Wednesday, February 07, 2001

State quarters

Ohio, N.C. to share Wrights

        The Wright Brothers have been hijacked. North Carolina is placing Wilbur and Orville — Dayton's most famous residents — on its state quarter.

        Recent reports about the coin coming out in March could have triggered a war. Buckeyes versus Tarheels.

        But cooler heads have prevailed, including an Ohio transplant in North Carolina.

        Both states realize there is plenty of the Wrights' fame to go around.

        So, Ohio also plans to honor the pioneers of flight on the flip side of its state quarter. If, that is, the U.S. Mint ever meets its own self-imposed deadlines.

        Such are the things you learn while checking on Ohio's state quarter.

In the works
        Ohio submitted four coin designs to the Mint last June 30. Three of the four included a likeness of the 1905 Wright Flyer III.

        The state's coin committee — led by Steve George, executive director of Ohio's Bicentennial Commission — favors a quarter featuring that flying machine. Initially tested in Ohio, the 1905 flyer is considered the world's first true airplane. Currently being restored at Dayton's Carillon Historical Park, its home since 1950, this plane could take off and land, turn and bank.

        The Wrights' invention that made the historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903 could only fly in a straight line. That primitive contraption appears on North Carolina's quarter.

        Ohio's quarter committee was supposed to see the Mint's versions of the state's four coin designs by Christmas 2000. The holidays came and went. No designs.

        Then the Mint set a new deadline, Feb. 1, 2001. Now it's early April.

        “The Mint,” Steve George told me, “is busy making quarters.”

        One design per state. Five per year. The quarters are issued in the order states came into the union.

        Ohio's 25-cent piece is due to be released in March 2002. The coin arrives in time to be pocket change during two big events. The year 2003 marks the state's bicentennial, as well as the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight over Kitty Hawk's sand dunes.

State vs. state
        Steve George said he's “flattered” two Ohioans are on North Carolina's quarter.

        Thank Akron native Jeffrey Crow. The director of North Carolina's division of archives and history headed that state's coin committee. He swears he was not a mole for Ohio.

        “I've been in North Carolina for 27 years. That's longer than I lived in Ohio,” he said. “Besides, the majority of the committee wanted the Wright Brothers.”

        North Carolina, he noted, went through the same “hurry up and wait” routine with the Mint. “But they respected our choice.”

        Steve George said the Mint has given him the same assurances. Looks like the 1905 plane is a lock.

        That leaves one small matter: Who's the pilot?

        On North Carolina's quarter, the image comes from a famous photograph taken of the Wrights' first flight. One brother is aloft. One is grounded.

        Columbus-based artist Dave Browning polished Ohio's four coin-design candidates so they were Mint-worthy. In his drawings of the plane, no one stands on the ground. A speck of a person mans the 1905 flyer.

        The artist asked me which brother made the first flight at Kitty Hawk. Orville was airborne, I said. Wilbur was earthbound.

        “This time,” he replied, “let's let Wilbur fly.”

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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