COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Ohio House voted on Wednesday, Feb. 14, to add a small depiction of a Wright Flyer to Ohio’s state seal. It’s the farthest the idea has gone in more than 20 years of legislation and grassroots lobbying.
House Bill 370 would add the iconic symbol of Ohio’s most world-changing invention to the seal’s pastoral, 19th century scene of the sun rising over hills and cultivated fields.
The vote passed 89 to three. It goes to the Senate next.
Proponents hope the change would help brand Ohio as the birthplace of aviation and a leader in aerospace technology.
Oakwood resident William Burnett has been promoting the plan since he conceived it in 1995. He’d found that introducing himself as being from the birthplace of aviation made people think he was from North Carolina.
The problem persists more than two decades later, especially the Wright brothers’ hometown of Dayton. On the Jan. 30 episode of the TV quiz show “Jeopardy,” host Alex Trebek briefly joined his hands as if in prayer when none of the three contestants could name Dayton as the “Ohio aviation city” with an Air Force base that bears the Wright name. They guessed Akron, Columbus and North Carolina’s Kitty Hawk as the neighbor of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Wilbur and Orville Wright lived most of their lives in Dayton and built the famous 1903 Flyer in their West Dayton bicycle shop before flying it at Kitty Hawk.
It’s a problem the bill’s author, Ohio Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, hopes to fix. “Ohio is the birthplace of aviation, and it is time for us as a state to personify that in our emblem to the nation and the world,” he said in his floor speech for the bill.
The bill had more than 50-co-sponsors from both parties. “I’m proud of the history of my district that launched the Wright brothers,” said Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, a co-sponsor whose district includes the Wright brothers’ West Dayton neighborhood.
Wednesday’s vote was the latest milestone in numerous efforts over the years to adopt Burnett’s vision. An identical bill Perales introduced in 2015 was still going through the legislative process when the session ended. Earlier versions met similar fates.
Perales says the change won’t be a cost to the state because the bill would require government offices to use up existing stocks of materials that carry the state seal before ordering fresh copies with the new design.
Representatives of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) testified in favor of the the current and previous versions of the bill in committee hearings.
“This is a Valentine’s Day gift to Ohio’s aviation heritage,” said Tony Sculimbrene, NAHA executive director.
Also present was Stephen Wright of Oakwood, great-grandnephew of Wilbur and Orville. He said it would be fitting for the Wright Flyer to appear on the seal: “It’s 100 percent Ohio and it’s a technology that changed the world.”