John T. Daniels

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Daniels' first photograph (restored) Wright First Flight 1903Dec17 (restore 115).tif
Daniels' first photograph (restored)
Daniels' photo was adapted for the North Carolina quarter in the 50 State Quarters program 2001 NC Proof.png
Daniels' photo was adapted for the North Carolina quarter in the 50 State Quarters program

John Thomas Daniels, Jr. (July 31, 1873 January 31, 1948) [1] was the amateur photographer who took the photograph of the Wright Brothers' first flight on December 17, 1903. [2] He was also a member of the Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station, and his cousin was North Carolina Senator Melvin Daniels. [3]

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

Kill Devil Hills is a town in Dare County, North Carolina. The population was 6,683 at the 2010 census, up from 5,897 in 2000. It is the most populous settlement in both Dare County and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Kill Devil Hills Micropolitan Statistical Area is part of the larger Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area.


Daniels later said that he was so excited by seeing the Flyer rising that he nearly forgot Orville Wright's instructions to squeeze the bulb triggering the shutter. Of the photos taken during their 1903 stay in Kitty Hawk, this is one of the clearest, including a photo of the more dramatic third flight that was found to be blurry when processed. [4]

<i>Wright Flyer</i> First powered aircraft built by the Wright brothers

The Wright Flyer was the first successful heavier-than-air powered aircraft. It was designed and built by the Wright brothers. They flew it four times on December 17, 1903, near Kill Devil Hills, about four miles (6.4 km) south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Today, the airplane is exhibited in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The U.S. Smithsonian Institution describes the aircraft as "the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard." The flight of Flyer I marks the beginning of the "pioneer era" of aviation.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

Kitty Hawk is a town in Dare County, North Carolina, and is a part of what is known as North Carolina's Outer Banks. The population was 3,272 at the 2010 Census. It was established in the early 18th century as Chickahawk.

Daniels had never seen a camera prior to using the Gundlach Korona V view camera with a 5-by-7-inch glass-plate negative to take the famous photo. The plate was not developed until the Wright brothers returned to Ohio. The camera was owned by the Wright brothers, who were careful to record the history making moment, and also to preserve a record for any future patent claims.

View camera type of camera

A view camera is a large format camera in which the lens forms an inverted image on a ground glass screen directly at the plane of the film. The image viewed is exactly the same as the image on the film, which replaces the viewing screen during exposure.

Photographic plate target medium in photography

Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a capture medium in photography. The light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts was coated on a glass plate, typically thinner than common window glass, instead of a clear plastic film.

The Wright brothers made four flights that day; three were photographed: the first, third and fourth. After the Flyer was hauled back from the fourth flight, a powerful gust of wind caught it. Daniels grabbed a strut in an attempt to hold down the aircraft, but he was caught between the wings as the Flyer flipped end over end. Daniels was not seriously hurt, but the Flyer was destroyed with even the engine block split in half. Daniels would tell the story of the day he "survived the first airplane crash" for the remainder of his life. [5] Daniels died January 31, 1948, one day after Orville Wright's passing.

Anniversary events

In 2003, Daniels' granddaughter participated in the 100th anniversary First Flight Ceremonies at Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. [6]

On December 17, 2012, the great-grandniece of the Wright Brothers, Kate Jameson (through their niece Leontine Wright, daughter of their brother Lorin, later Jameson) reunited with the great-grandson of photographer John T. Daniels, also named John Daniels. [7]

Related Research Articles

Wright brothers American aviation pioneers, inventors of the airplane

The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American aviation pioneers generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world's first successful airplane. They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft with the Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1904–05, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft, the Wright Flyer III. Although not the first to build experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1903:

The Wright Company was the commercial aviation business venture of the Wright Brothers, established by them on November 22, 1909, in conjunction with several prominent industrialists from New York and Detroit with the intention of capitalizing on their invention of the practical airplane. The company maintained its headquarters office in New York City and built its factory in Dayton, Ohio.

Charlie Taylor (mechanic) American mechanic

Charles Edward Taylor was an American inventor, mechanic and machinist. He built the first aircraft engine used by the Wright brothers in the Wright Flyer, and was a vital contributor of mechanical skills in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.

Thomas Selfridge first person to die in a crash of a powered airplane

Thomas Etholen Selfridge was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and the first person to die in an airplane crash. He was also the first Active Duty member of the U.S. military to die in a crash while on duty. He was killed while seated as a passenger in the Wright Flyer, on a demonstration flight piloted by Orville Wright.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1908:

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1905:

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1901:

The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft by the Wright Brothers, built during the winter of 1904-05. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904. The new machine was equipped with the engine and other hardware from the scrapped Flyer II and—after major modifications—achieved much greater performance than Flyers I and II.

Wright Brothers National Memorial Located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine.

Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright came here from Dayton, Ohio, based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau about the area's steady winds. They also valued the privacy provided by this location, which in the early twentieth century was remote from major population centers.

Wright Flyer II second powered aircraft built by the Wright brothers

The Wright Flyer II was the second powered aircraft built by Wilbur and Orville Wright. During 1904 they used it to make a total of 105 flights, ultimately achieving flights lasting five minutes and also making full circles, which was accomplished by Wilbur for the first time on September 20.

Wright Brothers Day is a United States national observation. It is codified in the US Code, and commemorates the first successful flights in a heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled airplane, that were made by Orville and Wilbur Wright on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On September 24, 1959 U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared December 17 to be Wright Brothers Day.

Wright Glider

The Wright brothers designed, built and flew a series of three manned gliders in 1900–1902 as they worked towards achieving powered flight. They also made preliminary tests with a kite in 1899. In 1911 Orville conducted tests with a much more sophisticated glider. Neither the kite nor any of the gliders was preserved, but replicas of all have been built.

Harry Aubrey Toulmin Sr. was the American lawyer located in Springfield, Ohio, who wrote the "flying machine" patent application that resulted in the patent granted to Dayton inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright on May 22, 1906.

History by Contract is a book by early aviation researchers Major William J. O'Dwyer, U.S. Air Force Reserve (ret.) and Stella Randolph about aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead. The book focuses on an agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and the estate of Orville Wright, which stipulates that the Smithsonian, as a condition of owning and displaying the 1903 Wright Flyer, must recognize and label it as the first heavier-than-air machine to make a manned, powered, controlled and sustained flight.

<i>The Winds of Kitty Hawk</i> 1978 television film directed by E.W. Swackhamer

The Winds of Kitty Hawk is a 1978 American made-for-television biographical film directed by E. W. Swackhamer about the Wright brothers and their invention of the first successful powered heavier-than-air flying machine. It's a tribute to the brothers and was broadcast on December 17, 1978, the 75th anniversary of their famous 1903 first aeroplane flight. It is one of several made-for-television films about historical people in aviation produced in the 1970s, including The Amazing Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart and The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case.

Several aviators have been claimed as the first to fly a powered aeroplane.


  1. John T. Daniels 1873-1948 courtesy of
  2. Crouch, Tom D. (February 2002). A dream of wings: Americans and the airplane. W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 300–305. ISBN   0-393-32227-0.
  3. Tise, Larry E. Hidden images: discovering details in the Wright brothers' Kitty Hawk Photographs. p. 10. ISBN   1-59629-054-4.
  4. "Capturing History". Vintage Aircraft. EAA. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  5. Crouch, Tom D. (April 2003). The Bishop's Boys. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 264–267. ISBN   978-0-393-30695-8.
  6. "Wright Flyer made its historic first flight"
  7. "Reunion for Wright brother's descendant."