Final page of a TLS signed by Orville on behalf of both brothers, “Wilbur & Orville Wright,” one page, 8.25 x 11, Wright Cycle Company letterhead, November 17, 1905. Letter to accomplished balloonist and founder of L’Aerophile magazine, Georges Besancon. In part: “The claim often made in the 19th century that the lack of sufficiently light motors alone prohibited man from the empire of the air was quite unfounded. At the speeds which birds usually employ, a well designed flyer can in actual practice sustain a gross weight of 30 kilograms for each horse power of the motor, which gives ample margin for such motors as might easily have been built 50 years ago.” In fine condition, with intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing between Orville’s first and last name) and some light overall wrinkling. Accompanied by a period glossy 10.5 x 6 press photo of the Wrights’ biplane, bearing a P&A Photo stamp to reverse.
As early as 1901, Wilbur Wright claimed that men ‘know how to build engines and screws of sufficient lightness and power to drive these planes at sustaining speed,’ although no one had successfully done so yet. Determined to be the first, the brothers spent years constructing their motor, experimenting, evaluating, and redesigning before finally reaching success in 1903. Using a crankcase made of lightweight aluminum rather than cast iron, they produced an engine that could deliver one horsepower for every twelve pounds of engine weight (a remarkable difference, as the best engines of the time required at least 20 pounds to reach the same result). While this was a crowning achievement and a key part of the Wrights’ success, they also knew that it was only once piece of the puzzle. Remarking that even with the heavy motors that “might easily have been built 50 years ago,” a “well designed flyer” could still achieve flight, this letter reminds us that their innovative designs moved far beyond this single element. RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.