Wilbur and Orville Wright on the front porch of their home in Dayton, Ohio.
Photo from the Library of Congress

It was 1906 and, after being thrown out of town by his father, Odd McIntyre was eager to begin a new life as a reporter for the Herald in Dayton, Ohio. As fate would have it, what would eventually become one of the stories of century was right under his nose.

He read a Sunday feature in The Cincinnati Enquirer about a couple of brothers living there in Dayton who were working on a flying machine. Odd decided to pay a visit to the Wright brothers himself and see if there was a story there he could write for the Herald.

Odd saw first one brother and then the other observing him through a peephole in the door of their workshop on West Third Street. He knocked again, and as Orville Wright cautiously squeezed through the partially open door, Odd was able to get a peek into the room where Orville and his brother, Wilbur, were attempting to create the first flying machine.

Orville Wright (right) and a neighbor working in the
Wright family’s bicycle shop in 1897.

Odd found the brothers to be secretive and not at all interested in sharing any information about their project with anyone from the press. However, before the Wright brothers turned their attention to flying machines they had worked with printing presses and bicycles, so they certainly had mutual interests with the young reporter standing in front of them. While engaged in small talk, Odd likely figured out a way to work in his story about winning the Gallipolis champion trick bicycle award.

There were rapid advancements in technology as the nation shifted from an agrarian to an urban society. And since Odd was working at the forefront of mass communication, he was able to experience them firsthand.

Since my earliest recollection I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and I cannot tell you why.

As a young boy in the late 1800s, he learned the newspaper business by setting type and using an old printing press to produce the Gallipolis Journal. As a young reporter, he was there as reporting evolved first to a more personal style of writing, then to one based on sensationalism. As an editor in Cincinnati, he worked with some of the most notable muckrakers of the day. He was there as the telegraph enabled news to pour in from all over the world, and took part in an entertainment revolution as the phenomenon of radio swept the nation.

Odd reported on live entertainment as it shifted from vaudeville to something new and exciting on Broadway, and was among the first to embrace moving pictures, with frequent trips to and stories about Hollywood. He had a literal front-row seat as moving pictures evolved first to nickelodeons, then to silent films, and finally to talkies.

Orville Wright (far left) with siblings Katharine Wright
and Wilbur Wright in France in 1909.

Although Odd received very little cooperation from the Wright brothers that day in Dayton, he wrote what he could for “time copy” to be used anywhere there was extra space in the newspaper. And in doing so, he secured a place in history as one of the first reporters to interview the Wright brothers.

His personal style of writing appealed to Dayton readers, and the Herald editor received a number of letters praising the article. Eventually, Odd would receive thousands of letters in the mail each week from fans around the world, but it started right there in Dayton, Ohio with a story about two bicycle mechanics.

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Buckle up, bring your seat to an upright position and enjoy this rare footage of Wilbur and Orville Wright demonstrating their new flying machine.

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