“On a winter day in 1903, on the remote outer banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history.”
The Wright Brothers is a story about exceptional courage, determination and commitment. It is a story about overcoming; disappointment, public indifference, accidents and mosquitoes. It is a story about lacking resources; formal education (Wilbur completed 4 years of high school, Orville completed 3), finances, and contacts in high places. The two brothers never wavered from their vision to take to the air. In four years, they triumphed. The Wright brothers’ story is the ultimate story of entrepreneurship.
David McCullough is a distinguished historian and prolific storyteller. He goes into great detail about the extraordinary journey of two ordinary brothers and their family. The author vividly runs parallel recounts of the Wright brothers and the Wright family to accentuate the depth of their bond. Especially the role/influence of the youngest, Katherine, in her brothers’ lives and the integral part she played in their venture. The father, Bishop Wright, encouraged his children to pursue intellectual interests and therefore heavily encouraged them to read. The brothers’ intellectual powers were due to ceaseless curiosity and voracious reading. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were plenty of books.
I love this book (story) because it talks about the strength of the family unit, relationships and devoted commitment to a vision. The Wright family made no excuses – when working together, no problem seemed insurmountable. They employed work ethic, team work, and self-discipline. The Wright brothers were introverts, yet their upbringing helped them attain heroicness in epic proportions.
The author’s writing is so descriptive that it created a movie in my mind as I read each page! The writing in this book is upbeat and minutely researched.
The most touching moment, the ultimate highpoint for me in this book, is when a Western Union man delivers a telegram to the family home late in the day on December 17th, 1903. It was for Mr. Bishop Wright. A few minutes later, Mr. Bishop Wright comes down looking pleased, but with an expressionless voice he tells Katherine, “Well, they’ve made a flight.”
That is an emotional moment. A moment of power. A moment of achievement. An inflection in US and world history. I say this because only six decades later, Americans will land a man on the moon. A goose bump moment.
The story is also a manifestation of David and Goliath. At the same time the Wright Brothers were developing their plane, Samuel P. Langley was developing his “Aerodrome.” Langley was the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, a physicist, an astronomer and a well-recognized scientist. He had received $50,000 from the US Government and $20,000 in contributions from his friends, including Alexander Graham Bell. His Aerodrome would fly 1000 feet before crashing into the Potomac river, twice – in October and December of 1903.
The Wright Flyer flew four times on December 17, 1903.
Anyone who deeply believes that the power of conviction can change lives must read this book. Regardless of the business stage you are in, I encourage you to read the book. If you are a “start from scratch” business person, you have to read this book!