Back A. I. Root, “The First Successful Trip of an Airship”

A. I. Root (1839–1923)
From Into the Blue: American Writers on Aviation and Spaceflight

The Wright Flyer II flying close to the ground, with Wilbur Wright piloting. This flight, covering a distance of 784 feet in 22 3/4 seconds, occurred on August 13, 1904, a month before A. I. Root visited Huffman Prairie. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

115 years ago today, on September 20, 1904, Wilbur and Orville Wright for the first time flew their airplane in a full circle, landing it where they had taken off. And A. I. Root, the editor of Gleanings in Bee Culture, was there to witness it.

Even more important to us: Root wrote down what he saw. And printed it in his magazine for beekeepers. And thus became the author of the first published eyewitness account of an airplane flight. Two weeks after his article appeared, Root was still excited about what he had seen and predicted that the airplane would change the way we travel. “Its highway is God’s free air,” he concluded. “While up in the air there is but very little to injure or to put any great strain on any part of the machinery. If you run into a tree or a house, of course there would a smash-up. No drinking man should ever be allowed to undertake to run a flying-machine.”

We present Root’s exuberant account as our Story of the Week selection. In our introduction to the selection, we also discuss the Wrights’ earliest enterprise, a printing firm, and how Orville’s high school classmate and close friend, the famous poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, shared their love of books and printing.

Read “The First Successful Trip of an Airship” by A. I. Root

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