March 19, 2010 "Secret Flights" of the Wright Brothers Are Subject of Book Discussion

“Conquering the Sky” Documents Brothers’ Rise to Fame

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

The buildup to Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first powered flights in 1903 is history that is well-known to aviation enthusiasts everywhere. Five years later, the Wright brothers returned to Kitty Hawk, N.C., to perform the test flights that would catapult them to international fame. That spring, in 1908, marked a major turning point in the Wrights’ career and the history of aviation, yet the details of those flights and what led to them have remained largely unexplored, until now.

These flights and more are the subject of “Conquering the Sky: The Secret Flights of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk,” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) by Larry E. Tise. Tise will discuss and sign his book on Wednesday, April 7, at noon in the Pickford Theater, third floor of the Library of Congress James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Tise’s program is sponsored by the Center for the Book, as part of its Books & Beyond author series, and the Library’s Manuscript Division. The vast majority of Tise’s research for the book was conducted using the Library’s collections, including the Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers in the Manuscript Division.

Despite their great achievements, Wilbur and Orville Wright were effectively anonymous until 1908. In seven crucial days in May of that year, however, the eyes of the world were suddenly cast upon them as they sought lucrative government contracts for their flying technology and then had to prove the capabilities of their machines. In these pivotal moments, the brothers were catapulted into unwanted worldwide fame as the international press discovered and followed their covert flight tests and reported their every move, using rudimentary telegraphs and early forms of photography.

From the brothers’ rise to fame on the historic Outer Banks, to the quickly expanding role of the world press and the flights’ repercussions in war and military technology, Tise weaves a fascinating tale of a key turning point in the history of flight.

Writer and historian Larry E. Tise is the Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor at East Carolina University. He is the author of more than 50 articles and books and the founder of World Aloft, an extensive website dedicated to the Wright brothers.

Tise’s book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at Here readers can discuss books by authors who have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have just seen and heard.

The Center for the Book ( was established by Congress in 1977 “to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries.” With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The Center also oversees the new website, with its exclusive “Exquisite Corpse Adventure” serialized story.


PR 10-054
ISSN 0731-3527