The University Record, June 19, 1995

Clements Library holds piece of Wright brothers' first flight

By Joanne Nesbit

A piece of the machine that allowed man to make the first free, controlled and sustained flight has landed at the Clements Library. The one-by-two-inch piece of fabric from the original wing covering of the historic Kitty Hawk was a gift from Jeanne Funkhouser Reeder, a U-M graduate.

Reeder, following the wishes of her father, a graduate of U-M's School of Law and personal attorney to flight pioneer Orville Wright, presented the fabric swatch to the library. Charles Andrew Funkhouse, vice president of the Law School's class of 1900, practiced law in Dayton, Ohio, for 63 years. Among his clients was Orville Wright, co-inventor of the airplane with his brother Wilbur. Orville Wright also became a friend to the Dayton attorney.

The Kitty Hawk itself was installed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in December 1948, 45 years after the brothers took off from the sands of Kitty Hawk, N.C., in the clumsy and frail 605-pound heavier-than-air craft.

Jeanne Funkhouser Reeder remembers hearing the man her father called "Orv" visiting in her parents' home and telling the story of the "First Flight." She also remembers that the inventor was sometimes considered a recluse. But her father, appearing in court for the settlement of Wright's estate in 1948, remarked when questioned about Wright's frame of mind at the drawing of his will, "He was his usual jovial self!"