This Fraud is History

When the Wright Brothers became fraud examiners

The world knows Orville and Wilbur Wright as the team that designed, built and flew the first successful powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine (and put Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on the map). Not bad for a couple of brothers who'd operated a printing business and later opened a bicycle repair shop in Dayton, Ohio. However, few know that Wilbur and his older brother, Lorin, once came to the aid of their father, Bishop Milton Wright, an itinerant "circuit" preacher, to expose suspected financial abuse in the United Brethren Church.

Wilbur was a natural when it came to numbers. His diaries are full of trigonometry calculations for glider-wing curvatures; exact measurements of distances and times flown; screw (propeller) pitch, length and curvature; wind resistance and thrust; conversions of foot-pounds of force to horsepower; and so much more. He and Orville were meticulous record-keepers.

Lorin (his parents named him after a community on a map) worked in Kansas as a bookkeeper before returning to Dayton. His bookkeeping job and four children kept him fully engaged, but eventually he and his sister, Katherine, managed to look after Orville and Wilbur's bicycle business while they were away pursuing their more "lofty" enterprises. Lorin was also available occasionally to help with research and field tests.

Bishop Wright constantly extolled the virtues of a quality education. He instilled in his children (four sons and a daughter; a set of twins, Otis and Ida, died shortly after birth) a fervent desire for knowledge — particularly the sciences, ethics, history, literature, mathematics and theology — while also nurturing their moral fiber and cultivating their faith. When any of the children missed a school day, Bishop Wright never worried because he knew their noses would be buried deeply in the books that filled the Wright home.

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