Classroom Activities

Reconstructing History:
The Wright Brothers' First Flight

Step 1:
Evaluate Evidence

You'll analyze some of the same documents that historians use to reconstruct the history of the Wright brothers' first flights. For each piece you examine, complete an Evidence Evaluation Worksheet (PDF).

Evaluating Primary and Secondary Sources

Some of the artifacts and documents you will evaluate are primary sources; others are secondary sources. What's the difference?

Here are the definitions of primary and secondary sources used by the Smithsonian Archives:

Primary sources are documents or objects created as part of daily life-birth certificates, photographs, diaries, letters, etc.-or reports from people directly involved in the subject.

Secondary sources are documents that interpret, analyze, or synthesize information, usually produced by someone not directly involved in the subject.

Which is more reliable? Your teacher will give you information on evaluating primary and secondary sources and determining reliability. You'll learn how to assess a creator's or recorder's bias and make judgments about reliability.

Use the Evidence Evaluation Worksheet to Evaluate These Documents:

1. Telegram from Orville Wright to His Father
Smithsonian Education

2. Orville Wright's Diary
Smithsonian Education

3. Article in The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
Smithsonian Education

4. Letter from Milton Wright to Journalist
Smithsonian Education

5. Interview with John T. Daniels
Smithsonian Education

6. Magazine Article by Wilbur and Orville Wright ("The Wright Brothers' Aeroplane") Smithsonian Education

7. Pictures of First Flight
From Wright Brother's Collection, Wright State University
 • Image: First Powered Flight, December 17 1903.
December 1903,
John T. Daniels
image: 16-2-10; N203
image: 16-2-22; N1096
 • Fourth and Final Flight of the Wright 1903 Flyer. December 1903,
Wright brothers
image: 16-2-22; N1096
8. Patent Application
NASM Exhibit WB:280-L4-S4-P4a,b,c

9. Excerpt of Article, "How We Made the First Flight," Flying and The Aero Club of America Bulletin FAA website

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