Monday, March 28, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Historical Dichotomy

March 21, 2005 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

[Library Note: In this article, Kollenborn switches between "Wilbur" and "Orville" Wright multiple times. Wilbur Wright is the brother who passed away in 1912 and who was thought to have been referenced in the Arizona Gazette. Orville Wright lived until 1948.]

There are times when historical research, speculation and supposition all come into play when looking for information. Often historical writers pursue information based on periodical articles supported by historical dates. The flaw in this type of research is one’s memory about names, places and events. A recent article written by this columnist falls in this category. The story was about Wilbur Wright, the famous American aviator at the turn of the century. For the record I want to correct the speculation and supposition I put forth about this American aviator in a recent column.

Several years ago I was researching newspaper periodicals when I came across several articles written about early aviation in Arizona, c.1916-1920. One article caught my attention. It appeared in the Arizona Gazette and was dated June 16, 1919. The headline reads as follows: “Makes Record Flight Over the Apache Trail.”

It continued: 

Piloted by Lieut. Wilbur Wright a Curtiss plane came Saturday from Globe, making a record flight of 100 miles in 52 minutes. Capt. F.L. Darrow was a passenger. The flight was made over the beautiful scenery of the mountains traversed by the Apache Trail.

Lieut. Wright made a flight up to Globe last Tuesday, accompanied by a man from the local recruiting station. During the short time spent in the mining town an intensive recruiting campaign gained nine applications for the air service.

The landing Saturday was made in the small oval field within the race track at the fairgrounds, as the larger field used by airplanes previously is under irrigation at the present.

Using a little supposition I combined several aviation stories of the period into one story about Orville Wright and the Apache Trail based on the newspaper article that appeared in the Arizona Gazette on June 16, 1919.

After my article appeared in the AJ News on January 24, 2005, I was soon advised this event could not have occurred. First, Orville Wright died in 1912, and secondly Orville [Wilbur] Wright would have never flown a Curtiss aircraft. Yes, I was guilty of taking the article in the Arizona Gazette for face value. If my thought process had kicked in I would have recalled Orville [Wilbur] Wright passed away in 1912.

This error on my part was based on the information that appeared in the Arizona Gazette has created another interesting historical dichotomy. Who was the Lt. Wilbur Wright in the Arizona Gazette article? Did the event ever actually occur? The event mentioned in the Arizona Gazette did occur, however the actual pilot has not been identified through research. The Gazette reporter may have written the Army pilot that flew the Curtiss handled the aircraft like Orville Wright and whoever wrote up the story misunderstood the reporter’s story and called the story in by telephone incorrectly. Telephones were often used to forward stories to press rooms in those days.

Today, wireless computers send stories to press rooms. A reporter today can use a laptop computer to report an important event directly to the pressroom in writing preventing any confusion over the telephone lines or the air. As a columnist I feel I reported the story as it was written, but did not further research it. Further research might have revealed the Orville Wright mention in this article was just another man named Wright. If I am so lucky to find any new information about this article I will print an update.

Thank you all for reading my columns and supporting the historical preservation of this area.