Wright Brothers Net Worth at Death – Salary, Income, Earnings

Wright Brothers Net Worth 

Wright Brothers had a combined net worth of $10 million. The Wright Brothers, Wilbur, and Orville were two aviators, aeronautical engineers, inventors, and pioneers who are usually referred to together and are recognized worldwide as the ones who invented, built, and successfully flew the world’s first airplane, although this is not without controversy. 

After Wilbur’s death, Orville became involved in a long and elaborate series of patent suits, but all of them ended in his favor (in 1914). He then sold the factory and patent rights to a syndicate of financiers and banks.

In 1916, the Wright factory merged with the Glenn L. Martin Company to form the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company. Orville Davis’ fortune was worth $10.3 million in today’s dollars when he died in 1948 at 77.

To calculate the net worth of Wright Brothers, subtract all their liabilities from their total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity they had in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Wright Brothers
Net Worth: $10 Million
Monthly Salary: $100 Thousand
Annual Income: $2 Million
Source of Wealth: Aviation engineers, Inventors

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Early Life

Milton and Susan Wright’s third and fourth sons, Wilbur and Orville, like their older brothers and younger sister, were very much influenced by their mother. Milton was a minister and traveled frequently. 

During his absences, Susan ran an experimentally inclined household. Her children thought she could fix or invent anything. Naturally, her charges became similarly creative and skilled in using their hands. 

The second boy, Loren, invented the improved hay-baling machine; Wilbur designed a paper-folding device; and Orville, at 12, built printing equipment. The family’s introduction to flight came when Milton fashioned a miniature cork-and-bamboo helicopter with paper wings propelled by wound rubber bands. 

Teamwork soon meshed with a freethinking attitude and vigorous confidence. All the children felt at home with books, new ideas, and animated conversation. Wilbur and Orville began cooperating on most of their ventures, first setting up a printing business, and then picking up on the fascinating new developments in cycling. 

The brothers opened their own sales and repair shop, and soon were manufacturing their improved, eighteen-dollar “Wright Special.” 

By this time, Germany’s Otto Lilienthal had already designed and tested his flying machine, similar to today’s hang glider. However, Lilienthal, whom Wilbur later termed “inspirational” and “the greatest of the precursors” to manned flight, was killed on one of his experimental glides. 

Samuel Langley had also developed scale models of gliders, to which he attached single horsepower engines. His full-scale “Aerodrome” consisted of an unwieldy contraption, launched from a catapult. 

Hearing the reports of these developments, Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Institute requesting information on aeronautics. But at this stage, the brothers hardly considered themselves capable of actually constructing a flying machine.


Wilbur and Orville pored over articles and books, plus, spent countless hours observing the natural flight of birds. They were immediately struck by the meager amount of practical knowledge available on the subject. 

The Wrights first noticed that the “experts” were chiefly concerned with getting their machines off the ground; they gave little thought to the problem of controlling the crafts in flight. The brothers devised a “three-axis” means of maneuverability. 

Further experimentation with kites resulted in a “wing-warping system” that offered better balance. After several months of work, Wilbur wrote to the noted engineer Octave Chanute, describing his ideas, the brothers’ limitations, and asking Chanute’s advice. 

From this request, a life-long friendship ensued. Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, lay “a stretch of sandy land one mile by five with a bare hill in center 80 feet high, not a tree or bush anywhere to break the evenness of the wind current.” It was the ideal site to conduct their tests. 

The brothers set up a large tent and assembled their 17-foot-wide test glider. Once, while they were controlling it, kite-like, from the ground, high winds slammed the glider to the earth. After a week’s work, the brothers launched their patched glider again, loading it with various weights to get a feel for its balance. 

When the wind was right, the glider was shoved down the hill and launched, this time with one of the brothers lying prone in the hollow center section. In time the young men headed home to advance their designs and build a second glider. 

A full-time employee was hired to run the bicycle shop: calculations had to be made, questions waited to be asked and answered, and material shaping and fitting were needed. A workshop over the store provided the space. 

The brothers returned to Kill Devil Hills, a few miles south of Kitty Hawk, and constructed a spacious shed to replace the tent. But their new glider was a disappointment. Control of the craft was a dangerous problem, although, with adjustments of wing curvature and slant, the glider safely covered distances of up to 389 feet. 

With the addition of wing-warping controls, the machine could bank and turn. One difficulty persisted, however: on some turns the craft would shake and then stall. Wilbur once plummeted to the ground in a near-fatal crash. 

The only conclusion the two daredevil inventors could reach was that Lilienthal’s calculations, which the machine was designed from, had to be wrong. The Wrights assembled two wind tunnels out of wooden boxes and engines. 

Though the tunnels had been invented by Francis Wenham decades earlier, no one before had grasped their potential practical use. Over 200 differently shaped wing surfaces were tested in the tunnels for lifting capacity, wind-cutting ability, etc. 1902 saw the Wrights with a more streamlined glider, featuring a 32-foot wingspan. 

Other changes were introduced, including the addition of a tail; and later, a maneuverable tailpiece was constructed that could be linked to the wing assembly for simultaneous adjustment. The brothers made hundreds of glides, competing with each other for distance and time aloft. 

They now knew that they would return to attempt to fly a powered craft. Meanwhile, Samuel Langley, using over $50,000 in Smithsonian funds, was determined to be the first man in flight. But his search for a lightweight yet powerful engine had been in vain. 

On the other hand, the Wrights’ sleek, sturdy and well-designed plane would not require so much engine power. With the help of Charlie Taylor, a simple mechanic, they designed and cast their own parts, fabricating in only six weeks a four-cylinder, 12 horse-power, 140-pound motor. 

Previous propeller design was also found to be “very badly mistaken!!!” and “with the machine moving forward, the air flying backward, the propellers turning sidewise, and nothing standing still, it seemed impossible to find a starting point from which to trace the various simultaneous reactions. 

Contemplation of it was confusing,” Orville wrote. Arguments flared up. Taylor reported that one morning, “following the worst argument I ever heard, Orv came in and said he guessed he’d been wrong and they ought to do it Will’s way. 

A few minutes later Will came in and said he’d been thinking it over and perhaps Orv was right. First thing I knew they were arguing the thing all over again, only this time they had switched ideas. When they were through, though, they knew where they were and could go ahead with the job.” 

Their first propellers were made to spin in opposite directions so the plane would not be pulled to one side. “Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so that we could discover them!” 

Orville boyishly noted in his journal. Back at Kitty Hawk in September of 1903, the brothers discovered that storms had destroyed their shed. Hampered by bad weather and mosquitoes, the Wrights constructed a new shed and, at the same time, made their glider airworthy. 

Reports circulated that Langley’s Aerodrome would soon be flying, but after hearing of several embarrassing failures, Wilbur penned a letter to Chanute: “I see that Langley has had his fling, and failed. It seems to be our turn to throw now, and I wonder what our luck will be.” 

Since the craft weighed in at 605 pounds without the pilot, the Wrights built a skid with a track going down the hill to get it off the ground. Their first launches proved disastrous. The engine sputtered while the propellers spun irregularly and then finally jerked loose from their shafts. Repairs went slowly. Winter closed in. 

The men’s hands grew numb as they worked. Later, the sprockets that engaged the drive chains from the engine were found to be loose. The propellers wouldn’t rotate. “Day closes in deep gloom,” Orville inscribed that evening.

 But the next day, “Thanks to Arnstein’s hard cement…we stuck those sprockets so tight I doubt whether they will ever come loose again.” Then a new problem cropped up: a crack was detected in one of the shafts. Orville returned to Dayton to purchase stronger ones. But the brothers remained optimistic: “There is now no question of final success.” 

On 17 December, five observers from the nearby lifesaving station arrived. The plane pointed silently down its track into the wind. Orville slipped into position behind the controls, released the restraining wires – and lifted into the air. 

One hundred twenty feet and 12 seconds later, the brothers could, at last, congratulate one another. That day Wilbur’s final flight covered 852 feet and lasted 59 seconds. “They have done it! … Damned if they ain’t flew!” a witness shouted as he reached the Kitty Hawk Post Office. An engine-powered plane costing less than a thousand dollars had defied gravity. 

Newspaper reports on the “Flyer” turned out to be terribly inaccurate; Dayton papers ignored the feat completely. A more efficient “Flyer II” was tested in Dayton’s cow pastures later that year, but no reporters or curiosity seekers came around to bother the brothers. “Knowing that longer flights had been made with air-ships, and not knowing any essential difference between airships and flying machines, [people] were but little interested.” 

In 1905, the “Flyer III” achieved almost daily records. The longest flight went 24 miles in 38 minutes, concluding only when the fuel ran out. It took almost five years from the date of the Wright brothers’ first gravity-defying success for the world at large to recognize that manned flight had actually taken place. Wilbur took the plane to Paris for public demonstrations. 

Contracts from the War Department allocated $30,000 to build Wright airplanes. In less than a decade, Wilbur and Orville Wright had unlocked the secrets of flight. 

In 1912, Wilbur died of typhoid fever. Without his brother and business partner, Orville was forced to assume the presidency of the Wright Company. Unlike his brother, however, he cared little for the business side of their work and so sold the company in 1915.

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Personal Life 

Wilbur fell ill on a trip to Boston in April 1912. After being diagnosed with typhoid fever, he died at his family’s home in Dayton, Ohio, on May 30, 1912.

Orville spent the last three decades of his life serving on boards and committees related to aviation, including the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He broke off contact with his sister Katharine when she married in 1926. Neither Orville nor Wilbur ever married, and he was very upset with his sister’s decision. In 1929, he had to be persuaded to visit Katharine at her deathbed.

On January 30, 1948, Orville died after a second heart attack. He is buried in the Wrights’ family plot in Dayton, Ohio.

Wright Brothers Quotes

It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.


Men become wise just as they become rich, more by what they save than by what they receive.


The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.


We could hardly wait to get up in the morning.


I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years.


I am an enthusiast, but not a crank in the sense that I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine. I wish to avail myself of all that is already known and then, if possible, add my mite to help on the future worker who will attain final success.


The fact that the great scientist believed in flying machines was the one thing that encouraged us to begin our studies.

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