It was Sept. 17, 1908. Orville Wright was showing off a new “aeroplane” at Fort Myer, Va., for about 2,000 people, including Army brass. He took up a 26-year-old lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps, Thomas E. Selfridge, “an aeroplanist himself,” according to the report in this newspaper. Contemporary accounts vary, but the pair apparently made three and a half successful circuits at an altitude of about 75 feet, before a propeller split and hit other parts of the plane, causing it to crash. Orville was badly hurt.
The aeroplane has made three complete circuits of the big parade ground and was dashing around a curve at the far end of the field on the final lap of its fourth when the propellor blade broke. It snapped short off close to the shaft and was hurled sixty feet away.
The aeroplane seemed to tip sharply for a fraction of a second, then it started up for about ten feet; this was followed by a short, sharp dive and a crash in the field. Instantly the dust rose in a yellow, choking cloud that spread a dull pall over the great white man-made bird that had dashed to its death.