Skip to main content

Special Collections & Archives

Wright Brothers Collection

The Wright Brothers Collection housed in Special Collections and Archives in the Wright State University Libraries is one of the most complete collections of Wright material in the world. It includes the Wrights’ own technical and personal library, family papers including letters, diaries, financial records, genealogical files, and other documents detailing the lives and work of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright Family. It also includes awards, certificates, medals, albums, recordings, and technical drawings. Perhaps the most valuable part of the collection are the thousands of photographs documenting the invention of the airplane and the lives of the Wright Family.

The Wright Brothers Collection was deeded to Wright State University in 1975 by the Wright Family. The initial collection was described in The Wright Brothers Collection: A Guide to the Technical, Business and Legal, Genealogical, Photographic, and Other Archives at Wright State University, published in 1977. Since that time, numerous additions to the collection and donations of related collections have necessitated the revision and updating of the original collection inventory. A bound inventory to the collection was published in 2003, the centennial year of the Wrights’ first successful, controlled powered flight, which offered a detailed and more complete guide to the papers of the Wright Family housed at Wright State University. Additional materials were added to the collection since 2003, however, so the collection inventory available online is the most current and up-do-date inventory to this extensive collection.

The online collection inventory is divided into seven sections for ease of use. Part I, Technical Library, contains an extensive list of the books and published materials in the collection which came from the Wright family's own technical and personal library. Part II, Manuscripts, includes personal and family papers, financial records, diaries, genealogical files, letters, and other documents. Part III, Photographs, is an item level listing of the thousands of photographs contained in this collection. More than 2200 of these images are available for searchable viewing in CORE Scholar, our Campus Online Repository. Part IV, Albums, includes a variety of photograph albums which document the Wright family as well as the development of the airplane. Part V, Phonograph Records and Film, contains several recordings and films. Part VI, Awards and Certificates, documents the variety of these items presented to the Wright Brothers. Part VII, Medals, describes each of the medals in the collection, some of which are available for viewing in the Archives reading room.

In addition to the main Wright Brothers Collection, Special Collections and Archives has numerous other collections which also relate to the Wright Brothers and their lives and work. Also included on the site are an information packet of primary and secondary sources, a variety of lesson plans, information about their patents, and both a bibliography of additional sources and links to additional locations of materials to assist in your research. Papers from the 2001 symposium, Following in the Footsteps of the Wright Brothers: Their Sites and Stories, are available online in CORE Scholar. Finally, you can also discover the history of our 1903 Wright Flyer replica which hangs over the atrium in the Dunbar Library. If you have the chance to visit us, you can also see two original Wright Brothers' propellers, which are located in our reading room.

Please explore and enjoy all of the resources available here to learn more about the Wright Brothers, the invention of the airplane, and the Wright family.