History of Dayton, Ohio

Dayton is a city in Ohio on the Great Miami River. Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted experiments on heavier-than-air flight in Dayton before their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. As a result, Dayton has earned the description "Home of Aviation."

The first settlers in the Dayton area arrived from Cincinnati in 1796, while moving west to the Great Ohio Valley. The native peoples that called the area home were the Miami, who had moved there after being pressured by the Iroquois farther east to relocate. With passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the natives were forced to leave their home and resettle in Kansas and later in Oklahoma. The village was incorporated in 1805 and named for Jonathan Dayton, who owned land in the village and who had been, at age 26, the youngest signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Born in Dayton, the Wright Brothers attended school and later owned the successful Wright Bicycle Company in town in 1896, where they produced their own line of bicycles before becoming interested in flight.

In celebration of their contribution to the evolution of flight and to Paul Laurence Dunbar for his contribution to a literary world, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial were established. The African-American writer received international acclaim for his works, which include novels, plays, short stories, lyrics, and more than 400 published poems.

Dayton's location, near the coal and natural gas fields of West Virginia, helped make it a manufacturing center. It also was bolstered by the ingenuity of its citizens, who at various times invented the first cash register, the computing scale, and ethyl gasoline. The invention of the cash register led to the founding of National Cash Register Corporation, now NCR, one of the world's leaders in business equipment.

Dayton's low-lying location in the Miami Valley led to repeated episodes of flooding by the Great Miami River. A disastrous flood in 1913 killed more than 100 people and caused $50 million in property losses. As a result, new and effective flood control measures were adopted, including the erection of five dams.

The citizens of Dayton also recognized that their city government had not responded adequately to the flooding challenge, so they replaced their city council with a commission of five elected members and an appointed city manager. Dayton was the first to develop that form of government, which has been copied by hundreds of other municipalities since that time.

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The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 by Trudy E. Bell.
Beginning on Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, torrential rains across the Midwest dropped a record three months of rainfall in four days. Floodwaters fu...