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This book is the first deconstruction of the Wright brothers myth. They were not -- as we have all come to believe--two halves of the same apple. Each had a distinctive role in creating the first "flying machine."
How could two misanthropic brothers who never left home, were high-school dropouts, and made a living as bicycle mechanics have figured out the secret of manned flight? This new history of the Wright brothers' monumental accomplishment focuses on their early years of trial and error at Kitty Hawk (1900-1903) and Orville Wright's epic fight with the Smithsonian Institute and Glenn Curtis. William Hazelgrove makes a convincing case that it was Wilbur Wright who designed the first successful airplane, not Orville. He shows that, while Orville's role was important, he generally followed his brother's lead and assisted with the mechanical details to make Wilbur's vision a reality.
Combing through original archives and family letters, Hazelgrove reveals the differences in the brothers' personalities and abilities. He examines how the Wright brothers myth was born when Wilbur Wright died early and left his brother to write their history with personal friend John Kelly. The author notes the peculiar inwardness of their family life, business and family problems, bouts of depression, serious illnesses, and yet, rising above it all, was Wilbur's obsessive zeal to test out his flying ideas. When he found Kitty Hawk, this desolate location on North Carolina's Outer Banks became his laboratory. By carefully studying bird flight and the Rubik's Cube of control, Wilbur cracked the secret of aerodynamics and achieved liftoff on December 17, 1903.
Hazelgrove's richly researched and well-told tale of the Wright brothers' landmark achievement, illustrated with rare historical photos, captures the excitement of the times at the start of the "American century."
About the Author
William Hazelgrove is a best-selling author whose books include Shots Fired in Terminal 2; Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson; Forging a President: How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt; and Al Capone and the 1933 World's Fair. His books have hit the National Bestseller List, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and have been included in Book of the Month Selections, Literary Guild Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, and ALA Editor's Choice Awards. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, and WGN. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence and runs a political cultural blog, The View from Hemingway's Attic.
“Well-researched and fascinating. A new portrayal of the Wright brothers’ legacy. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the early days of flight.”
—Henry M. Holden, author of 50-Years of Human Space Flight and aviation historian
“By far the best published work on the Wright brothers’ personal and professional lives. Thought-provoking and controversial in highlighting Wilbur’s brilliance in aeronautics and showing how he clearly overshadowed his brother’s contribution to manned flight. A must-read for academics and those interested in aviation history.”
—Alan C. Carey, author of We Flew Alone: Men and Missions of the United States Navy’s B-24 Liberator Squadrons
“This is an excellent retelling of an American myth. The author manages to turn Wilbur and Orville Wright, two legendary figures in American history, into living, breathing individuals. It is not only a first-rate dual biography but also a study of how myths and legends are created, and how facts can be turned inside out by different writers with different points of view. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.”
—David Alan Johnson, author of The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln
"Intriguing, well-researched. . . . For anyone curious about the details behind the invention of the flying machine, this engaging book will inform and entertain as it turns an assumed piece of aviation history upside down. Aviation history does a loop-the-loop as the author shares new and exciting insight into the history of the Wright brothers."
“Intriguing… a strong case…. Hazelgrove’s original take on two of the pioneers of human flight will greatly interest flight buffs and popular-history aficionados.”
“Many of humankind’s greatest achievements are often fraught with perils and problems that get lost in the unfurling of history. This is no exception. The intriguing saga of man’s quest for powered flight—perhaps one of the most significant accomplishments of all time—tells an amazing tale of amazing men accomplishing truly amazing things. But be prepared to be surprised. The story of what the Wright brothers did at Kill Devil Hills in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, at the turn of the last century not only opened new chapters in the history of the human race but also is filled with drama and tension beyond your wildest imaginings. Impeccably researched and absorbingly written, William Hazelgrove’s book is a must-read. I could not put it down.”
—Lionel Friedberg, New York Times–bestselling author and Emmy Award–winning cinematographer
"Hazelgrove applies a novelist’s narrative flair to aviation’s greatest saga. As if ‘merely’ conquering the air were not enough, the story involves dreams, ambition, technology, tragedy, suspicion, and deceit. Wright Brothers, Wrong Story challenges the traditional view—that Wilbur and Orville were equal partners—in a provocative and colorful dramatized history.”
—Michael Oakey, managing editor of the Aviation Historian
“I have, in general, not been a fan of the Wright brothers, mainly because their actions after the December 17, 1903, flights did a lot to suppress American aircraft development rather than expand it. However, Wright Brothers, Wrong Story is a brilliant work of research that tells their story much better than other books I have read about the Wrights. It is a valuable reference for those seeking the detailed truth of their historic work. Hazelgrove’s description of the Flyer’s flight tests clearly note that it was only the fourth flight, which lasted 59 seconds, that allowed them to claim ‘sustained, controlled flight.’ Nearly all other references mention only their first hop, which ended in a crash.”
—Burt Rutan, founder of two aircraft research companies and developer of the only nongovernment manned space-flight system