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Wright Flyer

Wright 1903 Flyer, Displayed in National Air & Space Museum
Smithsonian Image

Bicycle chain and sprocket used to power propellers on the Wright airplane
NPS Photo

You probably know about the brothers who made the first powered heavier than air flights on Dec 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, NC. Before that, Orville and Wilbur Wright built bicycles in their own shop in Dayton, OH. They even invented their own safety bicycle models and invented some improvements that improved the durability of their products.

Orville and Wilber Wright flew kites as boys and developed an interest in flight. They corresponded with aviation pioneers.

The Wright Brothers used their engineering knowledge, their bicycle shop and some familiar bicycle parts to build and test their flyer. They made a machine that was sturdy and light weight. They also used familiar principles to get the most they could out of propulsion between engine and propellers. Notice the chain and sprocket drive system, one of the most noticeable bicycle spin-offs (no pun intended) the Wrights included in their Flyer.

Useful links

The Wright Brothers: Inventing a Flying Machine -- Smithsonian NASM
Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company and Museum of Pioneer Aviation
NPS - Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP
Wright Brothers exhibit, The Henry Ford


Ford's Model T

Like Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford had a background as a bicycle mechanic. He was also familiar with the mass production assembly line used by Pope and others to manufacture large numbers of bicycles a few years before. Ford made his Model T an American icon using the same methods -- assembly line construction and marketing -- that had made the bicycle popular and affordable.


image from

Useful links

Henry Ford Museum - The Henry Ford
Time 100: Henry Ford
The Henry Ford Estate


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Copyright © 2004 Mark J. Smith and his licensors. All rights reserved       Last updated 3 December 2004