Header Graphic
From Dayton to the Argonne


From Dayton


The Argonne






A Liberty-motored DeHaviland “four,” considered the most

successful all-purpose machine on the Western

Front, first constructed at Dayton, Ohio 1917.


The Dayton Wright Airplane Company

Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A.



to the ARGONNE


How the Dayton Wright Airplane Company,

  Evolved from the Early Efforts of the Wright

 Brothers,  Became   in  a  Year’s  Time   the

    World’s  Foremost  Producers  of  Airplanes.


     The Airplane was invented in Dayton.  The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, from the moment of their earliest achievements in winged flight, viewed with prophetic eye a future time when their invention might make war so destructive that it would no longer be physically possible to wage it.  But with all their vision they never imagined that the day would come when Dayton, the birthplace of the machine with which man masters the air, would be the first of American industrial centers to land combat airplanes in Europe and, moreover, that there would arise in their home city an aircraft factory that would  turn out the dread machines of aerial warfare in greater numbers than they were ever made in any place before.

     But fate has dealt a sort of poetic justice to the Wrights and Dayton, and to the surviving brother and to the city have come the honor and the distinction of leading the van in contributing to the aerial fighting power of the Republic. Where the struggling brother-inventors used to pause in their labors to accumulate $25 or $50  to go on with their humble experimentation and development there has arisen a colossal industrial organization whose labors and thought were sending two hundred mighty “DeHaviland 4’s” a week to the thundering frontier of civilization in France when victory came to the allied arms.

     The last great war of all came to its end too soon for the prophecy of the Wright brothers to be realized but to Orville Wright was given the supreme satisfaction of realizing that the little city where he and his brother had planned and toiled in obscurity, had been the first to send fighting American aircraft to the front in that climatic war, and that but for the efforts of his fellow townsmen in co-operation with himself there would instead of  2,000,  have been scarcely an American made ‘plane in France  when the armistice was signed, and not a single one at the front.

     That co-operation of Orville Wright’s fellow-townsmen took the form of the concrete business organization of the Dayton Wright Airplane Company and its predecessor, the Wright Company.  They are the historic functioning organization between the crude machine of the first flight and the superb Dayton Wright bombing planes that thronged the air at the St. Mihiel salient and hovered protectingly over the grim forest of the Argonne,  proof to friend and foe alike that the immeasurable capacity of America for quantity production had been turned to the war-chariots of the air and that mastery of the air was about to become as complete for the allies as that already attained on land and sea.  The German was beaten in the end not only ecomoniclly and physically but psychologically.  He was beaten because he came to believe that he would be beaten and no small contributing agency to the establishment of that belief was the comprehension of what American quantity production of airplanes meant.  He read his fate in the skies.  Airplanes that never reached the front were yet powerful contributors to victory.

     It is a far view from the Dayton of the early years of this century and the struggling  inventors to the Dayton of 1918 and the great plants of the Dayton Wright Airplane Company but it may be quickly scanned.  Although Dayton became the flying Mecca of the world as soon as it was universally recognized that the invention of the Wrights was epoch-making, the industry of making flying machines developed but slowly.  While it was manifest that the first important utilization of the new machines would be in warfare and that the pioneering in development of the machines of flight should be under government auspices because of the very distant time of their commercial adaptation and use,  the Wright brothers received very little encouragement at first from our government.  Indeed, so general was skepticism as to the reality of their achievement that the Wrights were actively hampered in carrying out their experiments and tests.  This skepticism is reflected in the specifications for one of the early trials for the U. S. Signal Corps, which provided that “nothing in the way of balloons should be attached to the wings of the planes.”  It was, perhaps, only natural that foreign nations, necessarily more interested in military matters than the United States, should have evinced real interest in the Wrights’ invention before our government did.  And looking back now, it is a matter of satisfaction to know that the Wrights owed so much to the help of England and France, the great allies of the titanic struggle then concealed in the womb of the future.

     The great war early demonstrated the vital importance of aerial superiority  and caused some degree of realization in the United States of the necessity for devoting some attention to aircraft along with the other phase of the rather desultory and insignificant steps that were taken in the direction of preparedness before we became actually involved in the war ourselves.  Early developments of an experimental nature were worked out at what is known as South Field, near Dayton, using the nucleus of the personnel of the original Wright Brothers organization.

     This experimental work soon grew to such proportions that a group of Dayton citizens became interested and brought together under one organization executive, engineering  and manufacturing ability of such an order of merit that it was of immediate assistance to the government in its then forming aerial program for the war.  Perceiving that the first step would necessarily be the manufacture of training planes, a step which the lay public has generally overlooked or minimized in criticizing the development of military aircraft, the new company concentrated its experiments and researches in that direction.  In ugust, 1917, it was awarded a government contract for 400 training planes,  and to meet the emergency acquired the extensive plant the Domestic Engineering Company had recently completed at Moraine City, a suburb of Dayton--a plant that was well adapted to the immediate purpose and to extension for further service.  Soon after work on the training planes was begun the new Company received an order for a large number of battle planes of the type known as the “DeHaviland 4,” intended to carry the Liberty motor.

     The first plane of this kind, and indeed, the first combat plane ever built in America, was built at the South Field station, where the company engineers, collaborating with engineers of the Signal Corps, redesigned the type to adapt it to the Liberty motor.  This particular plane, known as the “Canary” on account of its color, was completed and flown for the first time on October 29, 1917, thus simultaneously demonstrating the success of the plane design and also of the Liberty motor.  It is worthy of note that the “Canary,” through special permission granted by the War Department, is on exhibition at the Aeronautical Exposition of the Manufacturers’ Aircraft Association in New York.  The “Canary” was kept at the laboratory and was used as the “dog” in which to embody and test such changes and devices as were suggested from time to time, before they were included in regular production.  When it was dismantled for shipment to New York it had flown a total of 11,947 miles and had been in the air 1,078 hours.  It is now to be retired to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, as a most interesting feature of the permanent exhibit being established there.

     The Dayton Wright Airplane Company is proud of its achievement in fulfilling its contract for DeHavilands.  On April 27, 1918, the management prepared a schedule calling for the completion of the thousandth machine on July 31.  It was a stupendous undertaking, considering the multitude of obstacles of an unusual nature, such as manifold and inopportune changes in design, baffling delays in obtaining parts and materials and the training and enlargement of the force.  Nevertheless Plane No. 1,000 was completely packed and loaded on the cars at 4:27p.m., July 31, just three minutes ahead of the strenuous schedule.  The splendid spirit of the employes that contributed so signally to this industrial triumph then sought relaxation in a grand celebration of the occasion.  They “went to it” again immediately thereafter, and when the armistice was signed the Company had completed 2, 987 planes, had actually attained a production of forty complete planes a day and had delivered between 1,800 and 2,000 machines in France.




     Speaking at a banquet of the Manufacturers’ Aircraft Association in New York on January 7, 1919, John D. Ryan, formerly assistant secretary of war and director general of the Air Service, said of the Dayton Wright DeHavilands’ performance at the front:


     “I saw them in France when the clouds were low and it was not a fit day for anybody to take the air, going out and flying fifty and sixty meters above the ground, and bring back a complete record of what was ahead of them.  General Pershing told me, when I talked with him on the second day of the battle of the Argonne, that no army ever went out with such information as to what was in front of it as the American army did in St. Mihiel and in the Argonne.”




     One of the best possible refutations of the ill-considered wholesale criticism of American aircraft manufacturers that was so common in the first part of the war, is the well established fact that the Dayton Wright Company was the foremost producer of battle planes in all the world when the war ended,  only a year after the first hand-made model had been completed and only fifteen months after it had undertaken the job.  Not only was the volume of the output record-breaking but the quality was excellent.  The Company does not care to boast of its contribution to the Nation’s military equipment, but even as a soldier may wear a medal of honor, it takes a certain satisfaction in recording this brief account of its career and works, and in printing herewith a few of the many tributes, official and otherwise, which it proudly keeps in its files,  relating to its part in the Great War:







                                                                                                                                July 26, 1918


H. E. Talbott, President,

The  Dayton Wright Airplane Co.


     My Dear Mr. Talbott:  I have received your telegram telling me that the Dayton Wright Company will ship their thousandth DeHaviland Battle Plane on August 1st, and inviting me to participate in the celebration of that event by addressing the six thousand employees of your Company whose labors and zeal have accomplished this splendid result.


     I regret that it will not be possible for me to accept the invitation.  The great battle now going on in France is not only a dramatic but a critical moment in the war, and I am not permitting myself to be absent from Washington or to make any plans for absence just now;  but I will be most happy to have you convey to your employees a message of grateful appreciation from me.  I have visited the Dayton Wright plant, have seen the beautiful work which comes from the hands of your operatives, and have noted the zeal and loyalty with which they press forward to increase the supply of aircraft for the use of our Army at the front.  They are doing an essential work in a highly patriotic and successful way, and on behalf of the Army I am glad to transmit to them this word of thanks and acknowledgment.


                                                                                        Cordially yours,


                                                                                                 (Signed) NEWTON D. BAKER,

                                                                                                                           Secretary  of  War.










                                                                                                                                  August 17,1918.


From:  The Director of Military Aeronautics


To:  All Field Commanders


Subject:  Cable from General Pershing


1.       The following copy of cable is to be posted in a conspicuous place:


      “Commander of Air Service reported August 14th: On August 7th the first complete squadron , 18 American DH-4 planes with Liberty motors, crossed the German Lines on independent reconnaissance mission to Sector under command of Benjamin D. Foulois, Brig. Gen., and Lieut. Blair Thaw.  All planes returned successfully from their mission—Pershing.”


2.       Recent direct information is to the effect that the DH-4 is the best plane on the Western Front and the Liberty Engine the BEST.


     By direction of  Maj.Gen. Kenly.


                                                                                                                                  M. F. DAVIS,

                                                                                                                               Colonel A. S., M. A.,

                                                                                                                                                        Chief of Training.


Headquarters, Aeronautical General supply Depot and Concentration Camp, Morrison, VA., August 21, 1918.  To all  Organizations.


1.       For their information and guidance.

2.       This will be posted on all bulletin Boards.

By  order of Lt. Col. Carmody.

                                                                                                                      JOHN C. FUCHS,


                                                                                                                       1st Lt., Signal Corps,  Adjutant. 







Aviation Section Production Center no. 2

Plant 1-A Assembly


                                                                                                                                     September 8th, 1918


The Dayton Wright Airplane Company and 8,000 Employees,

The Good  Old  U. S  A.


     Gentlemen:  Number 1,000 plane arrived at 4:50 this morning.  Thirty minutes after it was uncrated on our assembly floor, the flag draped over the top and a hundred men standing around it thinking of home.


     Assembly Crew No. 1 of the Night Force was disappointed because they were not permitted to stay overtime without breakfast and assemble the plane.  They left the enclosed memorandum requesting that the job be saved for them for the next shift.  It will be difficult to keep the day assembly crews off of it but we shall try.  We “eat them up” now as fast as they arrive on the railroad siding and if you will give us the next thousand we will put every one of them into the air before the end of September.


     Personally this plane has brought many pleasant recollections.  I am a Dayton man and I was with the

N. C. R. when George Shroyer bought the millioneth register and paraded with it through the streets.  I wondered if No. 1,000 has had just such a trip, though of course if it did it met with greater acclamation and enthusiasm.


     You will undoubtedly hear more from this ship after it has been assembled and flown but I could not resist sending you this first word of appreciation and thanks for the wonderfully good work you are turning out and sending to us.  The Air Service has met with a lot of criticism but we are getting our stride now and soon the Hun will holler so loud it will be heard in Dayton.


     More power to you all and my personal regards to all my friends “back there.”


                                                                                                             Cordially yours,


                                                                                                                            (Signed)  C. E LLOYD,

                                                                                                                         1st:Lieut. A. S .S .C .U .S.

                                                                                                                    Asst. O. I. C. Assembly  Plant 1-A