National Geographic : 1953 Dec
740 Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903: Man's Dream of Flight Comes True Ice coated the rain pools and a bitter wind whipped the sand dune of Kill Devil Hill. Two brothers-bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio-tinkered with a frail contraption of wood, muslin, and wire. Presently they placed their device, a double-winged aircraft with a gasoline engine, on an iron-shod rail. Orville Wright lay down in the machine, grasping a lever. The motor coughed, then roared; two propellers turned. The Flyer moved slowly into the wind. Wilbur Wright ran alongside, steadying one wing until the craft rose into the air. For 12 momentous seconds the machine stayed aloft. It was man's first successful powered flight in a craft heavier than air. Before noon on that fateful December day 50 years ago, the contraption flew three times again, once carrying its pilot for 59 seconds and 852 feet. The Wright brothers, after four years of painstaking experiment, had solved the riddle of flight, learning a secret man had coveted since he first watched the birds. Seldom has such an auspicious event gone so unheralded. The Wrights seemed unmoved by their epochal achievement. Having flown gliders hundreds of times, they were completely confident of success. Five bystanders hardly understood the drama of the occasion. Most newspapers refused to carry the story; later they picked up an exaggerated and inaccurate account. It was years before the American public realized that a new dimension had been added to travel and gave to the Wrights the credit due them (page 742). Some years before he died, Orville Wright presented this photograph of his history-making flight to Luis Marden of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC staff. Wilbur runs beside the lifting airplane. > Wilbur, having won a coin toss, attempted a flight December 14, three days before Orville's triumph. He missed his chance to become the first flyer when the plane stalled and nosed into the sand. Ripples on this photo graph were caused by the Dayton flood of 1913, which damaged many of the Wright negatives.