John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels was a member of the Kill Devil Hills
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Kill Devil Hills is a town in Dare County, North Carolina, USA. The population was 5,897 at the 2000 census.Nearby Kitty Hawk is frequently cited as the location of the Wright brothers' first controlled, powered airplane flights on December 17, 1903...

 Life-Saving Station who is best known for taking the photograph of the Wright brothers
Wright brothers
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur , were two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903...

' first flight on December 17, 1903. His cousin was North Carolina Senator Melvin Daniels.

Daniels later said that he was so excited by seeing the Flyer
Wright Flyer
The Wright Flyer was the first powered aircraft, designed and built by the Wright brothers. They flew it four times on December 17, 1903 near the Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, U.S.The U.S...

 rising that he nearly forgot Orville Wright's instructions to squeeze the bulb triggering the shutter. Of the photos taken during their 1903 stay in Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Kitty Hawk is a town in Dare County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 3,000 at the 2000 census. It was established in the early 18th century as Chickahawk....

, this is one of the clearest, including a photo of the more dramatic third flight that was found to be blurry when processed.

Daniels had never seen a camera prior to using the Gundlach Korona box camera
Box camera
The box camera is, with the exception of the pin hole camera, a camera in its simplest form. The form of the classic box camera is no more than a cardboard or plastic box with a lens in one end and film at the other. A simple box camera has only a single element meniscus fixed focus lens and...

 with a 5-by-7-inch glass-plate negative
Photographic plate
Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a means of photography. A light-sensitive emulsion of silver salts was applied to a glass plate. This form of photographic material largely faded from the consumer market in the early years of the 20th century, as more convenient and less fragile...

to take the famous photo. The plate was not developed until the Wright brothers returned to Ohio. The camera was owned by the Wright brothers, who were careful to record the history making moment, and also to preserve a record for any future patent claims. This was the first and only photo taken by Daniels in his lifetime, but is widely considered the most important aviation photo ever taken and often called the photo of the century.

The Wright brothers made four flights that day; three were photographed: the first, third and fourth. After the Flyer was hauled back from the fourth flight, a powerful gust of wind caught it. Daniels grabbed a strut in an attempt to hold down the aircraft, but he was caught between the wings as the Flyer flipped end over end. Daniels was not seriously hurt, but the Flyer was destroyed with even the engine block split in half. Daniels would tell the story of the day he "survived the first airplane crash" for the remainder of his life. Daniels died January 31, 1948, one day after Orville Wright's passing.

In 2003 Daniels' granddaughter participated in 100th anniversary First Flight Ceremonies at Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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