O, FOR HISTORY: Roebling Wire & The Wright Brothers’ gliders and fliers

A year ago, I posted something on social media about the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and my friend, Diane Householder, added to the post with information about the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky. Nearly twenty years before the Brooklyn Bridge was opened, The Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, as it was originally known, opened on 1 December 1866.

Johann August Röblin, better known as John Augustus Roebling, was born in Prussia, on June 12, 1806, and emigrated to The United States in 1831. Roebling died in 1869, and his wife continued with the plans and construction of The Brooklyn Bridge.

While I was working at Carillon Historical Park, Monday, 31 October 2022, a very knowledgeable Volunteer, Dennis Palmer, a specialist in numerous exhibits throughout The Park, asked about a “tidbit” regarding the Wright Brothers. Dennis said he had read, somewhere, that the wire used for the lacings in the Wright Brothers’ gliders and fliers was made with Roebling wire.

I immediately pulled up information on my laptop and learned Roebling developed a 7-strand wire rope on his Saxonburg, Pennsylvania farm. This wire rope was used in the design and construction of his suspension bridges. Still, I could not locate specific information regarding Dennis’ query. I contacted the Roebling Museum in Roebling, New Jersey, and received a quick response that it is believed the Wrights did indeed, use Roebling wire.

One source was from Charles E. Taylor: My Story. Charlie Taylor, May 24, 1868 – January 30, 1956, was hired by the Wright Brothers in 1901 to serve as a machinist in their West Dayton bicycle shop, receiving five cents more on the hour than he made at Dayton Electric Company.

“I was a machinist and had done job work for the boys in my own shop,” said Taylor. “Once I made up a coaster brake they had invented, but they dropped it later. I knew they were interested in box kites and gliders, and that they had gone south to Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1900 with a glider. I didn’t know anything about the stuff, but I did know something about the bicycle business.”

By 1902, after successful experiments at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with their glider, the Wrights turned to Charlie to create an engine for their first flying machine. Mr. Taylor drafted and built an aluminum and copper, water-cooled, four-cylinder engine in less than two months that produced 12 horsepower.

In the article about Charlie Taylor that was supplied by the Roebling Museum, Mr. Taylor stated, “The chains to drive the propeller shafts were specially made by the Indianapolis Chain Company, but the sprockets came ready-made. Roebling wire was used for the trusses.”

It’s been a satisfying day knowing that Dennis Palmer’s question led to another learning adventure and making historical connections to our shared passion for Wright Brothers’ history.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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