TLS, two pages, 7.25 x 10.5, December 11, 1943. Letter to Lester D. Gardner of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences in New York, setting the record straight on newspaper reports of his Kitty Hawk flight of some forty years earlier. In part: "I received a letter a few days ago from a friend and neighbor of Carl Dientsbach. This called to mind a letter I received from you last July in which you inclosed a 'copy' of a 'letter of Carl Dientsbach on the 18th' of December, 1903.
I do not understand just what this 'copy' is supposed to be. It is not a copy of Dientsbach’s letter to us dated December 19th, 1903, and written in longhand. At the time of writing that letter he had read the Evening Telegram of the 18th, which said that we had flown three miles at Kitty Hawk with a machine that had two screws, one for lifting and one for propulsion. He also had read the New York Herald of the 19th, which said we had flown 59 seconds with a machine having two screws, both of which were for propulsion. He was very much impressed with the idea of the lifting screw, and seemed to think it probable that the Telegram's description of the machine was more accurate than that of the Herald.
We never had a letter from him written on the 18th. The ideas expressed in the 'copy' you sent, excepting for some omissions, are almost identical with those in the letter of the 19th, though expressed in somewhat different language and order. Either he must have kept a copy of the letter sent us, or he must have kept copious notes on it.
I hope Dientsbach has not represented your copy to be an exact copy of the letter sent to us. I consider Dientsbach reliable and trustworthy, one of the most trustworthy among the writers with whom we have had experience. Sometimes he has been fooled by people who were not as trustworthy as was he himself—for example, Herring and Zahm. I remember Chanute told us in 1904 that Dientsbach became very angry when Chanute, in conversation with him, called Herring a 'blackmailer.' Chanute had seen a letter written by Herring to us; Dientsbach had not seen that letter.
Fred Kelly stopped over for a few hours in passing through Dayton last week. I let him read the letter I had written to you about the Langley motor. He told me he thought you were inclined to believe we were mistaken about Manly having visited our flying field in 1905. There can be no question about that in my own mind. That is shown in a letter I wrote to Kelly some months ago, a copy of which I inclose. While I am about it I shall inclose also a letter written some weeks ago about one of the two persons named in this letter as having fooled Dientsbach." In fine condition, with light soiling to the lower right corners.
An interesting missive with references to a group of men the Wright Brothers viewed as either trustworthy allies or troublesome adversaries. Carl Dienstbach, the New York correspondent of the German aviation and aeronautics journal Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen, shared a correspondence with the Wright brothers since their earliest flights in January 1904, and Fred C. Kelly, a former newspaperman, author, and old friend of the Wrights, published in 1943 the only ‘authorized’ biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright; he later edited a collection of their letters and papers in 1951 entitled Miracle at Kitty Hawk. Octave Chanute was an American aviation pioneer who had conducted his own glider experiments in the late 1890s and later became an avid supporter of the Wright Brothers, frequently offering them engineering advice and visiting them at Kitty Hawk. Wright’s mention of “Herring and Zahm” point to Augustus M. Herring and Albert Francis Zahm, men of whom the Wright brothers would grow increasingly weary. After the Wrights filed for their ‘flying machine’ patent in 1903, Herring wrote to them claiming that he held a prior patent on a similar machine. He offered to form a joint company to market the Wright Flyer on the basis of 1/3 interest for him and 2/3 interest for them, a tender the Wrights promptly ignored. Zahm, noted as building the first scientific wind tunnel in America in 1901 at Catholic University, served as an aeronautical expert in the 1910-14 lawsuits between the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss; Zahm testified on behalf of Curtiss after declining to testify for the Wrights.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.