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Wilbur Wright 1867 - 1912

Wilbur Wright (1867 - 1912)
Full legal name
Wilbur Wright
April 16, 1867
New Castle
Indiana, USA
May 30, 1912
Ohio, USA
Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867 in New Castle, Indiana USA to Susan Catherine (Koerner) Wright and Milton Wright, and had siblings Orville Wright, Katharine Wright, Reuchlin Wright, Lorin Wright, Ida Wright, and Otis Wright. Wilbur Wright died at age 45 years old on May 30, 1912 in Dayton, Ohio, and was buried on June 1, 1912 at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.

Wilbur Wright's Biography

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About Wilbur


Along with his brother, Orville, Wilbur Wright is known for being a pioneer in aviation in the U.S. They invented, built, and flew the world's first successful motor-operated airplane in 1903.

Their first enterprise was a bicycle shop - they repaired and sold bicycles!

Neither of the brothers had middle names as their father wanted to give them "unique enough" first names.
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Wilbur Wright
Most commonly known as
Wilbur Wright
Full legal name
None stated
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

Where did Wilbur Wright last live?
Last place lived

Last residence

April 16, 1867
New Castle, Indiana USA
Birth location

Birth details


Ethnicity & Family History

English and Dutch from his father (Milton Wright) German and Swiss from his mother (Susan Catherine Koerner) It is said that his grandmother (Milton's mother) is a descendant of the Vanderbilt family.

Nationality & Locations

Wibur was born Near Millville, Indiana in 1867. As his father was a Bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, the family moved a lot including spending time in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1878-1881), Richmond, Indiana (1881-1884), and eventually settled in Dayton, Ohio in 1884.


Wilbur was said to be a bright young student and did graduate from a public high school nut never received his diploma due to moving so frequently. He originally had planned to attend Yale University, but suffered an injury in winter 1885 that caused him to go into a depression and bail on his plans for college to stay home, read, and care for his mother who died of tuberculosis in 1889.


Baptism date
Place of worship

Baptism date & location

Not much is said about Wilbur's religious beliefs, but it is known that their father was a Bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Orville was named after clergyman "Willbur Fisk", and he never worked on Sundays, used tobacco or drank alcohol (similar to the beliefs of his father).


In 1889, the bothers opened a writing business and began a weekly newspaper by the name of “West Side News”. Their next venture began in 1892, when the brothers opened a bike repair and sales shop called “the Wright Cycle Exchange” which spurred due to the national bicycle craze. IN 1892 they began manufacturing their own bikes and changed the name of the shop to the “Wright Cycle Company. This business gave the two the monetary funds to start their flight research. In 1899 the brothers began testing out wing warping, by building and flying a biplane kite which would be their start towards the first successful flight. The brothers then moved to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to further their flight studies and theories and begin their first test flights. Once in Kitty Hawk the brothers worked on gliders using other known facts at the time to improve and better their flying capabilities. Some information has led us to believe that Wilbur did all of the gliding until 1902 as his big brother duty to protect younger brother Orville. After more testing, they built their third full scale glider that ran perfectly during test flights at Kill Devil Hills in Sept 1902. In the Winter of 1902, they built a wind tunnel, a gasoline engine powerful and light enough to propel a plane, airplane propellers, and a powered aircraft. With all of this ready, they headed back to Kill Devil Hills to assemble and test their powered flying machine for 7 weeks in September 1903. It was on December 17 1903 that Orville made the first successful flight flying a distance of 120 feet in 12 seconds. The brothers then took turns trying to beat each others record for a total of 4 flights that day. 1st flight Orville: 120 feet, 12 seconds 2nd flight Wilbur: 175 feet, 12 seconds 3rd flight Orville: 200 feet, 15 seconds 4th flight Wilbur: 825 feet, 59 seconds

Personal Life

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Military Service

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May 30, 1912
Death date
Cause of death
Dayton, Ohio USA
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Death details

June 1, 1912
Funeral date
Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio USA
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The below was generated. Please share Wilbur's obituary if available, or write one in your own words to preserve his memory.
Wilbur Wright passed away at age 45 years old on May 30, 1912 in Dayton, Ohio, and was buried on June 1, 1912 at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton. Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867 in New Castle, Indiana USA to Susan Catherine (Koerner) Wright and Milton Wright, and had siblings Orville Wright, Katharine Wright, Reuchlin Wright, Lorin Wright, Ida Wright, and Otis Wright.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Wilbur Wright lived 25 years shorter than the average Wright family member when he died at the age of 45.
The average age of a Wright family member is 70.

Memories: Stories & Photos

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The Wright brothers
The Wright brothers at the International Aviation Tournament, Belmont Park, Long Island, N.Y., Oct. 1910
Date & Place:
Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) Indiana
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Who Was Wilbur Wright?
Wilbur Wright was the elder brother of Orville Wright, with whom he developed the world's first successful airplane. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane. An extraordinary achievement, Wilbur flew the plane for 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet. Today, the Wright brothers are regarded as the "fathers of modern aviation." Wilbur Wright died in Dayton, Ohio, on May 30, 1912.

Early Life
Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana, the middle child in a family of five children. His father, Milton Wright, was a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. His mother was Susan Catherine Koerner Wright. As a child, Wilbur's playmate was his younger brother, Orville, born in 1871.

Milton Wright's preaching took him on the road frequently, and he often brought back small toys for his children. In 1878 he brought back a small model helicopter for his boys. Made of cork, bamboo and paper, and powered by a rubber band to twirl its blades, the model was based on a design by the French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Fascinated by the toy and its mechanics, Wilbur and Orville would develop a lifelong love of aeronautics and flying.

Wilbur was a bright and studious child, and excelled in school. His personality was outgoing and robust, and he made plans to attend Yale University after high school. In the winter of 1885-86, an accident changed the course of Wilbur's life. He was badly injured in an ice hockey game, when another player's stick hit him in the face.

Though most of his injuries healed, the incident plunged Wilbur into a depression. He did not receive his high school diploma, canceled plans for college and retreated to his family’s home. Wilbur spent much of this period at home, reading books in his family’s library, and caring for his ailing mother. Susan Koerner Wright died in 1889 of tuberculosis.

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In 1889 the brothers started their own newspaper, the West Side News. Wilbur edited the paper and Orville was the publisher. The brothers also shared a passion for bicycles—a new craze that was sweeping the country. In 1892, Wilbur and Orville opened a bike shop, fixing bicycles and later selling their own designs.

Wilbur and Orville Wright
The Wright Brothers
Photo: Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Developing the Airplane
Always working on different mechanical projects and keeping up with scientific research, the Wright brothers closely followed the research of German aviator Otto Lilienthal. When Lilienthal died in a glider crash, the brothers decided to start their own experiments with flight. Determined to develop their own successful design, Wilbur and Orville headed to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, known for its strong winds.

Wilbur and Orville set to work trying to figure out how to design wings for flight. They observed that birds angled their wings for balance and control, and tried to emulate this, developing a concept called "wing warping." The Wright brothers found the magic formula when they added a moveable rudder, and on December 17, 1903, they succeeded in flying the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane. An extraordinary achievement, Wilbur flew the plane for 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet.

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The Wright brothers soon found that their success was not appreciated by all. Many in the press, as well as fellow flight experts, were reluctant to believe the brothers' claims. As a result, Wilbur set out for Europe in 1908, where he hoped he would have more success convincing the public and selling airplanes.

READ MORE: Orville and Wilbur Wright: The Brothers Who Changed Aviation

Later Fame
In France, Wilbur found a much more receptive audience. There, he made many public flights and gave rides to officials, journalists and statesmen. In 1909, Orville joined his brother in Europe, as did their younger sister, Katharine. The Wrights became huge celebrities there, hosted by royals and heads of state, and constantly featured in the press. The Wrights began to sell their airplanes in Europe and then returned to the United States in 1909.

The brothers went on to become wealthy businessmen, filling contracts for airplanes in both Europe and the United States. Today, the Wright brothers are considered the "fathers of modern aviation."

Wilbur and Orville always took shared credit for their innovations and maintained a close relationship throughout their lives. Behind the scenes, however, there was a division of labor. With his sharp instincts, Wilbur was the business mind and executive of the operation, serving as president of the Wright company.

Death and Legacy
Wilbur fell ill on a trip to Boston in April 1912. After being diagnosed with typhoid fever, he died on May 30, 1912, at his family home in Dayton, Ohio.

Milton Wright wrote later about his son in his diary: "A short life, full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadfastly, he lived and died."

Name: Wilbur Wright
Birth Year: 1867
Birth date: April 16, 1867
Birth State: Indiana
Birth City: Near Millville
Birth Country: United States
Gender: Male
Best Known For: Wilbur Wright is best known for developing the first successful airplane with his brother, Orville.
Technology and Engineering
Astrological Sign: Aries
Death Year: 1912
Death date: May 30, 1912
Death State: Ohio
Death City: Dayton
Death Country: United States
Fact Check
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Article Title: Wilbur Wright Biography
Author: Editors
Website Name: The website
Url: [external link]
Access Date:
Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
Last Updated: May 27, 2021
Original Published Date: April 2, 2014
The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who ... looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space ... on the infinite highway of the air.
It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Wright brothers flight
Photo taken during a Wright brothers flight,
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Wright brothers flight
Photo taken during the historical Wright brothers flight.
Date & Place: Not specified or unknown.
Orville, Wilbur, and Katherine Wright
Orville, Wilbur, and Katherine Wright, with others
Date & Place:
Wilbur and Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright seated on steps of rear porch, 7 Hawthorne St., Dayton, Ohio
Date & Place:

Family Tree & Friends

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1867 - 1912 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Wilbur's lifetime.

In 1867, in the year that Wilbur Wright was born, on January 8th, African-American men were given the right to vote in the District of Columbia when Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson's veto. This was the first place in the U.S. to give African Americans the right to vote.

In 1881, Wilbur was merely 14 years old when on February 19th, Kansas became the first state to prohibit all alcohol - the prohibition lasted statewide until 1948.

In 1894, by the time he was 27 years old, large reserves of oil were discovered on the Osage Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Previously thought to be "useless" land - not even good for farming - the tribe had bought the land themselves. The discovery of oil made the Osage the "richest group of people in the world" at the time.

In 1904, when he was 37 years old, the first underground line of the New York City subway system opened. London's underground system was opened in 1863 and Boston opened one in 1897, but New York quickly became the largest system in the U.S. More than 100,000 people paid 5 cents to ride under Manhattan that first day.

In 1912, in the year of Wilbur Wright's passing, the RMS Titanic sank in April. The RMS Titanic was a British built and run passenger liner that was billed as "unsinkable." On its maiden voyage from Southampton England to New York City, carrying about 2,224 passengers and crew - from the wealthiest people in the world to poor emigrants from Europe, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Five of her watertight compartments failed but she was designed to survive only 4 being flooded. She began to sink. There were only enough lifeboats for about half of the passengers so over 1,000 remained behind while "women and children first" were loaded. Over 1500 died, making it the largest maritime disaster in modern history.

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