From the Library of Congress: The Wright Brothers' First Flight


This week marks the first successful powered flight of the Wright brothers.  The Library of Congress has extensive collections of photographs, correspondence and related documents surrounding this event and the history of aviation.

First Flight, December 17, 1903,
John T. Daniels, photographer

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just 12 seconds and 120 feet. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 59 seconds. That morning, the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

They built their 1903 glider in sections in the back room of their Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop. That afternoon, the Wright brothers walked the four miles to Kitty Hawk and sent a telegram to their father, Bishop Milton Wright, back home in Dayton announcing the first successful powered flight (from Today in History).

Here is what it said: ‘Success four flights thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas’ [students might enjoy figuring out the  telegram’s shorthand use