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Photo shows three-quarter left rear view of Wright brothers glider in flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Three-quarter left rear view of glider in flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1911. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00699

Revisiting Rights-Free: Exploring the Wright Brothers Negatives

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For lovers of twentieth-century history in general and for aviation enthusiasts specifically, the Prints & Photographs Division’s collection of Wright Brothers Negatives provides a fascinating body of evidence for early developments in aviation technology. All of the images, ranging in date from 1897 to 1928, are digitized and readily available for viewing from anywhere.

It will come as no surprise that among the hundreds of images in the collection of Wright Brothers Negatives, many document Orville and Wilbur Wright’s famous early experiments with flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A number of photos in the collection document successes:

Photo shows three-quarter left rear view of Wright brothers glider in flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Three-quarter left rear view of glider in flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1911. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00699

Others show the remains of flights that did not appear to end so happily. Damage to the right side of the glass negative seems to lend more chaos to this view:

Photo shows crumpled glider wrecked by the wind on Hill of the Wreck (named after a shipwreck).
Crumpled glider wrecked by the wind on Hill of the Wreck (named after a shipwreck). Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1900. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00544

Some photographs provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the brothers putting their mechanical skills to work, as in this image of Wilbur and Orville assembling a plane under a shelter on the sand:

Photo shows Wilbur and Orville assembling the 1903 machine in the new camp building at Kill Devil Hills. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Wilbur and Orville assembling the 1903 machine in the new camp building at Kill Devil Hills. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1903. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00656

In addition to photographs that relate directly to the brothers’ pioneering efforts to produce a successful flying machine, the collection includes many images that shed light on other aspects of their lives. Here is a photo showing Orville Wright and friend Edwin H. Sines working on bicycle frames in a Dayton, Ohio workshop – a reflection of their preexisting mechanical pursuits:

Photo shows Orville Wright and Edwin H. Sines, neighbor and boyhood friend, filing frames in the back of the Wright bicycle shop.
Orville Wright and Edwin H. Sines, neighbor and boyhood friend, filing frames in the back of the Wright bicycle shop. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1897. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00541

Among the other images that relate to life back home in Dayton are several that show Scipio, Orville’s pet Saint Bernard:

Photo of Saint Bernard named Scipio (Orville Wright's pet) lying down on porch.
Scipio, a St. Bernard dog Orville acquired in March, 1917. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00735

Some images help give a sense of what life was like for the Wright brothers in North Carolina. Here is a view of the kitchen used at the Kitty Hawk outpost:

Photo shows kitchen of the Wright brothers' camp building at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with neatly arranged wall shelves holding dishes, canned foods, and other provisions.
Kitchen of the camp building at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with neatly arranged wall shelves holding dishes, canned foods, and other provisions. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1902. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00596

Other images give a sense of the landscape that set the scene for their aeronautical experiments:

Photo shows Wilbur Wright standing to the right of a sandy pinnacle in Kitty Hawk North Carolina.
Wilbur Wright at Pinnacles. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1898. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00508
Photograph shows close-up of crab on sand.
Sand crab; Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Photo by Wilbur and/or Orville Wright, 1901. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00579

We encourage you to use the links below to dive deeper into the collections. I hope you enjoy your exploration as much as I did!

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