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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wright Stuff
Fred Kelly has written the definitive biography of the Wright Brothers, with special emphasis on the 10 years after the first flight. During this time, the brothers worked diligently to explain the benefits of aviation to an unbelieving public and uninterested leaders of military and commercial concerns.

Kelly starts at the beginning, with tales of the brothers...
Published on July 16, 2005 by john purcell

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Official" Biography
Kelly wrote the "official" story, as "authorized" and sanitized by Orville Wright, of the brothers' Wright. As a devotee of the Wrights, it is unfortunate that Kelly filled his book with deficiencies and erroneous claims made on Orville's behalf. A careful reading of the entire Wright papers and material still unpublished, reveals that Wilbur was the "brains" behind the...
Published on March 2, 2009 by Dr. Watson


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Official" Biography, March 2, 2009
This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
Kelly wrote the "official" story, as "authorized" and sanitized by Orville Wright, of the brothers' Wright. As a devotee of the Wrights, it is unfortunate that Kelly filled his book with deficiencies and erroneous claims made on Orville's behalf. A careful reading of the entire Wright papers and material still unpublished, reveals that Wilbur was the "brains" behind the discovery of flight; it was Orville who added his mechanical expertise in the building of the flyer. It is so unfortunate that so much that continues to be written about the Wrights is merely a reshuffling of old facts and surmises, with the result of a perpetuation of errors and distortions.

It was John R. McMahon who told the real story based on his revision of an original manuscript by Earl Findley. Orville had turned to Findley to write the biography; but it was too near the truth; too personal; and he nixed it.

But the truth came out, when McMahon wrote a series of articles on the Wright Brothers in "Popular Science," January 1929. When he came to write his book, still based on the Finley manuscript, Orville protested and was able to get several passages, on threat of court action, changed in the book. For example, Orville didn't want the years Wilbur spent at home as an invalid, revealed. Orville also has himself elevated above Wilbur, as the creative driving force in the airplane's invention.

If you want to investigate the real story, take the Kelly book with a grain of salt, and read instead, John Evangelist Walsh' "One Day at Kitty Hawk," published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975. Even better, wouldn't it be good to have the unpublished Finley manuscript published, instead of suppressed.

But don't look for the Walsh book at the Wright Brothers Memorial National Park Service Visitor's Center. In a recent interview with a National Park Service Ranger there, he told me the Park Service regularly reviews all books before being put on sale in their facility, and the Walsh book was not one they would put out for sale. After I explained to him my credentials, he freely admitted that the information in the Kelly book was Orville's attempt to "re-write" history. But he stated that the Park Service didn't want to ruffle feathers of Wright family members, by putting out the more correct John Walsh biography, which he admitted, was more accurate.

I had always wondered why Orville, the more out-going of the two, would, in later life, say very little...he refused to give speeches, interviews, and said next to nothing at celebrations in honor of the Brothers.

Kelly, to say the least, gives less paragraph space to Wilbur's achievements, and more events of consequence, in numbers of paragraphs, to Orville. There are so many myths perpetuated by the Kelly book, too numerous to enumerate here in this review. I have heard Park Rangers at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, still repeating them as fact. Suffice to say, if the reader will look at the Walsh book, one will find the myths revealed in a conclusive way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wright Stuff, July 16, 2005
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This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
Fred Kelly has written the definitive biography of the Wright Brothers, with special emphasis on the 10 years after the first flight. During this time, the brothers worked diligently to explain the benefits of aviation to an unbelieving public and uninterested leaders of military and commercial concerns.

Kelly starts at the beginning, with tales of the brothers as young children and schoolboys, ultimately moving into the world of commerce as circus impressarios, printers, and bicycle builders and repairmen.

By the late 1890's they had selected aviation as a hobby, and started their annual pilgrimages to Kitty Hawk for several months each year to perform experiments. Only after 4 or 5 years of gliding and kite flying, was manned flight considered. By working long hours in the bicycle shop and minimizing all expenses, they were able to pursue this unusual hobby for several weeks each fall.

The obstacles were legendary, but the brothers persevered, usually by arguing (in a friendly way) between themselves, then reading every book on the subject in the Dayton public library, and then, developing new theories and experimental methods. In this way, they broke new ground in fluid dynamics, control and stability, motor construction, and propeller design. For example, they discovered that published tables of data on wind dynamics were wrong, so they built a wind tunnel to generate better data. The brothers had a unique ability to solve problems by applying a sound scientific approach and by going about it in an honest midwestern approach.

Those of us who were at the centennial did not hear the story of how little publicity the 1903 flight received. The press and public were either unbelieving, or unable to distinguish between flying dirigibles and heavier than air self propelled planes. Only after several public demonstrations with flights exceeding one hour did the popular press come to understand the importance of this development.

Kelly's book is unique in its access to Orville Wright, as they were old friends and Kelly consulted extensively with him, writing this book in the 1940's. After Wilbur died, Orville focused on building the various Wright companies around the world, fighting patent infringement suits (including Curtis), and endless battles with the Smithsonian Institute.

The Smithsonian story is told here in great detail, as Orville still sought for the historical record to reflect his view, now universally accepted. The Langely plane (Langely was the director of the Smithsonian) never flew; in fact, it crashed several times in the Potomac in 1902-03, and had obvious design flaws.

Amazingly, Glen Curtis was allowed to attempt experiments years later with the Langely plane, while he had litigation pending over the Wright patents. Curtis made major modifications to the plane, and got it to briefly fly, thus attempting to weaken the Wright patent claims. For years, the Smithsonian stubbornly insisted that the Langely plane was historically significant, and snubbed the Wright brothers, who retaliated by displaying their planes in other museums.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent telling of the history of man's first flight., January 22, 2004
This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
Fred Kelly did a wonderful job in bringing the story of the Wright Brothers to the public in this birgraphy. He starts us off by showing us the environment that the brothers grew up in and how the two had a curious and experimential nature about them. We are then shown the methods they had used in their experimentations for developing their flying machine. We can even feel the edge of competition as Samual Langly makes his attempt at manned powered flight only a day before the brothers and is met with failure.
It has been 100 years since that magical day on the North Carolina Outter Banks, and Kelly manages to bring the experience back to us to relive. This is also an excellent book for children to read. I highly recommend it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Bycycle Mechanics show us how to fly, April 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
A great little book. A must read for every airplane nut!! Wilbur and Orvill Wright show that common sense, Perseverance, and an unshaking belief in the scientific method overcame all obstacles to prove that man could fly while others with more funding and education failed completely. A true American Success Story
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only 100 Years Ago, November 5, 2003
By 
Christopher B. Jonnes (Stillwater, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
Considering that Fred Kelly's biography was first published in 1943, the text has a surprisingly contemporary style and its underlying research is up to today's high biographical standards. There is little hint in the reading that the book is so dated. What will never get old is the fantastic story of the Wright Brothers.
Kelly begins with a brief history of the brothers' childhood, with parents who nurtured creativity and the quest for knowledge. They were the kind of kids who were fascinated with how things worked. Their interest in flight began when their father bought them a small rubber-band-powered toy kite. That interest slowly grew to a sideline obsession as they matured and began earning a living with their Dayton bicycle shop. They gathered and studied everything they could on the science of flight, including the works of Langley, Chanute, and Lilienthal. This led to the construction of gliders capable of holding a human passenger, with which they began methodical testing to understand aerodynamics and the nature of pressure on wing surfaces. To accomplish this in more efficient manner they invented the world's first wind tunnel, and patented wing warping and ailerons.
Eventually satisfied with their glider, the Wrights graduated to attempts at powered flight. When their motor didn't seem up to the task, they scratch-built their own. The culmination--after years of tinkering and learning--was the successful and historic flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The Wrights had ushered in a reasoned, scientific approach to the quest for man-flight. They had accomplished the impossible in virtual isolation, without financing or institutional support. They embody the can-do American ideal of independence and ingenuity.
What is almost equally fascinating about their story is what Kelly chronicles after the 1903 flights. The patriotic Wrights immediately foresaw the military potential for the flying machine and wanted America to benefit from their invention. But in 1903 man-flight was considered impossible. It took four years to convince the War Department that they weren't crackpots. It was nearly five years before the general public caught on to their accomplishment. And after others, such as Glenn Curtiss, began building their own planes--and infringing the Wright patent--it seemed to consume the rest of Orville' and Wilbur's lives to prevent history from being rewritten. They became embroiled in nasty feuds with Curtiss and the Smithsonian Institute over credit for their inventions and the right to claim first to fly.
While Kelly does an excellent job at presenting the case in favor of the Wrights, who undoubtedly deserve the admiration and gratitude of mankind--he was a personal friend of the Wrights and I'd like to read other viewpoints on the legal aspects of their later battles. Kelly may have been too close to render an objective and balanced picture of them. The brilliant brothers did seem to be a couple of characters. Oddly, there is no mention in the book of involvement with women. Were they a couple of male spinsters? --Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of BIG ICE and WAKE UP DEAD.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Like a visit with a friend, September 17, 2013
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This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
This story of two curious and amazing boys is just right. There's enough detail to feel we know them and plain enough to be read by young teens as well as adults. The boys were fascinated by anything that "worked" and often saw a chance to make an improvement, always curious about how it worked and how it could work better.

This is not a studious biography with footnotes and scientific language, it's a visit with a friend of the Wright family and lets us feel that we also watched them grow and discover.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ok if you're not very demanding, April 12, 2013
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No depth of description of the characters. It completely glosses over the extent to which aviation development was held back, as many have claimed, by the Wright bros.
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5.0 out of 5 stars must read for all Wright fans, October 30, 2011
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This review is from: The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) (Paperback)
This is one of those books that anyone interested in the Wright Bros. must read. Kelly was a friend of Orville's and had direct info to work from. Easy to read. Book arrived quickly and in excellent condition. Would recommend this purchase from this group again.
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The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation)
The Wright Brothers: A Biography (Dover Transportation) by Fred C. Kelly (Paperback - July 1, 1989)
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