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The Wright Brothers Dare to Hope

Gliding has been all the rage since the 1870s, but the gliders of the day have flaws. Particularly, the wings are not curved properly to produce lift. Orville and his brother Wilbur have been following the work of the German glider experiments and the failed attempts at powered flight by Professor Langley. Yet despite their admiration for the scientists that have come before them, the Wright Brothers believe they can correct the flaws in those previous designs. Orville is an accomplished bicyclist which is why they opened their bicycle repair shop in the first place, but Wilbur wants to fly so bad he can taste it. Wilbur is the driving force behind the effort to build extremely light engines that can deliver the horsepower sufficient to drive a propeller. They also patent ailerons (AYE-ler-rons) which means "little wings" in French. These "little wings" allow for better control in flight. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright drag their rig to a beach just south of Kittyhawk, North Carolina. They fire up the gas engine and Orville lifts off in the first manned powered flight in history. It is the first SUCCESSFUL flight, that is. (That distinction will become important later when Langley claims that he was first.) Orville flies all of 850 feet, but it counts. Two high school drop outs have just put a thumb in the eye of science. Man can fly, and they just proved it. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
One would think that the reward for bringing powered flight to mankind would be the respect of one's peers, the appreciation of the nation and riches beyond the dreams of Avarice, but you'd be wrong. Scientific American Magazine thought it was a hoax. Patent lawsuits tied up development of the airplane until World War 1 forced everyone to pull their collective heads out, and cooperate in saving their own lives. The Wright Brothers made some good money eventually, but Wilbur was the business man. He died early, leaving Orville to carry on as best he could.
"We dared to hope we had invented something that would bring lasting peace to the earth. But we were wrong ... No, I don't have any regrets about my part in the invention of the airplane, though no one could deplore more than I do the destruction it has caused. I feel about the airplane much the same as I do in regard to fire. That is, I regret all the terrible damage caused by fire, but I think it is good for the human race that someone discovered how to start fires and that we have learned how to put fire to thousands of important uses."
-- Orville Wright, commenting on the destructive power of bombers during World War 2. [3] [4]

The Panama Canal: Lease, Buy or Insurrection

Panama is currently a province of Gran Columbia along with Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Years ago, France had been trying to build a canal across the isthmus of Panama, but yellow fever was killing the workers faster than they could dig the trenches. They gave up. Now the United States has picked up the banner. Luckily, Army Major Walter Reed has already proven that yellow fever is carried by a mosquito. (He used human volunteers to perform the experiments.) Knowing what is killing you is half the battle in the race to build the Panama Canal... but there is a catch. Gran Columbia has failed to ratify the treaty to allow the US to build the canal. They want a bigger cut, but we are talking about President Theodore Roosevelt. He speaks LOUDLY, and carries a BIG stick! Rather than hassle with another round of negotiations, a revolt mysteriously breaks out in Panama with support from US gun boats. (How lucky is that?) The result is the free and independent Republic of Panama. Oddly enough, when the new treaty is signed to build the canal, no Panamanians are present to sign anything, but the treaty will be approved by the Panamanian government early next year. [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The phrase "banana republic" was coined around this time by an author named "O. Henry" who had been hiding out in South America to avoid criminal charges of fraud. (He eventually did time.) The financial situation was not good in South America, so European nations sent their war ships to collect the money owed them. On the other hand, the South Americans were expecting the US to protect them under the Monroe Doctrine. It was like a little kid kicking a big kid in the shins and then running behind his big brother. In this case the big brother was Theodore Roosevelt. He extended the Monroe Doctrine to include the right of the United States to interfere with... uh... I mean stabilize the economies of South American countries. That included using gunboat diplomacy to make it happen. [8] [9]

Notable Births

  • Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising (Creators of Loony Tunes!) [10]
  • Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (Famous Comedy team) [11] [12]
  • George Orwell (Author of the novel, "1984") [13]

In Other News

  • Crayola crayons are marketed to artists and schools. The name means "oily chalk" in French. [14]
  • Ford rolls out the Model A. $800 for the "Runabout". (About $22,000 in 2015 dollars.) The headlights and horn are extra. [15]
  • The USA leases Guantanamo Bay from Cuba in perpetuity. The naval station is there to defend Cuba from European invasion which is a reasonable concern in 1903. [16]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1903, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0385177712. 
  2. Wright brothers - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Bruce Watson (June 21, 2015). 'The Wright Brothers,' by David McCullough. sfgate.com. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  4. Johnathon E. Briggs (April 20, 2003). Wrights saw airplanes as tools of peace. baltimoresun.com. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  5. Wikipedia: Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 22, 2016
  6. Wikipedia: Walter Reed - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 22, 2016
  7. Wikipedia: Hay–Herrán Treaty - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 22, 2016
  8. Wikipedia: O. Henry - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 22, 2016
  9. Wikipedia: Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03 - Wikipedia, accessdate: November 22, 2016
  10. Harman and Ising. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  11. Bing Crosby. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  12. Bob Hope. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  13. George Orwell. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  14. Crayola: History. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  15. Ford Model A (1903–04). wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 22, 2016.
  16. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 456-457. 

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