Wright Brothers Collection (MS-1)
Scope and Content
The Wright Brothers Collection housed in Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries is one of the most complete collections of Wright material in the world. It includes the Wrights' own technical and personal library, family papers including letters, diaries, financial records, genealogical files, and other documents detailing the lives and work of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright Family. It also includes awards, certificates, medals, albums, recordings, and technical drawings. Perhaps the most valuable part of the collection are the thousands of photographs documenting the invention of the airplane and the lives of the Wright Family.
The online collection inventory is divided into seven sections for ease of use. Part I, Technical Library, contains an extensive list of the books and published materials in the collection which came from the Wright family's own technical and personal library. Part II, Manuscripts, includes personal and family papers, financial records, diaries, genealogical files, letters, and other documents. Part III, Photographs, is an item level listing of the thousands of photographs contained in this collection. More than 2200 of these images are available for searchable viewing in CORE Scholar, our Campus Online Repository. Part IV, Albums, includes a variety of photograph albums which document the Wright family as well as the development of the airplane. Part V, Phonograph Records and Film, contains several recordings and films. Part VI, Awards and Certificates, documents the variety of these items presented to the Wright Brothers. Part VII, Medals, describes each of the medals in the collection, some of which are available for viewing in the Archives reading room.
Part 1: Technical Library, contains an extensive list of the books and published materials in the collection which came from the Wright family's own technical and personal library.
Part 2: Manuscripts, includes personal and family papers, financial records, diaries, genealogical files, letters, and other documents.
Part 3: Photographs, is a listing of the photographs in the collection. To view the actual images in a searchable database, please use CORE Scholar.
Part 4: Albums, contains a variety of photograph albums documenting the Wright family as well as the development of the airplane.
Part 5: Phonograph Records and Film, includes several recordings and films.
Part 6: Awards and Certificates, documents the variety of awards, certificates, and other materials presented to the Wright Brothers.
Part 7: Medals, includes detailed descriptions of the medals awarded to the Wright Brothers.
- Creation: 1779-1985
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1853-1948
- Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912 (Person)
Language of Materials
The records are in English, French, German and Italian
Restrictions on Access
Due to preservation concerns, original audio and video recordings in the collection cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to reference copies. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call (937) 775-2092 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use of digitized content is subject to conditions governing use.
To reduce stress on the original photographs, photo albums, newspapers, Wright Family School Items, and Milton Wright Diaries, patrons are asked to first use digital copies, in place of the originals. The digitized items are available online in CORE SCHOLAR at https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/special_ms1/.
Restrictions on Use
Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.
Any and all commercial licensing inquiries should be directed to the The Wright Brothers Family Foundation, represented by Greenlight, at https://wrightbrothers.info/. Any rights associated with the Wright Brothers and/or Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright, including trademarks, copyrights and rights of publicity may not be used without permission from The Wright Brothers Family Foundation, represented by Greenlight, a part of Branded Entertainment Network. Any commercial use of the Wright Brothers’ names, likenesses, appellations, characterizations and/or any other indicia of the Wright Brothers requires prior permission and a license.
Biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright, born April 16, 1867, in Indiana, and his brother, Orville, born Aug. 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio were inventors of the airplane. The brothers were in the printing and bicycle business in Dayton before they became interested in solving the problems of powered flight. After a series of kite and glider experiments at Kitty Hawk, N.C., the brothers built and successfully flew the first heavier-than-air powered machine on Dec. 17, 1903. The Wrights spent the next years improving their invention and in 1909, formed a company to manufacture their airplanes. After Wilbur's death on May 30, 1912, Orville retired from the business. He remained in Dayton, doing research and consulting until his death on Jan. 30, 1948.
38.75 linear feet (and 203 volumes)
A supplement to the main body of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s papers located in the Library of Congress, this collection consists of family papers, financial records, school mementos, Wright family genealogical materials, the church papers and diaries of the Wrights’ father, Bishop Milton Wright, notebooks, albums, awards and citations, photocopies of correspondence between Wilbur Wright and Octave Chanute, and the Wrights’ technical library that includes journals, books, and pamphlets covering many aspects of early aeronautics. The collection also includes nearly 4,000 photographs from the Wright Brothers personal collection. Many are original prints taken by the Wrights to document their early flying experiments.
Statement of Arrangement
The inventory to the Wright Brothers Collection is divided into seven sections:
- Part 1: Technical Library, 1816-1948
- Part 2: Manuscripts, 1779-1985
- Part 3: Photographs, 1855-1949
- Part 4: Albums, 1880-1940
- Part 5: Phonograph Records and Film, 1928-1948
- Part 6: Awards and Certificates, 1909-1947
- Part 7: Medals, 1908-1977
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Please use book cradles when viewing albums and books in the collection.
Other Finding Aid
The initial collection was described in The Wright Brothers Collection: A Guide to the Technical, Business and Legal, Genealogical, Photographic, and Other Archives at Wright State University, published in 1977. Since that time, numerous additions to the collection and donations of related collections have necessitated the revision and updating of the original collection inventory. A bound inventory to the collection was published in 2003, the centennial year of the Wrights' first successful, controlled powered flight, which offered a detailed and more complete guide to the papers of the Wright Family housed at Wright State University. Additional materials were added to the collection since 2003, however, so the collection inventory available online is the most current and up-do-date inventory to this extensive collection.
Previously published finding aids include:
Nolan, Patrick B., and John A. Zamonski. The Wright Brothers Collection: A Guide to the Technical, Business and Legal, Genealogical, Photographic, and Other Archives at Wright State University. New York: Garland Publishing, 1977. Print. Call number CD3029.5.W74 N64. https://catalog.libraries.wright.edu/record=b3838176~S10.
Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries. The Wright Brothers Collection: A Guide to the Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright and Related Collections at Wright State University. [Dayton, Ohio]: Wright State University, 2003. Print. Call number CD3029.5 .W74 N64 2003. https://catalog.libraries.wright.edu/record=b3840883~S10.
When Orville Wright passed away on Jan. 30, 1948, his will stated that the executors should select which institution or institutions they deemed appropriate to receive the papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The Library of Congress was chosen to receive a major portion of the collection. They examined the material, selecting approximately 100 printed items to supplement their own holdings in aeronautics, 303 glass plate negatives of photographs documenting the Brothers' aeronautical achievements, and correspondence between the Wrights and Octave Chanute, as well as other individuals involved in aeronautics at that time. The Library of Congress also selected additional photographs documenting the Wrights' family life and correspondence between family members.
The remaining books, journals, and pamphlets accumulated by the Wright Brothers remained with their estate. Thousands of positive prints, many made directly from the glass plates selected by the Library of Congress, along with other prints sent to the Wrights by other photographers, remained in Dayton, along with numerous albums, certificates and awards. The collection also included the papers of their father, Bishop Milton Wright, consisting of his diaries, correspondence, essays, church papers, and genealogical files. Also still in the estate were the financial records of the Wrights and a variety of family papers documenting the activities of Wright family members. After the removal of the materials to the Library of Congress, the four children of Lorin Wright, brother to Wilbur and Orville Wright, each made a token payment of $100 to purchase equal shares, settling the estate. Thus Milton Wright, Horace Wright, Ivonette Wright Miller, and Leontine Wright Jameson inherited the remaining Wright papers, as well as other property, such as the Wright mansion, Hawthorn Hill, in the Dayton suburb of Oakwood. The papers came into the possession of Ivonette Wright Miller, who served as semi-official Wright family historian, and whose husband, Harold S. Miller, was a co-executor of the estate.
The Millers, as well as the other Wright heirs, desired that the papers remain in the Dayton area in a repository conducive to research and exhibition. When Wright State University expressed interest in acquiring the papers, the family responded positively. On May 2, 1974, a preliminary deposit agreement between the heirs and the University was executed. The collection was loaned to the University and an appraisal was requested. On Dec. 19, 1975, a final deed of gift was signed by Ivonette Wright Miller, Leontine Wright Jameson, Horace A. Wright, Milton Wright, Jr., and Wilkinson Wright, making the Department of Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries the permanent repository for the remainder of the papers from the Wright Family.
The Wright Brothers Collection was deeded to Wright State University on December 19, 1975, by the Wright Family, including Ivonette Wright Miller, Leontine Wright Jameson, Horace A. Wright, Milton Wright, Jr., and Wilkinson Wright.
Since the original donation in 1975, there have been numerous additions of material to the collection from Wright family members and other individuals. Ivonette Wright Miller, niece of the Wright Brothers, donated her substantial collection of Wright Family materials handed down to her through her father Lorin Wright. Marianne Miller Hudec, Ivonette's daughter, continued to enrich the collection through additional photographs, albums, books, and personal papers of the family. Marion Wright and her late husband, Wilkinson Wright, grand nephew of the Wright Brothers, added many valuable books, photographs and documents to the collection, such as Orville Wright's estate files. A collection of letters from Katharine Wright to her friend Agnes Beck were donated by Margaret Rehling, Agnes Beck's daughter. Most recently, additions have been received from Kate Hudec (Marianne Miller Hudec’s daughter) and from Stephen Wright and Amanda Wright Lane (children of Wilkinson Wright).
Additions are possible.
Existence and Location of Originals
Original glass plate negatives, from which prints by Wilbur and Orville Wright in this collection were made, are located at the Library of Congress.
Original letters from Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute and the Wright Brothers to and from George A. Spratt in Subseries 1A: Aeronautical Correspondence of which this collection contains photostat copies, are located at the Library of Congress.
Original patents, including the original patent for the 1903 Flying Machine, are at the National Archives.
Existence and Location of Copies
Numerous items in the collection are digitized and available on CORE SCHOLAR at https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/special_ms1/. (Particular materials available online in CORE Scholar are linked individually throughout this finding aid as well.)
Four reels of film in the collection are digitized and files are available in the E-archives, along with a description of the film content.
The photographs and papers are also available in a microfilm edition.
Books in the collection on topics broader than aviation, were separated to the Archives-Wright Brothers Room and are cataloged in the Wright State University Libraries catalog. In the catalog, search on the terms “private library of Orville Wright” for the records. Many of the books came through Wright Library in Oakwood, Ohio and as such, are marked with their stamp. Prior to being given to Wright Library, those books had been at Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright's last home. Mary Ann Miller Hudec, a grandniece of the Wright Brothers, also donated several books that had been handed down in the family.
Bollée, Léon, Stanley W. Kandebo, and Dawne Dewey. Wilbur Wright's Flights in France: Léon Bollée's Photographic Record, 1908-1909. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. Print.
Geibert, Ron, and Patrick B. Nolan. Kitty Hawk and Beyond: The Wright Brothers and the Early Years of Aviation : a Photographic History. Lanham, MD: Roberts Rinehart Pub, 2003. Print.
Wright, Milton. Diaries, 1857-1917. Dayton, Ohio: Wright State University, 1999. Print. (Also available online: https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/milton_wright_diaries/.)
Wright State University, named for Wilbur and Orville Wright, is a dynamic memorial to the achievements of the Wright Brothers. Founded in 1964 as the Dayton campus of Miami University and The Ohio State University, Wright State University became a state university in 1967. It was built on land deeded in part by Wright Patterson Air Force Base and lies within a mile of Huffman Prairie, the site of Simms Station where Orville and Wilbur perfected their flying machines in 1904 and 1905. The memorial to them on Wright Brothers Hill is adjacent to campus, and the United States Air Force Museum is nearby. Today, the Wright Brothers Collection and related Wright Family collections at Wright State University rank as one of the most complete and essential collections for the study of the Wright Brothers, the invention of flight, and the history of the Wright Family.
Patrick B. Nolan, then Head of the Special Collections and Archives Department, and John A. Zamonski, Assistant Professor of English at Central State University, organized and described the collection in The Wright Brothers Collection: A Guide to the Technical, Business and Legal, Genealogical, Photographic, and other Archives at Wright State University, published in 1977.
Since that time, numerous additions to the collection and donations of related collections necessitated the revision and updating of the original collection inventory. A bound inventory to the collection was published in 2003, the centennial year of the Wrights' first successful, controlled powered flight, which offered a detailed and more complete guide to the papers of the Wright Family housed at Wright State University.
Additional materials were added to the collection since 2003. The collection inventory available online is the most current and up-to-date inventory to this extensive collection.
Patrick B. Nolan, then Head of the Special Collections and Archives Department, and John A. Zamonski, Assistant Professor of English at Central State University, organized and described the collection in 1977.
Revisions: Finding aid revised to include processed additions, 2003. Finding aid revised according to DACS standards by Lisa Rickey, 2019.
- Wright, Orville, 1871-1948 -- Manuscripts (Person)
- Wright, Milton, 1828-1917 -- Manuscripts (Person)
- Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912 -- Manuscripts (Person)
- Haskell, Katharine Wright, 1874-1929 -- Manuscripts (Person)
- Wright, Milton, 1828-1917 -- Photographs (Person)
- Wright, Reuchlin, 1861-1920 (Person)
- United States. Army--Procurement (Organization)
- Wright, Lorin, 1862-1939 (Person)
- Wright Company (Organization)
- College Park (Md.) -- History
- Dayton (Ohio) -- Newspapers
- Dayton (Ohio) -- Social Life and Customs
- Kitty Hawk (N.C.) -- History
- Montgomery (Ala.) -- History
- Guide to the Wright Brothers Collection (MS-1)
- Finding aid prepared by Patrick B. Nolan, and and John A. Zamonski
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2003: Finding aid revised to include processed additions, 2003.
- 2019: Finding aid revised according to DACS standards by Lisa Rickey, 2019.
Part of the Wright State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Repository
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA