Fascinating correspondence archive between Orville Wright and journalist Earl Nelson Findley regarding the former’s decision to send the Wright Flyer to England and his ongoing dispute with the Smithsonian. The group is highlighted by two TLSs from Wright, signed “Orville” and “Orv,” both one page, written on his personal letterhead. The first letter, dated February 24, 1928, in part: “Your telegram of February 13th evidently has brought results. At that time people were telling me that I was classed among the first four by Dr. Ludwig, but last night I was told it was the first five. I do not know this man Merrill who wrote the article for ‘Personality.’ I would have thought that he got his information from the Smithsonian if Maxim and Lilienthal had not been mentioned! Although I do not subscribe to a clippings bureau I have had a number of editorials on the machine going to England. The best one of the lot is an editorial which will appear in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, February 26th. I had a cute letter from Johnnie Blum, New York City, in which he says, ‘A few days ago we had an interesting discussion at school about your sending the plane to England. Also we read different clippings from different papers and finally decided you were right.’” Wright signs his initials “O. W.” to a brief postscript.
The second letter to Findley, March 10, 1928, in part: “I think it would be proper, since Dr. Abbot requests it, that you publish his statement. In case you do so I am sending a short reply to it which you may use if you wish…I am also sending a copy of a letter by H. H. Clayton to Dr. Abbot. This is strictly confidential. Clayton is the man who has been working with Dr. Abbot for several years in his measuring of the radiation of the heat from the sun. Formerly Clayton was connected with the Blue Hill Observatory, founded by Professor Rotch. It is interesting in showing what at least one of Abbot’s close friends thinks of the past course of the Smithsonian. I am also enclosing a copy of a form letter that I have been sending out to people deploring the loss of the machine to America, and expressing the hope that ‘I will not punish the American people’ by letting it remain permanently abroad. I have marked a paragraph in this letter, which while not very well expressed, may furnish you an idea for use at some future time.”
Includes a copy of the referenced typed letter from H. H. Clayton to Dr. C. G. Abbot of the Smithsonian Institution, dated February 25, 1928, marked “Strictly Confidential,” which states, in part: “I doubt the correctness of the statement on the Langley machine that it was ‘the first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight.’ It seems to me more than probably that a skilled aviator and mechanic acquainted with the modern knowledge of air conditions could fly in the French ‘avion,’ the Maxim machine or the Lilienthal machine all of which preceded the Langley machine.”
Additionally, a template copy of the referenced “form letter” is included, which reads: “I thank you for your letter of——and for your interest in keeping an original machine of American invention in the United States. It is true that there are many other museums here in America, beside the Smithsonian, that would be glad to house our first aeroplane permanently. But I think when the situation is carefully considered you will see that my course in sending it to a foreign museum is the only way of correcting the history of the flying machine, which by false and misleading statements has been perverted by the Smithsonian Institution. In its campaign to discredit others in the flying art, the Smithsonian has issued scores of these false and misleading statements. They can be proven to be false and misleading from documents. But the people of today do not take the time or trouble to examine this evidence. [Wright has bracketed the following paragraph in red pencil] With this machine in any American museum the National pride would be satisfied; nothing further would be done; and the Smithsonian would continue its propaganda. In a foreign museum this machine will be a constant reminder of the reason of its being there, and after the people and petty jealousies of this day are gone, the historians of the future will examine impartially the evidence and make history accord with it.”
The archive also features a Western Union telegram from Wright to Findley, dated March 10 , and copies of two letters from Findley to Wright, March 5 and 28, 1928, in which Findley returns materials, provides newspaper clippings and the above referenced letter from Clayton, and refers to a new book being written about aviation. In overall very good to fine condition.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.