Sunday, November 28, 1999

Wright stuff for Ohio seal?

Bill would add image of first plane

Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ohio and North Carolina have been bickering over which state gets the most credit for the first flight almost since the plane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright in Dayton left the ground in Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903.

        Just look at their dueling license plates, which in Ohio bear the motto “Birthplace of Aviation,” but in North Carolina tout the phrase “First in Flight.”

        Now an Ohio lawmaker's bill is fanning the feud.

        State Rep. Don Mottley, R-West Carrollton, is pushing a bill that would add a likeness of the Wrights' airplane to the state's emblem.

        The Great Seal of Ohio features the sun rising over a mountain range, a wheat field and a bundle of 17 arrows that symbolize Ohio's induction as the 17th state. Mr. Mottley would insert the plane above the sun.

        “I think it enhances awareness that Ohio is the birthplace of aviation,” Mr. Mottley said. “Sure, the first manned flight was at Kitty Hawk, but the Wright brothers did all the research, all the construction and built the first aircraft factory here in Ohio.”

        All true, but Mr. Mottley's seal idea drew some barbs from North Carolina officials, who see the Wright brothers' legacy — and its related tourism business — as their turf.

        “Doesn't Ohio have other stuff it's happy about?” said Carolyn McCormick, director of the Dare County Tourism Bureau. Dare County includes the National Park Service museum and monument at Kitty Hawk.

        “When people think of Orville and Wilbur Wright they don't think of Ohio, they think of Kitty Hawk,” Ms. McCormick said. “They didn't fly over amber waves of grain. They flew over sea oats.”

        A lot more than bragging rights are at stake in this tussle. Tourism equates to dollars and jobs, and right now North Carolina appears to get more out of the Wrights than Ohio.

        National Park Service statistics show 421,400 people visited the Wright Brothers site at Kitty Hawk.

        Only 38,308 people visited three Wright sites the Park Service is currently developing in Dayton. Those sites include the brothers' restored bicycle shop, one of their airplanes and a field used for later flights.

        Mr. Mottley pointed out that several of those subsequent Ohio flights probably passed over wheat fields.

        Just how much money visitors spend in Ohio and North Carolina while visiting the competing Wright sites isn't known. Tourism statistics were hard to find for the Dayton area and are obscured by other attractions in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

        Beaches are the main tourist draw in Dare County. State statistics show tourists spent an estimated $440.9 million there last year.

        The Air Force Museum in Dayton, which drew 1.5 million visitors last year, is one big contributor to Montgomery County's tourism numbers.

        Mr. Mottley said he thinks visits to the Dayton sites will rise after the Park Service's construction and restoration work is complete in 2003 — the centennial year of the Wrights' first flight.

        While the nattering over credit continues, both sides acknowledge there can be room for two Wright museums.

        Ferg Norton, director of North Carolina's First Flight Centennial Committee, said he's worked hand in hand with Dayton area officials planning 2003 events.

        “We couldn't have a better relationship,” Mr. Norton said.

        Mr. Norton also said he heard disparaging remarks about North Carolina during a recent air show he attended in Dayton.

        “It bothers me that there's anything negative said at all,” he said. “This should all be good.”

        “This is silly,” agreed Mr. Mottley. “People should visit Kitty Hawk — and then they should also visit our state.”

        • When: Created March 28, 1803.

        • Designed by: Secretary of State William Creighton.

        • Inspired by: A view of the rising sun between the hills of Mount Logan, as seen from the home of U.S. Sen. Thomas Worthington.

        • Contains: A sheaf of wheat and a sheaf of 17 arrows, which signify Ohio entering the union as the 17th state, with a rising sun over a mountain in the background.

        • History: The seal has been revised several times over the years. The current design is similar to the 1803 version, except that the sun rises over a mountain range instead of a single peak.


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