A good book not only answers questions, but suggests others. This can lead the reader on a path that wasn’t expected. I recently read such a book. David McCullough’s book The Wright Brothers is very good, and I recommend it. This book introduced a question that I will ponder for awhile (who knows; I may have to learn French to answer it.) And it also gave me a renewed appreciation of a valuable library service.
This post is not really about McCullough‘s book or much about aviation itself. It is about the connection between early bicycling and aviation (it’s quite a coincidence that the first Tour de France
and the first Wright Brothers powered flight occurred in the same year.) McCullough points out that the brothers’ experience with building and riding bicycles was invaluable in building the “Flyer.” The need for balance in riding a bicycle helped them understand what is needed to control a flying machine. McCullough mentions aviator and Wright competitor Henri Farman, who had been a championship bicycle rider. And there is plenty about Glenn Curtiss who, like the Wrights, had been a bicycle mechanic.
So, there’s more to the cycling/aviation connection than I’d realized. I also learned from McCullough’s book that Wilbur Wright had been
in France during the summer of 1908 promoting the Flyer. So, Wilbur Wright was in France during the sixth running of the Tour de France. It seemed an obvious question whether bicycle enthusiast and mechanic Wilbur Wright was interested in, or even aware of, the Tour.
I started looking online and learned along the way that the Wrights had designed a type of self-lubricating hub, and that they also introduced the manufacturing practice of backwards threading the bolt holding the left bicycle pedal on. The problem they were solving was the tendency of left pedals to loosen with riding and fall off. Reversing the thread’s path around the bolt allows the pedal action to keep the pedal tightly attached.
So far, although I’ve learned some interesting facts, I have not found an answer to my question (and perhaps there is none to be found.) But along the way I found online excerpts of a book The Shattered Peloton: the Devastating Impact of World War I on the Tour de France . As the title suggests, it is about the early history of the Tour, and about the championship cyclists who joined the military. Many joined the air corps (again, the bicycle/aviation connection,) and many did not survive the war.
The Denton Public Library does not own this book. But this brings me back to the valuable library service I mentioned earlier – interlibrary loan (ILL). If the Denton Public Library does n0t own an item you need, we can search the holdings of other libraries, throughout the world, for books and DVDs and CDs and more, and ask to borrow it through the mail. If you have a full-service card with the Denton Public Library there is no fee for using this service. You can even order ILL items from home. Simply go to our site, www.dentonlibrary.com . Click the link to the left of the screen, “Search the Catalog.” At the catalog click the link towards the top, “Interlibrary Loan,” and you’re off. Of course, once the items are here you will need to come to the library to check them out. We do stipulate that to use this service you not have any outstanding fines or overdue items on your account. For more information, please call 349-8752.
So if you’re doing some research, or just interested in an item the Denton Public Library doesn’t own, check out interlibrary loan. It will really expand your horizons.
P.S. I found the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. very interesting http://www.wright-brothers.org/Information_Desk/Just_the_Facts/Bicycles/Wright_Bicycles.htm
Fred – South Branch