[Close-up view of machine on launching
track at Huffman Prairie, Dayton, Ohio].
[1904 June or July]. Glass plate negatives
from the Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright,
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
The Wrights began to build a new machine in January 1904 and by early summer they were ready to try
it out. Although it looked similar to their 1903 original, it was sturdier, heavier, and had an entirely
new engine. This photo shows the 1904 model from the rear, with the rudder in the foreground. As in
1903, the operator lay flat and the machine used a sled and wooden track to take off. The Wrights knew
that they needed hours of experimenting and test flights if they were ever to produce a practical airplane,
so they chose a field close to home to practice. This field was Huffman Prairie, a hundred-acre cow
pasture, eight miles east of town, reachable by trolley. This photo shows that the pasture was mostly
clear of trees. The Wrights built a shed to assemble and store their machine, as they had done at Kitty
Hawk, and had test flights at Huffman Prairie through October 1905.
["Our Homes," A. I. Root, Gleanings in
1 January 1905]. General Correspondence: Root, A. I.,
1905. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers,
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
By mid-September 1904, the Wrights were making flights up to one-half mile in length at Huffman Prairie
and were even making full turns in the air. Although some local reporters visited Huffman Prairie in
the spring of 1904, they were disappointed by bad weather and cancelled flights and did not return.
One visitor who came and stayed, however, was Amos I. Root of Medina, Ohio. Root, the owner of a beekeeping
supply house who had heard rumors of the Wrights' accomplishments in the air, decided to find out about
their flights for himself. The Wrights liked the curious beekeeper, who had driven 175 miles to witness
their flights and allowed him to remain. Root wrote of what he witnessed for the readers of his journal,
Gleanings in Bee Culture, and for the years 1904-05, the only accurate coverage of the Wrights' flights
at Huffman Prairie appeared there. In a long, descriptive article, Root concluded, "these two brothers
have probably not even a faint glimpse of what their discovery is going to bring to the children of men."