I finished the Wright Brothers by David McCullough. McCullough is an American Historian who has written many books including several Presidential biographies. Up to this point, my favorite was “Mornings on Horseback” (about Teddy Roosevelt) but I have enjoyed several others. The Wright Brothers, his latest, is my new favorite. McCullough has adopted the more “narrative non-fiction” style of writing to take us through the Wright Brother’s historic achievement. The book can’t be described as a typical biography as it doesn’t really cover most of Orville’s life essentially finishing up around 1910. There is a brief Epilogue at the end that brings us closure on Wilbur and their sister Katherine’s premature deaths along with the rest of Orville’s life but the heart and sole of the book is the story of how they came to invent the airplane and the years of trial and error that culminated in their remarkable accomplishment.
McCullough has provided us with fascinating detail about these two brothers, with no college education, and how they worked religiously for 6 days a week to first build and sell bicycles and then a “flying machine”. It is an extraordinary story and one you might have thought you knew but probably did not as most of the books written about the brothers are children’s books. Much of the story centers on their work at Kitty Hawk N.C. (if you have never been to the Wright Brother’s Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, it really is a must see), Europe and Ft. Meyer, VA. Fort Meyer is in Arlington and abuts Arlington National Cemetery. For years, my office looked down on it as I watched the horse drawn caissons go to the cemetery. I had no idea that the Wright Brothers had spent so much time there just as I was ignorant of the lack of support the Wrights had in the United States and many of the other details that McCullough has shared with us.
If you love history and/or biographies, this is a must read and I don’t think anyone else will be disappointed.