Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in

The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.

Although it had been the dream of mankind through the ages to soar effortlessly through the air, people gave little notice to the first engine-powered, heavier-than-air flights made by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903. Aviation would soon change history, but its advent was played small on The Post's front page of Dec. 19, 1903. An excerpt:

Norfolk, Va., Dec. 18 --

It is reported here that a successful trial of a flying machine was made yesterday near Kitty Hawk, N.C., by Wilbur and Orville Wright, of Dayton, Ohio. It is stated that the machine flew for three miles in the face of a wind blowing at the registered velocity of twenty-one miles an hour, and then gracefully descended to earth at the spot selected by the man in the navigator's car as a suitable landing place. The machine has no balloon attachment, but gets its force from propellers worked by a small engine.

Preparatory to its flight the machine was placed upon a platform near Kitty Hawk. This platform was built on a high sand hill, and when all was in readiness the fastenings to the machine were released, and it started down an incline.

The navigator, Wilbur Wright, then started a small gasoline engine, which worked the propellers. When the end of the incline was reached the machine gradually arose until it obtained an altitude of sixty feet. In the face of the strong wind blowing it maintained, it is said, an even speed of eight miles an hour.

The idea of the box kite has been adhered to in the basic formation of the flying machine. A huge framework of light timbers, 33 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 5 feet cross the top, forms the machine proper. This is covered with a tough, but light canvas. In the center, and suspended just below the bottom, is the small gasoline engine, which furnishes the motive power for the propelling and elevating wheels. There are two six-bladed propellers, one arranged just below the center of the frame, and so gauged as to exert an upward force when in motion, and the other extended horizontally to the rear from the center of the car, furnishing the forward impetus.

Protruding from the center of the car is a huge fan-shaped rudder of canvas, stretched upon a frame of wood. This rudder is controlled by the navigator, and may be moved to either side, raised or lowered.

No test of the flying machine was made to-day. The Wright brothers will leave to-morrow for Dayton to spend the holidays, and will return to Kitty Hawk after New Year's to perfect their invention.

T

his series is in a book that can be purchased online at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/2000/collectors.htm or by

calling 1-888-819-8879