Wilbur and Orville Wright are generally accepted to have built the world’s first airplane. While other inventors have actually built, experimented, and even flown aircraft before them, the brothers were the first to sustainably fly an engine-powered aircraft with effective controls.
It was the work of the Wrights that made flying fixed-wing airplanes possible. After spending hours working with gliders in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they eventually came up with a design allowing the control of the three axes of a flying craft, that is, the yaw (right and left), pitch (forward up and down), and roll (sideways up and down).
Testing their three-axis control device with gliders proved to be a success giving the brothers enough confidence to build the Wright Flyer I in their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They mounted a gasoline-fed engine they themselves manufactured. They took the plane to Kill Devil Hills in Kitty Hawk, and it was here, on 13 December 1903 that they made four flights in their plane, and made history as well.
The first flight was in the air only for 12 seconds, flying 120 feet. The second did a little better at 175 feet, and the third made 200 feet. It was the fourth flight that made the big difference. It flew 852 feet in 59 seconds.
To be able to sell their invention, however, Wilbur and Orville knew they had to improve their plane and make it fly for more than just 59 seconds. Work continued back in Dayton, and in 13 August 1904, their Wright Flyer II, flying at Huffman Prairie, a cow pasture about 13 kilometers northeast of Dayton, exceeded their best performance in Kitty Hawk. The new plane, with Wilbur manning it, made 1,300 feet. In 20 September Wilbur made the first flight in a complete circle at a distance of 4,080 feet in about 90 seconds. In the 9 November flight, Wilbur traveled almost three miles in over five minutes of flight, making four circles. Orville duplicated the feat in 1 December.
It was only after these flights over Huffman Prairie near Dayton, Ohio that Wilbur and Orville were confident enough to offer their airplane to the United States and a number of European governments for sale.
Most Americans love football. That is, American football, not association football or soccer. The game was played first in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton universities, although the rules were different then. Since that time, Americans have never stopped playing. Along the way, many notable and excellent athletes in the sport have come along. These fine men are now honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In 20 August 1920, four professional football teams met in Canton, Ohio to form the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). The group was established to promote the sport and draft rules to regulate the competing teams. In less than a month, their name was changed to American Professional Football Association (APFA); and in 1922 the group was renamed the National Football League (NFL).
This piece of history was brought up when the NFL, in 1962, was scouting for a place to establish the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The NFL having been founded in Canton was a good reason for the Hall of Fame to be established in the same city. Also, during the first few years of NFL, a member team, the now-defunct Canton Bulldogs, was considered one of the most successful teams at the time. And of course, the people of Canton worked hard to convince the NFL honchos to choose their city.
In 11 August 1962, the groundbreaking rite for the Hall of Fame was conducted. The plan was for two rooms with 19,000 square feet of space, but in April 1970, the first of several expansions was undertaken. After two more expansions, in 1977 and 1993, the building is now over 80,000 square feet.
The original honorees or enshrinees numbered 17, but today there are now 267 members who, except for Billy Shaw, played under the aegis of the NFL for at least for a part of their career. Shaw played only under the American Football League (AFL) before it merged with the NFL.
Traffic lights are a common sight in all cities in America. They keep vehicular and pedestrian traffic orderly thus preventing injuries and saving lives, not to mention avoiding dents and dings on your cars.
Although the Utahans and Ohioan probably disagree on where the world’s first electric traffic light was installed, they agree that the first traffic light, which was lighted by gas, was in use as early as 10 December 1868 in London. It hanged outside the British Houses of Parliament regulating the traffic of horse-drawn buggies and wagons as well as pedestrians. Its service was short-lived though. A policeman who was operating the light was injured (some say died) when the device developed a leak and blew up on 2 January 1869.
In the United States, Lester Wire, a police officer in Salt Lake City, Utah is said to have made a wooden box equipped with red and green electric lights in 1912. He mounted this on a pole and installed it in the streets of the city. This would make Wire’s invention the first not only in America but in the entire world.
Other researchers, however, argue that the title of the world’s first electric traffic light belongs to a device installed at the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio in 5 August 1914 by the American Traffic Signal Company. Called the “Municipal Traffic Control System, it was designed and patented in 1918 by James Hoge.
The device was made of four pairs of red and green lights, with each mounted on a post on the four corners of the street crossing. Wires ran from the lights to a small booth where they were manually controlled. The system was configured to sync the lights so that conflicting signals were avoided. In addition to the lights, a buzzer was incorporated to alert motorists and pedestrians of changes in the colors.
Another Cleveland resident, Garrett Morgan, also contributed to the conflicting claims on the origin of the traffic light. In 1923, he designed and patented a T-shaped pole that indicated three positions –stop, go, and all-directional stop. The last stops vehicular flow in all directions to allow foot traffic. Although it came later than Wire’s or Hoge’s devices, Morgan’s invention is considered by many to be the precursor of modern traffic lights.
Acknowledged to be the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is a major crowd-drawer, attracting over a million visitors each year to its host city of Dayton, Ohio. Indeed, it is considered as one of the state’s major tourist destinations.
The museum traces its roots back to the McCook Field, an airfield dedicated to experimentation in aviation, in Dayton. In 1923, the airfield’s Engineering Division began collecting and preserving technical artifacts. In 1927, it was moved to the Wright Field, another airfield that housed the research and development facilities of the Air Corps up to 1947. The area is now known as Area B of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The museum features a number of galleries displaying different aircrafts that have historical significance or were technological milestones in aviation development. While some of these, especially the older planes, are replicas painstakingly reconstructed by museum personnel, others are the real stuff.
Among the replicas is the Wright 1909 Military Flyer, the first heavier-than-air military flying machine. It was dubbed the Signal Corps Airplane No. 1. It would take two years before No. 2 came along. This was the Curtiss 1911 Model D. A faithful replica is also on display at the museum.
There are also plenty of planes that saw action in the Second World War in the museum. There is a German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10, which was considered to have the most advanced aerodynamic design at the time. There is also a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, the plane that attacked Pearl Harbor. On the American side are a Curtiss P-36A Hawk, Douglas B-18 Bolo, and Bell P-39Q Airacobra among others.
The actual aircrafts used by past presidents are also exhibited. Those used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower are on display. The main feature, however, is the modified Boeing 707, dubbed SAM 26000, that served John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. It was this plane that brought Kennedy to Dallas in November 22, 1963 and brought back his dead body to Washington. It was also on board this plane that Johnson took his oath as president of the United States.
There are many other galleries in the National Museum of the United States Air Force featuring both historical and modern aircrafts, missiles, space modules and capsules, and even the evolution of the Air Force uniform.
Located in Mason, Ohio, Kings Island, which is arguably one of the most exciting theme parks ever constructed, is only 39 kilometers to the northeast of Cincinnati. The park was inaugurated by the Taft Broadcasting Company in 1972, but it is now owned and managed by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.
Among the many offerings of the park are the roller coasters which are sure to give you an adrenalin rush and keep your heart pounding, but all the while enjoying the unique excitement that comes from precipitous drops, wild twists and turns, and breakneck speeds.
Among them is the Diamondback, which drops to over 5,000 feet twisting and turning at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. If you want to go a little slower, at 65 miles per hour, you can ride the Beast. It passes through densely wooded areas on a 35-acre site. And to be in tune with such surroundings, the roller coaster is made of wood. It is actually the longest roller coaster that is made of wood in the whole world.
The Firehawk takes its riders through five inversions, flipping and jetting them at speeds of over 50 miles per as they face the ground. Boasted to be the only face-to-face inverted roller coaster in the Midwest, the Invertigo allows riders to watch each other’s reactions as they go through two forward inversions and one backward.
The Flight of Fear adds a new element to its four inversions by making you feel like a bullet shooting from zero to 54 miles per hour in a mere four seconds. The Vortex is another roller coaster running at 55 miles per hour. It features a corkscrew, boomerang turn, 360-degree helix, and two vertical loops.
There is also the Flight Deck, a suspended roller coaster that swings from side to side at the turns, and the Racer, which, despite its name, is not the fastest of the roller coasters in the park. It is called Racer because it consists of two trains running alongside each other competing for the finish line.
Twisting and turning atop an eroded meteorite impact crater along Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County, Ohio, the Great Serpent Mound attains a length of 1,348 feet. The mound has an average height of three feet, and it has a width that varies from 20 to 25 feet. It is considered to be the largest extant example of an ancient effigy mound in the world.
Lying on the east end, the mouth of the serpent is open. There is an oval embankment right before the mouth that has been interpreted either to be a part of the head or something that it is about to swallow, which has been variously described as an egg, the sun, or a frog. Others, however, believe that it is nothing more than a remnant of a platform. The body of the serpent winds back and forth in seven coils, with its tail ending in a triple coil.
The origin of the Great Serpent Mound is still hotly debated by anthropologists, archaeologists, and ethnologists. Three groups of cultures have been proposed as the original builders of the site –the Adena culture (1000 BCE – 1 CE), Hopewell culture (200 BCE – 500 CE), and Fort Ancient culture (1000 – 1650 CE).
There are three burial mounds that are associated with the serpent mound, two of which belong to the Adena culture, while the third belongs to the Fort Ancient culture. It is because of these that both cultures are considered to be the builders. A reopening of a late 1800s excavation in 1991, however, recovered pieces of charcoal from the site that were carbon dated to be 900 years old. This bolsters the argument for the Fort Ancient culture.
The identity of the builders of the Great Serpent Mound is not its only mystery. Scholars are also at a loss to explain what might have been its purpose. Some suggest that it has astronomical significance arguing that the head and the oval before it points to the summer solstice sunset, and that the coils align with the two solstices and two equinoxes of the year. Others, because of its proximity to burial grounds, believe that it may have been a place of worship. Still others claim that it corresponds to certain constellations in the sky.
With no records, whether written or oral, surviving, perhaps we will never really know who build the Great Serpent Mound, nor for what reason; but it is there as our link to the ancient past.
Sharing a border with Pennsylvania, where the Amish Mennonites first arrived in the United States in the 18th century, Ohio is now host to an Amish population of about 55,000, the largest group in the entire country. These belong to the Old Order Amish communities that choose not to unite with the Mennonites.
The Amish live a simple life, wear plain dress, and refuse to adopt modern technology. A common image of an Amish is a bearded man wearing a hat, white shirtsleeves, sometimes with a vest, and loose trousers held by suspenders. He is either walking or driving a horse-drawn carriage on unpaved roads. If you follow him into his home, you will find that it does not have a TV, radio, or PC. You won’t even find a fridge in the kitchen. He is likely to be a farmer, but he does not use a tractor. Instead, he works the fields with a plow and a horse. He could also be a furniture worker, but he uses only muscle-powered tools. No nail guns or power saws for him.
If you want to get up close and personal with the Amish and see how they live firsthand, Ohio is the place to go. There are at least 26 counties in the state that have Amish communities. And while you visit, you can purchase homemade baked goods, handcrafted items, or even furniture that were made in exactly the same way they were done 200 years ago.
You will find the largest group of Amish in Ohio residing in seven counties that are centered in Holmes county. The area has 227 church districts with approximately 30,000 Amish souls.
Farming has been declining in the Holmes county area because of increasing population and scarcity of land. Those who choose to remain in agriculture limit themselves to dairy farming and raising produce. Many men have switched to making furniture and handicrafts, while some women, when not attending to household chores, cook and bake foodstuffs.
Precisely because of their different lifestyle, Amish communities are a popular tourist attraction. For those who want to know how it is to live without cell phones, tablets, and laptops, or how life was lived in the 18th century, a visit to an Amish community will provide the answer.
While it may be an exaggeration to say that Marion, Ohio is a magnet for the supernatural, there are actually two neighboring cemeteries in town that have their own mysteries to speak of. One of them is the Marion Cemetery located along Vernon Heights Boulevard.
Among the plots in Marion Cemetery is one that belongs to the Charles Merchant family. The plot, erected in 1896, is marked by a gravestone consisting of a five-foot-high pedestal with a large orb resting at the top. Made of gray granite, the ball is quite shiny, reflecting light and the gravestones and trees surrounding it. It has a diameter of four feet and weighs two tons. Circling the large ball and its pedestal are other granite orbs laid on the ground. These, however, are of a much smaller size.
The different design of the Merchant gravestone is enough to catch the attention of many passers-by. But there is more to it that just its structure –the ball apparently rotates on its own!
At the base of the ball, there is a small round unpolished spot that is hidden from view. It is said that two years after it was first installed it began to appear. The Merchant family initially believed that it was just the result of poor workmanship that left the ball unbalanced, and had it restored to its original position. In time, the spot re-appeared. This time, the family left the ball alone, and the spot has been moving ever since at about two inches per year.
The rotating ball has been studied, examined, and debated on for years. Indeed, in 1929, it was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Until today, there is no universally accepted explanation.
Some believe it to be haunted by restless spirits seeking attention and prayers. Others, however, prefer to look for a more mundane explanation, like air pockets and seismic disturbances. Others even cite the coriolis effect. These explanations, however, are complicated by the absence of scratches on the bottom of the ball that could conceivably come from its movement against the stone pedestal.
Whatever is the explanation for the rotating ball the Marion Cemetery, the Merchant gravestone makes for an interesting visit and examination.
The southwestern city of Cincinnati prides itself as the first to establish a full-time career fire department in the United States. Not to be outdone, the city of Akron on the opposite end of the state proclaims that it is the first city to use a motorized patrol car.
By the closing decade of the 19th century, the then nascent American automobile industry was already introducing self-propelled carriages powered either by steam, electricity, or internal combustion engines. Joining the men and women who were trading their horse-drawn carriages and buggies in favor of the new invention, the Akron Police Department purchased one unit of the automobile in 1899.
The automobile was actually a buggy designed by Frank Loomis, an Akron city mechanical engineer, and built by the Collins Buggy Company. It was equipped with an electric-powered engine that could run, on level ground, 18 mph for about 30 minutes before depleting the battery and needing a recharge.
Although a policeman mounted on a horse can outpace the patrol car in a gallop, the latter can carry an entire squad of seven or nine including the driver. This, it is often believed, is the reason why police cars today are sometimes called squad cars.
Fitted with electric lights and gongs, and including a stretcher, the patrol car cost $2,400, which is about $67,000 in 2012 values.
Responsibility for operating the car was first given to Police Office Louis Mueller, Sr, and his very first assignment was to pick up a drunken man at the intersection of Main and Exchange Streets, a task many police officers still perform today, and not only in Akron.
In a race riot in 22 August 1900, angry mobs pushed the car into the Ohio Canal, but it was recovered on the following day. It continued to function for a few more years before it was finally junked.
Organized firefighters have existed throughout history. In Rome, there was the Corps of Vigiles, which consisted of slaves. In France, the Company of Pump Guards fought fires for a fee, until it was given as a free service by the government in 1733. Edinburgh, Scotland claims the credit for organizing the world’s first municipal fire brigade in 1824.
In the United States, while Benjamin Franklin is considered by many to be the first Fire Chief, having organized The Union Fire Company, his group consisted of 30 volunteers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Earlier, in 1678, Boston had a paid fire crew that was equipped with fire fighting tools, but they were not career firefighters, and actually had other employment.
It was not until 1 April 1853 that the first fully paid and full-time career fire department was established in Cincinnati, Ohio. This came in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed the Eagle Ironworks factory of Miles Greenwood in 1852.
Greenwood, himself an inventor, then collaborated with two Cincinnati locals, Abel Shawk, a locksmith, and Alexander Bonner Latta, a locomotive builder, to construct a steam-powered fire engine. Although other enterprising individuals have already assembled steam-powered fire engines, the three Ohioans wanted something better.
The finished engine was demonstrated to the Cincinnati City Council towards the end of 1852, which, having been satisfied with its performance, contracted for the purchase of one unit. This was delivered on 1 January 1853 to the Fire Department, which made Cincinnati the first city not only in the United States but in the whole world, to own and operate a steam-powered fire engine. The engine was affectionately dubbed “Uncle Joe Ross” after a member of the City Council.
In 1 April of the same year, the City Council, in an effort to further beef up the city’s firefighting capabilities, decided to disband its groups of volunteer firefighters with a paid career fire department, who, when not actually putting out fires, devised new ways to combat fire and engaged in fire drills.
In the following year, the citizens themselves raised enough funds for the purchase of a second fire engine for the Cincinnati Fire Department. It was christened “Citizen’s Gift”.