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W. O. Saunders, "The Wright Memorial and Fort Raleigh", Two Historic Shrines, 1937

W.O. Saunders, the editor and founder of Elizabeth City’s newspaper The Independent from 1908 to 1937, was an enigmatic yet straightforward journalist who envisioned himself as a defender of the common man’s plight and as a spokesman for justice. Also deeply ingrained in Saunders’ persona was a yearning to preserve and document the rich, vibrant history of eastern North Carolina, which ultimately led to the publishing of several compilations on topics that ranged from the birth of Virgina Dare in the sixteenth century to the world’s first man-carrying powered flight in the twentieth century.

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[Caption] The Wright Memorial, a pylon of glistening white Mount Airy granite, authorized by an act of Congress approved March 2, 1927, was completed in 1932 and dedicated on Nov. 19, 1932. Its initial cost was $285,000. There have been subsequent appropriations for roads and landscaping on its 26 acre reservation. It was from this hill that the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, O., experimented with their glider for nearly two years before putting an engine in it. On Dec. 17 1903, near the foot of this hill they successfully flew their glider under its own power, the first successful flight of a heavier than air power driven flying machine ever made by man. The monument is 61 feet high.

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1. The Act of Congress, approved March 2, 1927, provides as follows:

"BE IT ENACTED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.-That there shall be erected on Kill Devil Hill, at Kitty Hawk, in the State of North Carolina, a monument in commemoration of the first successful human attempt in all history at power-driven airplane flight achieved by Orville Wright on December 17,1903; and a commission to be composed of the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of Commerce is hereby created to carry out the purpose of this Act.

Sec. 2. That it shall be the duty of the said commission to select a suitable location for said monument, which shall be as near as possible to the actual site of said flight; to acquire the necessary land therefor; to superintend the erection of the said monument; and to make all necessary and appropriate arrangements for the unveiling and dedication of the same when it shall have been completed.

Sec. 3. That such sum or sums as Congress may hereafter appropriate for the purpose of this Act are hereby authorized to be appropriated.

Sec. 4. The design and plans for the monument shall be subjected to the approval of the Commission of Fine Arts and the Joint Committee on the Library."

2. The Act of March 23, 1928 appropriates as follows:

"Monument on Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; To commence the work preliminary to the acquisition of a suitable site, surveys, preparation of designs, and all necessary expenses incident to the erection of a monument on Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in commemoration of the first successful human attempt in all history at power-driven airplane flight, in accordance with the Act entitled "An Act providing for the erection of a monument on Kill Devil Hill, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, commemorative of the first successful human attempt in history at power-driven airplane flight" approved March 2,1927,$25,000: Provided, that not to exceed $5,000 of this sum may be expended for the purchase of plans, drawings, and specifications for the erection of this monument by open competition, under such conditions as the Commission may prescribe."

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Citation: W.O. Saunders, "Two Historic Shrines," 1937. Tabitha Marie DeVisconti Papers, #480
Location: East Carolina Manuscript Collection, Manuscripts and Rare Books, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858 USA
Call Number:Tabitha Marie DeVisconti Papers, #480   Display Collection Guide

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