Wright Brothers

Two boys from Richmond changed the course of human history: they invented the world’s first successful airplane.

Orville and Wilbur Wright spent their formative years here - aged 12 and 16 respectively - from 1881 to 1884.

Their father, who recognized his sons’ remarkable mechanical ability early on, described how one day he brought home a crude toy flying spinner glider and both boys watched wide-eyed as it floated around the room. They later constructed crude ‘fly toy’ airships that gained speed and shot up from the ground by the same system later employed at Kitty hawk – a small track.

Though the airplane wasn’t their first invention, it was more successful than an 1884 Richmond concoction. The brothers decided they could make money if they invented a new kind of chewing gum, so they went down to the Richmond Gas Company and got some tar, which they heated and added some sugar to. They let it cool and tried it out, and were sick the rest of the night.

Orville and Wilbur Wright later invented, built and flew the first successful airplane on Dec. 17, 1903, and the world was forever changed. But their “chewing gum” invention in Richmond made them sick.


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June 19, 2012