On December 14, 1903, the brothers tossed a coin to decide the flying order. Wilbur won the coin toss, but when he oversteered with the elevator after leaving the launching rail, the flyer climbed too steeply, stalled and dove into the sand. Three days later, they were ready for the second attempt.
At 10:35 am, December 17, 1903, Orville was at the controls. The flyer moved down the rail and with a total airspeed of 34 mph (27-mph headwind, the groundspeed was 6.8 mph,) Orville kept the plane aloft until it hit the sand about 120 feet from the rail – the first controlled and sustained power flight.
The brothers took turns flying three more times that day, getting a feel for the controls and increasing their distance with each flight. Wilbur’s second flight – the fourth and last of the day – was an impressive 852 feet in 59 seconds. (NPS)
Wait … this isn’t about those Wright Brothers. This is about the Wrights and some of the generations of respective brothers who were in the islands at about this same time.
Thomas and Jane (Wilson) Wright were from Durham, England. They had eight children: John Thomas, Mary Jane, William Wilson, Thomas, Isabell, Henry, Elizabeth (Polly,) and George Henry.
While the parents never left England, some of the siblings moved to New Zealand and then to Honolulu. Some siblings stayed in New Zealand. The youngest son, George Henry went to San Francisco.
The elder Wright was a blacksmith, a trade followed for more than 150 years by members of the family. In the early 1880s, at least three of the boys (Thomas, William Wilson and Henry) came to the Islands.
It was a time before the automobile; folks rode horseback or were carried in a horse or mule drawn carriage, trolley or omnibus (the automobile didn’t make it to the Islands until 1890.)
Until the mid-1800s, Hawaiʻi overland travel was predominantly by foot and followed traditional trails. To get around people walked, or rode horses or used personal carts/buggies.
It wasn’t until 1868, that horse-drawn carts became the first public transit service in the Hawaiian Islands, operated by the Pioneer Omnibus Line.
In 1888, the animal-powered tramcar service of Hawaiian Tramways ran track from downtown to Waikīkī. In 1900, the Tramway was taken over by the Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co (HRT.)
Before the introduction of automobiles, carriage makers’ shops had the place in the community now held by garages and repair shops.
The brothers set up respective carriage and blacksmithing facilities in Honolulu – Thomas and Henry formed Wright Brothers and William Wilson and his son formed WW Wright and Son (and Honolulu Carriage Manufactory.)
Thomas and his wife Elizabeth built a home in Waikiki in about 1890. Unfortunate and tragic events shortly followed with the death of their 10-year-old son Gladstone (due to a rockfall while on a Sunday school hike in Mānoa) and shortly thereafter, the death of their 7-year-old daughter Cicely (due to unknown disease.)
Thomas and Elizabeth then started making their home available as a bathhouse and called it Wright’s Villa. Just as “sea bathing” was gaining popularity on the American and European continents, private bathhouses, like Wright’s Villa, began to appear in Waikīkī. (White) They added dining and overnight accommodations.
Then, “Wright’s Villa has been rechristened and will henceforth be known as the ‘Waikīkī Inn.’ … It is conducted under the same management. You can have the same bathing on the best beach in the Islands, the same excellent dinner and if you are so inclined enjoy a bottle of claret while dining.” (Evening Bulletin, October 14, 1899)
Thomas and Elizabeth Wright left the Islands in 1899 and returned to Staindrop, England, never to return to the Islands (although they were constantly reminded of the Islands; they named their England home ‘Honolulu House.’)
Brother William Wilson (WW,) after being associated with the Wesson Foundry in England, went to Australia and, before coming to Honolulu, was employed for three years by the government railroad.
In the Islands, WW was first employed by CC Coleman, blacksmith; WW became associated with SM Whitman and JM Rose, carriage builders, later purchasing Mr Rose’s interest in the firm and consolidating it with the Hawaiian Carriage Co., remaining as a member of the firm until he established WW Wright & Son.
King Kalākaua, a personal friend of WW, was one of his patrons. When the Kaimiloa was being fitted for its historic but unsuccessful expedition to gain possession of Samoa for Hawai‘i, Mr. Wright had the contract for all iron work on the vessel.
Another son of WW was George Frederick Wright. George was born in Honolulu, April 23, 1881 and attended the old Fort Street School and graduated from Honolulu High School (McKinley) with the class of 1898.
Rather than follow the family tradition of blacksmithing, George became a professional surveyor, establishing himself as one of the foremost surveyors of the Territory through his direction of important surveys and other engineering works.
He entered the government survey department in June, 1898, and remained in public work until 1909, when he started business for himself. Among the larger commissions undertaken by the firm in recent years were surveys of the Parker Ranch property, on the Island of Hawai‘i and of the Island of Lanai, completed in 1925, as well as Pioneer Mill on Maui.
George later became the fifth person to serve as Mayor of Honolulu (starting in 1931.) He died in office in 1938 while traveling aboard the SS Mariposa. (Krauss) (Mayor Wright Housing in Kalihi was named after him.) (Lots of information here is from Nellist.)