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The Dawn of Flight in Washington, DC

Daytime Virtual Tour

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV029
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Claude Grahame-White flying his Farman biplane along West Executive Avenue near the White House, Oct. 14, 1910


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
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Think of the invention of the airplane and places like Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, or Dayton, Ohio, come to mind. How about Washington, D.C.? You’d likely be surprised that the nation’s capital is home to several significant sites connected to the beginnings of the airplane. Together, they tell a story of large and small moments that helped launch flight as we know it today.

Join Wright scholar Paul Glenshaw for an interactive virtual tour that visits locations across the area to discover the crucial role Washington played in the earliest days of powered flight. Drawing on a variety of visual sources, including contemporary and historic photos, he covers an itinerary that brings to life the people, places, and events that shaped an era of discovery and engages with participants all along the way,

Fort Myer in Northern Virginia is where Orville Wright successfully demonstrated the first military aircraft, and his brother Wilbur trained the first military officers to fly at College Park, Maryland, establishing the oldest continually operating airport in the world. The third secretary of the Smithsonian, Samuel Pierpont Langley, created some of the first successful powered models of heavier-than-air flying machines inside the historic Castle on the National Mall. His full-scale manned version had a disastrous crash off Hains Point nine days before the Wright brothers succeeded. Harry Atwood landed one of the brothers’ planes on the South Lawn of the White House in 1911, completing the first-ever flight from Boston to Washington.

Virtual tour stops also include the Air and Space Museum, which houses several significant examples of early aircraft; the burial sites of pioneering aviators at Arlington National Cemetery and the National Cathedral; the U.S. Air Force Memorial; and the Southeast Washington street where Al Welsh, one of the Wright brothers’ early students and the first Jewish-American pilot, grew up.

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