Not exactly to do with writing, but from an era when the articles in The New Yorker was somewhat less political than they are today.
And paragraphs were longer.
From The New Yorker, December 13, 1930:
The first man ever to fly an airplane is a gray man now, dressed in gray clothes. Not only have his hair and his mustache taken on this tone, but his curiously flat face, too. Thirty years of hating publicity and its works, thirty years of dodging cameras and interviews, have given him what he has obviously wished for most: a protective coloration which will enable him to fade out of public view against a neutral background. Orville Wright is not merely modest; he is what the sociologists call an asocial type. Bachelorhood is one evidence of this. You might discover another yourself, by searching the back files of newspapers for photographs of him. You would find fewer than you expected, and almost all of those you did find would be of his back. Temperament is doubtless partially responsible for making him thus. So, doubtless, is the way the world has treated him as a pioneer.
December 17, this year, is the twenty-seventh anniversary of the day when the younger of two of the sons of the Reverend Milton Wright, Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren of Christ, flipped a coin with his brother at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and, having won the toss, climbed into a motorized orange crate which slipped crazily forward—and left the ground. Orville and Wilbur Wright had for almost three decades looked toward this moment, and during most of that time they had shared the secret of their ambition with only one other person, a sister. Then, as they grew up in Dayton, Ohio, they had to take their experiments into the open. They flew odd kites before groups of raucously unsympathetic townsmen who asked what kind of business this was for grown men. They were going to fly!—and at a time when Samuel Pierpont Langley was falling into the Potomac River near Washington demonstrating that man could not fly, and when the joke of the day was that flying machines ought to be launched upside down so that they might soar, not fall. Then followed the immediate aftermath of their success, and its psychological effect. After Kitty Hawk the Wrights had returned to Dayton, which couldn’t realize that the two boys who ran the bicycle shop had flown. They tried a public flight for the townspeople, and when it was unsuccessful the newspapers printed funny stories. Thereafter, Dayton could see the Wright plane in the skies, and hear the uncertain musketry of its engine, and still not believe that anyone had accomplished power-driven flight. An old farmer expressed the general local opinion when he said: “There’s no use fussin’ with that thing, Will. It’s against Nature to fly, and even if anybody does, it won’t be anybody from Dayton.” Nor did the rest of the country show much interest. It wasn’t until 1908, two years after Europe had accepted the success of emulators of the Wrights, such as Santos-Dumont and Bleriot, that this nation came to suspect that the machine made by the bicycle-repairmen was a reality, perhaps even a success.
Now you find Orville Wright, when you confront him in his workshop, a timid man whose misery at meeting you is obviously so keen that, in common decency, you leave as soon as you can. He is to be found in his office, if you intrude, in a small brick house at 15 North Broadway, Dayton. It has two stories, a few yards of frontage on the street, and an ell that vanishes somewhere in the rear. In only one way does it stand out from the run of buildings along the street. It is not the ugliest house, nor the handsomest, nor the most sinister, nor the most inviting, nor the most well-kept, nor the most ramshackle. It is simply, by a long shot, the most undistinguished. By no stretch of the imagination would you suspect it houses fame.
The interior furnishings carry out the same motif. The front room is a spare box. There is a thin, faded rug on the uneven floor. The walls are bare of pictures. Not a memento is to be seen. There is a roll-top desk against one wall and a small table against another. There are three chairs, thin chairs. The gentleman opposite you is a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, a doctor of technical science of the Royal Technical College of Munich; he holds almost every honorary degree that a university can award; he owns enough medals to entomb him completely if he ever wore them all at once; he is an honored member of every association of aëronauts in the world; but on rainy days the roof leaks and he winces faintly when, every nine remorseless seconds, a drop of water flashes past the pale light of the window into the little pool on the floor.
He has been victimized and distorted by the written word ever since his first flight in 1903, when a reporter swiped a telegraphic message telling his father, the Bishop, that the machine had flown, and, knowing no fact but that, wrote what seemed good to him—a long, richly embroidered piece of imaginative prose describing in detail a flight of a virtuosity to which no plane has yet attained. He hates to have anything written about him, especially the conventional struggle-and-success story in which he has almost always been publicly presented. He regards his and Wilbur’s early work with a kind of religious pride, and would have it understood clearly and without gush that there were no melodramatic heartbreaks in learning to fly—save the inevitable financial ones. He insists that neither he nor Wilbur ever tried anything until they had worked it out first on paper and then in the laboratory, and that on the field, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that which was planned to happen happened. By this logic he insists there was no thrill whatever in leaving the ground on the first successful flight, in 1903. He was too sure he would fly to be excited. He says he had only one thrill in aviation: the moment when the bare idea of flight came to him as he lay abed at night as a sleepless small boy. He has almost never written for print and he refuses to write his autobiography. The persuasive demons who have put John D. Rockefeller, Colonel House, and the Pope into the sound movies will never triumph with him. “The only birds who talk are parrots, and they are not birds of high flight,” once said Wilbur, who had a certain flair for epigram. His brother’s interest in aviation is now only that of a bystander. He occupies himself now largely in “putting some of Will’s papers in order,” so that the amazingly exact early data of aërodynamics which the brothers worked out in the eighteen-nineties will not be lost. He serves on a few aëronautical committees. Curiously, although he never entered aërial sporting events in the earlier days and frequently evidenced his dislike for them, the post in which he now takes the greatest interest is the chairmanship of the contest committee of the National Aëronautic Association.
. . . .
The thoughts of Orville and Wilbur turned to flying in 1878, when Orville was seven. The Bishop, their father, had bought them a toy helicopter and from it they visioned a machine which would carry people. It was a boyhood dream which persisted into manhood. Years later, as young men, Orville and Wilbur found that the larger you built a helicopter the harder it was to make it fly. They turned to kites and gliders and had only a half-hearted interest in following their elder brothers to Yale or any other college. An accident suffered by Wilbur on a hockey rink settled matters. It made him a semi-invalid for a time, and helped to reconcile their family to this unconventional decision. For a livelihood they opened the Wright Cycle Company in West Third Street, Dayton. Their spare time was spent in building gliders on the biplane principle of Octave Chanute, and flying them as kites. They were so successful that soon they were riding aloft in them. For two years they studied complicated questions of stability. They had almost no previously assembled data to go on. They built themselves a wind tunnel and spent months in calculating the lifting power of different wings. By the time they were ready to apply power they knew enough of stability to be reasonably certain that they would not kill themselves.
The application of power was almost hopelessly baffling. How could anyone design an aërial screw for them when, in the year 1901, marine engineers were vague as to the principles by which a marine propeller drove a ship? How could they hope to buy a gasoline engine light and efficient enough to be carried aloft when the best automobile motor could drive a car at but fifteen miles an hour and weighed a cumbrous ton? The answer is: they couldn’t. The Wrights designed their own propeller from their own data and smoothed it down with a spoke-shave. They forged and hammered and cast their own engine in the Dayton cycle-shop.
. . . .
Now Orville stays in Dayton and the longest trip he is apt to make is from his home, where he lives with two servants, to his office, where he works with one secretary, seeing no one if it can be avoided, saying nothing if he can help it. He does not now concern himself with the company which bears his name. None of the millions which have gone into aviation has found its way to him. He certainly hasn’t the talent for acquisition. In the early nineteen-tens capitalists who sought to promote his and his brother’s patents found the pair indifferent and dreamily impractical. Or so they said. One must remember, however, that some years before this the brothers had sought financial backing and then had found the capitalists indifferent and dreamily impractical. At any rate, when the war started, Orville was merely running a flying school, and that on no high business basis. He lives in comfort which is adequate for him.
He still receives letters by the hundreds. Answering them all would keep a score of secretaries busy. Boys write to him for advice on models. Inventors try to interest him in their ideas, reminding him of his early battle against prejudice. But Will’s papers must be put in order. This he finds as much of a draft on his time as he can meet. He looks tired, his voice is almost listless; unquestionably he is in some physical pain. The mail accordingly is neglected.
Link to the rest at The New Yorker