First airplane flies Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane. After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight. In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds. During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948. The historic Wright brothers’ aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 1862 Grant expels Jews from Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi On this day in 1862, during the Civil War, U.S. Army General Ulysses S. Grant, the future 18th president of the United States, issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews suspected of engaging in war profiteering from a region occupied by the Union Army. Grant was commander of the military’s administrative “department” of Tennessee (consisting of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi) and was in charge of issuing trade licenses. Although President Abraham Lincolnpermitted limited trade in southern cotton, Grant was tasked with shutting down the black-market trade in the cotton industry. Swayed by the commonly held prejudice that Jews were largely responsible for war profiteering, Grant blamed the district’s Jewish community for organizing the illegal trade in black-market cotton. Grant’s order prohibited the issuing of trade licenses to Jews within the Tennessee district. Furthermore, it required them to leave the district within 24 hours of the order or risk imprisonment. Grant’s zealous underlings immediately began to enforce the order: Entire families were marched out of town with only what they could carry. According to the American Jewish Historical Society’s research, Lincoln did not know about Grant’s order and expressed surprise when a group of Jewish leaders met with him to protest Grant’s decree. President Lincoln disapproved of the order and expressed his disbelief to Grant in a letter: “a paper purporting to be [issued by you] has been presented here. It expels all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.” Three days later, Grant obeyed the commander in chief’s orders and revoked General Order No. 11. Lincoln later told Jewish representatives that “to condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad” and promised to not only rid the country of slavery, but to protect Americans from religious discrimination. Grant’s reputation was not tarnished by the General Order No. 11 episode. In fact, after the war, most Americans regarded Grant as a hero and he went on to win the majority of the Jewish vote in the presidential election of 1868. As president, he appointed Jews to top federal positions. 1889 “Silver Dollar” Tabor born in Denver On this day, Rosemary “Silver Dollar” Tabor, the second daughter of Horace and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor, is born. The Tabors were one of Colorado’s wealthiest families of the time. Silver’s mother, Elizabeth Doe, came west from Wisconsin with her husband, Harvey, in 1877; the couple hoped to make a fortune in the booming gold and silver mines of Colorado. Harvey Doe proved to be an inept and lazy miner, though, so Elizabeth divorced him and moved to the mining town of Leadville in 1881, where she performed on the stage and was nicknamed “Baby Doe” by admiring miners. During a chance encounter, Baby Doe won the affections of Horace Tabor, an emigrant from Vermont who made millions in the silver mines. Although Tabor was a married man, he moved Baby Doe into an elegant hotel in Denver and began a not-so-secret affair that scandalized the Colorado gentry. Ignoring the wagging tongues, Tabor divorced his wife and married the beautiful Baby Doe, who was nearly a quarter-century younger than he. For a time, the couple lived a life of extraordinary opulence and pleasure, and Baby Doe had two daughters nicknamed “Lillie” and “Silver Dollar,” the latter in recognition of the source of the family’s wealth. During the early 1890s, the good times started to slow as some of Tabor’s investments went sour and his mines began to decline. The fatal blow came in 1893, when the U.S. Congress repealed the Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which had kept silver prices high through government investment. Without these large purchases of silver by the U.S treasury, prices plummeted and Tabor’s once valuable mines were suddenly nearly worthless. In a matter of months, Tabor was bankrupt and the family was reduced to living on the modest income he earned as Denver’s postmaster. Chicago to live with relatives. Eventually, Baby Doe left Lillie in Chicago and returned to Leadville with Silver Dollar. The decision was disastrous: mired in poverty, Baby Doe and Silver eked out a threadbare existence, living in a small shack near one of the worthless silver mines they inherited from Horace Tabor. As Silver grew older she drank heavily and used drugs. She moved to Chicago, where she was murdered in 1925 at 36 years old. Baby Doe survived for another decade, an impoverished recluse who used old gunny sacks for shoes and doctored herself with turpentine and lard. During a severe blizzard that hit Leadville for several days in February 1935, Baby Doe–who had once been one of the richest people on earth–died cold and alone at 81 years old.