Wilbur and Orville Essay - Critical Essays

Fred Howard


Howard portrays his subjects as diligent, hardworking, dedicated young men who pursued the goal of creating a flying machine until they were finally successful. Although the Wright brothers’ business was running a bicycle shop, Howard does not include much information concerning this business in his book. He does include discussions of the several discoveries that the brothers made through observing bicycles in motion, sharing how they applied these discoveries to the design of the first flying machine. The bicycle shop was used for a variety of aerodynamic experiments; a wind tunnel was created at the shop.

Young readers will have convincing evidence of the Wright brothers’ place in history upon finishing Wilbur and Orville. Howard includes enough technical aeronautical information to keep a scientifically oriented young reader intellectually stimulated. Howard’s assumption is that the processing of technical information adds to the mystique of what these brothers accomplished, and he does not hesitate to be detailed in his approach to their experiments.

The celebrations occurring after the first flight are documented in a style that gives credence to the emotions of people around the world toward the spectacular achievement of getting a machine to fly. Howard ends the book with Orville’s death on January 30, 1948. A one-minute memorial silence was held around the world on the day of Orville’s funeral, February 2, 1948. Flags were flown at half-staff, some schools were dismissed at noon, and some municipal offices were closed. Clearly, in 1948, the world paid tribute to this great inventor and his brother who introduced air travel.

Howard also shares many of the struggles the Wright family had after the success in flying, particularly in the area of patents. The Wrights were challenged by several lawsuits over the originality and integrity of the designs of their flying machine. Howard clarifies (through documentation) that the Wrights were truly the originators of the first flying machine.