Skip to main content

Collection Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress

Kitty Hawk

Letter from J. J. Dosher, Weather Bureau, to Wilbur Wright, August 16, 1900

Having already corresponded with Octave Chanute, Wilbur and Orville realized the importance of a safe, sandy, test site and steady winds to their gliding plans. Chanute suggested several appropriate locations, from California to the southeast coast, and Wilbur used U.S. Weather Bureau tables to compare the average wind velocities of these sites. He spotted a likely location, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and wrote to its weather bureau. The only employee in that office, J. J. Dosher, wrote back and told Wilbur what he was hoping to hear: the area had a wide beach clear of trees and prevailing north, northeast winds in September and October. The local postmaster, William Tate, also wrote Wilbur and gave him more information confirming Kitty Hawk as the right place to experiment with flying machines.

Letter, Wilbur Wright to Milton Wright, September 23, 1900

Less than two weeks after Wilbur made his lone journey to Kitty Hawk, he wrote his father, telling him about his situation and plans. After assuring Bishop Wright that he was safe and comfortable, Wilbur described Kitty Hawk and told of daily life at this extremely remote place. He sought to reassure his father that he was acting responsibly and knew what he was doing: his machine was a motorless glider and no danger was involved since he did not expect to rise but a few feet above the soft sand. Always modest, Wilbur told his father that he had not taken up the problem of flight "with the expectation of financial profit," and that, even if he learned nothing, his trip would still be a success, for his health would improve. Five days later, Orville arrived at Kitty Hawk with additional supplies.

Letter, Orville Wright to Katharine Wright, September 29, 1902

In this chatty eight-page letter to his sister, Katharine, Orville writes of conditions at Kitty Hawk at the beginning of the brothers' third season there. Addressed to "Sterchens," an affectionate shortening of Schwesterchen, the German word for "little sister," the letter humorously tells of the brothers' four primary occupations in Kitty Hawk: "eating, sleeping, chasing pigs and mice, and gliding now and then when the weather is favorable and the machine is not in the repair shop." While Orville brags about his gliding accomplishments and calls their new 1902 glider a great improvement over last year's machine, he writes mostly about their camp adventures--smoking mosquitoes out of their living quarters, chasing wild pigs with tent pegs, polishing up his French, and spending a great deal of time matching wits with a bold little mouse who refuses to be caught. He closes by asking Katharine to "Write a little oftener to your bubo." Orville's family nickname was "Bubbo" or "Bubs," which was how then four-year-old Wilbur pronounced his new brother's name. Wilbur was called "Ullam," short for Jullam, a German version of William.

[Letter, J. J. Dosher, Weather Bureau, to Wilbur Wright . . .] General Correspondence: Dosher, J.J., 1900. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[Letter, Wilbur Wright to Milton Wright . . .] Family Papers: Correspondence--Wright, Wilbur, 1900-1901. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[Letter, Orville Wright to Katharine Wright, 29 September 1902]. Family Papers: Correspondence--Wright, Orville, 1900-1902. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
 Back to top