina have stuck by the Wrights' place in history, with the latter going through this same legislative dance back in the '80s. The states assert that the publicized image of Whitehead's flight "reveals only indistinct shapes." 

Still, Susan Brinchman, "expert on Gustave Whitehead," authored a massive book this summer on "the fascinating truth about Whitehead's successful powered flights in Connecticut." (The book clocks in at 432 pages, and Brinchman has been "involved with Whitehead research since 1963.")

Read Brinchman's systematic deconstruction of a 2013 op-ed in the Post that decried the Connecticut law. 

Scene, for the record, in on Team Wright, of course. We demand the Statehouse approve HCR 8 in full at the first possible opportunity. 

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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