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Charlie Taylor-Howard DuFour Collection

Identifier: MS-286

Scope and Content

The Howard DuFour Collection is divided into five major series. Series I documents the research and development of the Howard DuFour and Peter Unitt book on Charlie Taylor. Series II documents the Charlie Taylor oral history project carried out by Rubin Battino. Series III documents the building and hanging of the Wright 1903 Flyer replica hanging in the Atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at Wright State University. Finally, Series IV documents the construction of the Wright 1902 Glider that hands in the Wright State University Student Union. Series V contains the personal papers of Howard DuFour.

Series I, Development of Charlie Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician is divided into five subseries. Subseries IA, Research, represents the strength of the collection. This subseries contains a wealth of newspaper clippings and primary documents relating to the life and achievements of Charlie Taylor. Also, of interest to researchers, is a segment of newspaper articles, possibly collected by Charlie Taylor, concerning the 1953 Dayton Air Show. This event was especially important as it marked the fiftieth anniversary of powered flight. Except for some pictures and some correspondence, very little of the material actually belonged to Taylor. Subseries IB, Drafts of Book, relates to Howard DuFour and Peter Unitt's writing of Charlie Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician. This series gives an interesting insight into the process involved in writing the Taylor book. Subseries IC, Correspondence, contains Mr. Dufour's correspondence with Charlie Taylor descendents, people who knew Charlie Taylor, and other individuals who provided background information on the life and work of Charlie Taylor. Subseries ID, General Information, contains reviews of the book on Charlie Taylor and book orders, along with special events regarding Charlie Taylor, and other miscellaneous information. The final subseries, Subseries IE, Photographs, contains photographs used in the book, along with other photographs documenting the life of Charlie Taylor and his family. Of particular interest in this series are two three-ring binders containing photographs of Howard DuFour building a replica of the 1903 Engine used on the Wright 1903 Flyer. Users should be aware that the copyright for many of the images in this collection may not be claimed by Wright State University. It is up to any users of the collection to seek out and obtain correct copyright permissions for any use of the images beyond fair use for limited educational purposes.

Series II, Oral History Project, contains a Charlie Taylor oral history project carried out by Rubin Battino. This series contains transcripts, audiocassette tapes, and video cassette tapes of oral history interviews. The majority of the interviews, conducted by Rubin Battino, are with Howard DuFour concerning his many years of research on the life of Charlie Taylor and the building of a replica of the Wright 1903 Engine.

Series III, The Wright 1903 Flyer Project, contains information on the building, hanging, and dedication of the Wright 1903 Flyer replica now hanging in the Atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at Wright State University. The series contains a record of the time to build the replica, a register of visitors to the construction site, and a list of volunteers who worked on the project. In addition, the series contains a copy of the draft and final copy of the booklet, A Dream Fulfilled, The Replica of the 1903 Flyer at Wright State University. Finally, the bulk of the series is photographs documenting the building, hanging, and dedication of the Wright 1903 Flyer. The photographs, primarily located in three three-ring binders, are divided according to major areas, including: Setting Up, Construction, Propellers, Visitors, Moving and Putting Together Flyer at Wright State University, Dedication Day, Miscellaneous and Groups, and Negatives. Also included in this area are two boxes of slide photographs taken by Dan Patterson, a well-known aviation photographer. The slides document the assembly of the Flyer at Wright State University from August 7 to August 29, 2001.

Series IV, The Wright 1902 Glider Project, is a July 2004 addition to the collection. The series consists of photographs and a Volunteer Hours Record Book documenting the construction of the Wright 1902 Glider that now hangs in the atrium of the Wright State University Student Union.

Series V, Howard DuFour, contains the personal papers of Howard DuFour. Included in this series is personal information such as Security Clearance paperwork, correspondence from 1986 to 2003, his pilot license and flight log from 1944, presentations given on Charlie Taylor, Wright Brothers articles, and a number of certificates and letters of appreciation. It also includes a series of oral history tapes and DVDs where Mr. DuFour talks about his life and various projects.


  • Creation: 1938-2004


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

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.

Biography of Charlie Taylor and Howard DuFour

Howard R. DuFour originally came from Detroit, Michigan. After being introduced to machine tools in technical high school, he was employed from 1932 until 1940, as a draftsman, photographer, and special machinist. During World War II, his skills were needed to support the defense industry in Dayton, Ohio, culminating with an assignment on the Manhattan Project. Remaining in Dayton after the war, he operated his own camera repair business. Starting in 1951, he worked in Dayton for Monsanto, Dabel, and National Cash Register, as an instrument machinist, tool and die maker, and machine tool and design engineer, respectively. By 1976, as a master model maker, he joined the staff at Wright State University, supervising the work of its instrument machine shop. During his lengthy career he co-authored several technical reports and secured some U.S. patents. Retired since 1981, he devoted most of his time to researching the life and times of a kindred-Charlie Taylor. Mr. DuFour died on December 13, 2009 at the age of 94.

Charles Edward Taylor was born on May 24, 1868, in Decatur, Illinois. While he was still quite young, his parents moved the family to Lincoln, Nebraska. While Taylor eventually completed high school, he was forced to quit school temporarily in order to help support his family. He worked at a variety of newspaper and printing jobs which brought him into contact with machinery. Taylor showed great aptitude with machinery. He also worked briefly as a surveyor for the City of Los Angeles, a place that would hold great significance for him later in life.

Charlie Taylor's introduction to the Wright Brothers began with his marriage to Henrietta Webbert of Kearney, Nebraska in 1894. Her family was close to Bishop Milton Wright (the Wright Brothers' father) and he apparently encouraged Taylor to seek work in Dayton. In the 1890's, Dayton was considered an industrial town where good technical workers could always find employment. The depression of that same decade forced Taylor's in-laws to move to Dayton in search of work. Charlie Taylor and his young family joined them in 1896.

Taylor worked for several Dayton manufacturers and even owned his own bicycle shop at one point. He also struck up a friendship with Orville and Wilbur Wright and subcontracted work from their bicycle shop. In 1901, the brothers offered Charlie a job managing their shop and doing repairs. Taylor excepted their offer and, by 1903, became actively involved in the Wrights' work towards powered flight. The brothers were unable to get the engine they needed for their airplane built by any conventional manufacturer. The Wright Brothers turned to Charlie Taylor and he designed and built them an engine. This engine was the engine that powered the Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

Taylor's significance was downplayed in the event, but the Wrights consistently showed their appreciation and affection towards Taylor and his family. Charlie Taylor continued to work with the Wrights, most notably designing a plane with them for the US Army. In 1911, Taylor left the Wright Brothers employ and assisted Cal Rodgers in his cross country flight. It was during this flight that he moved his family to Los Angeles, California. Henrietta Taylor, his wife, was not well and it was hoped that her health would improve in the West. However, by the autumn of 1911, Charlie Taylor was back in Dayton. During this time he did some work with the Wrights and enjoyed a continued friendship with Orville Wright until Wright's death in 1948.

There are several gaps in Charlie Taylor's history during the 1920's and 1930's. It is known that he suffered a severe depression brought on by the permanent hospitalization of his wife in a mental hospital. In 1928, Taylor moved back to California and lived quietly. It is known that he sought work but, ironically, had a difficult time finding work in aviation due to his age. Taylor enjoyed a brief respite when he was hired by Henry Ford to build a model of the first airplane engine for Ford's museum at Greenfield Village in Michigan. The time seems to have been a high point for Taylor.

After that, Charlie Taylor slipped into relative obscurity until the death of his friend, Orville Wright, in 1948. Wright left Taylor an annuity of $800 a year. A fair sum of money at the time, it soon proved inadequate in helping Taylor meet his needs. As Taylor's life drew to a close, he was cared for by family friends. When the health of his main caregiver, Mrs. Shafer, failed, Taylor became a charity case at the County Hospital in Los Angeles, California. When it became known that this significant figure in aviation was unable to support himself, those who made their livelihoods in the aviation industry came together and created a fund for Taylor's support. He was soon moved to a private sanitarium where he died in January 1956.


8 linear feet

Language of Materials



Howard DuFour extensively researched Charlie Taylor, who designed and built the engine that powered the Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 1903. The collection consists of newspaper clippings, articles, aviation history books, an oral history, personal correspondence, photographs, and Howard DuFour's drafts of the book "Charlie Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician." The collection also contains materials on DuFour's building of the Wright 1903 Flyer Replica which hangs in Dunbar Library's atrium.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into five series:

  1. Series I: Development of Charlie Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician
  2. Series II: Oral History Project
  3. Series III: Wright 1903 Flyer Project
  4. Series IV: Wright 1902 Glider Project
  5. Series V: Howard DuFour

Acquisition Information

The Howard DuFour Collection was initially accessioned and processed into the Wright State University Special Collections and Archives on April 28, 1998 as the Charlie Taylor-Howard DuFour Collection. With the addition of new material in Oct 2002, primarily correspondence and information on the building of a Wright 1903 Flyer replica for Wright State University, the name of the collection was changed to the Howard DuFour Collection. The majority of the material in the collection was donated by Howard DuFour. Material relating to the Charlie Taylor oral history project was primarily donated by Rubin Battino.

Related Material

MS-1, Wright Brothers Collections.

  • 2 VHS ("The Winds of Kitty Hawk" and "Flypast: #1- The Wings of Man --removed from Film DB #327 and 329) due to duplicate content, and 8 corrupt zip disks of the first edition of the Charlie Taylor book for which printed drafts exist in the collection.
Guide to the Charlie Taylor-Howard DuFour Collection (MS-286)
Finding aid prepared by Briony L. Harmer, Spring, 1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • Spring, 1999: Jane Wildermuth
  • 2004, 2005, 2010: John L. Armstrong
  • May, 2012: Patricia A. McEldowney

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA