MOUNT VERNON — Who better to tell the story of the Wright Brothers than someone who has been there?
That is what Katharine Wright — sister to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the inventors and builders of the world’s first successful aircraft — did for third- and fourth-graders at Twin Oak Elementary School on Friday. Wright, portrayed by Betty Darst, showed a slide show of family members, the flying machine, and photographs of their adventure in presenting the aircraft to the world.
Darst lived all over Ohio, but it was when she moved to Dayton that her interest in the Wright family flourished. She learned a great deal from the descendants of the Wright Brothers, and soon sought to promote the aviation history founded in Dayton.
“The family believed that if you are interested in something that you should be encouraged,” she told the students.
Dressed in early 1900 attire, Darst spoke as Katharine Wright about unique facts on the family and the legacy the Wright Brothers built in aviation.
Born to Milton and Susan Catherine (Koerner) Wright, Katharine was the youngest of four and had two other older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin.
“I’m going to tell you something most people don’t know; none of the children had middle names,” said Katharine. “[Also] I was born on Aug. 19, and so was my brother, Orville. We share the same birthday, although we were born three years a part.”
During the late 1800s, as the bicycle “craze” swept the nation, the Wright Brothers joined and opened a bicycle repair and sales shop, which helped to fund their work. After years of flying gliders, it wasn’t until later their endeavor was brought to fruition when they would fly the first controlled aircraft.
Katharine spoke about the Wright brothers many attempts to fly, but more so of their accomplishment. One of which was in a telegram sent by Orville to his father from Kitty Hawk, N.C. on Dec. 17, 1903. The message depicts the success of the flight and conditions in which the brothers flew.
“Why Dec. 17?” Katharine asked.
“It’s windy,” one young boy replied.
She answered her own question by explaining that it would give the brothers time to make it home before Christmas, for it took three days to travel from North Carolina to Ohio.
Another aspect Katharine addressed is the relationship she held with her brothers while supporting them in their work.
“I traveled with them when they were in France and I helped them by being hostess and writing letters,” she said as Katharine. “Wilbur had a photographic memory ... and Orville had a natural curiosity and embraced new ideas.”
She also shared information about the family’s dog, Scipo. When asked if the dog ever flew in the aircraft, she explained the dog weighed 70 pounds and was too heavy to carry. But, Katharine said, when she was 30 years old, she flew for the first time while in France with her brothers.