A fantastic square 1.25 x 1.25 swatch of wing fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer that made the first heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The swatch is affixed to an 8 x 10 informational certificate, calligraphically inscribed to “Frank W. Caldwell” and signed at the conclusion in ink, “Lester D. Gardner,” which reads, in part: “When Orville Wright, at my suggestion, assembled the Kitty Hawk machine for public exhibition for the first time, in 1916, at the opening of the new buildings of M.I.T. in Cambridge, he found that the original fabric could not be used and substituted new fabric of the identical material. When he died, his executors found that he had preserved some of the original coverings of the wings and entrusted several pieces of this most valuable relic to me for distribution to notable aeronautical friends. I certify that this piece was used in the first successful flight in history by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C.” Matted and framed beside Gardner’s typed description of the flight to an overall size of 20.5 x 14.25. Also includes a certificate Gardner provided to be affixed to the reverse of the frame, in part: “I send you with certification what I regard as the most valuable relic in aeronautical history.” In fine condition, with areas of toning to swatch from adhesive to reverse and overall toning to the sheets.
Gardner personally knew Orville Wright and held many prestigious positions—he served on the corporate board of MIT and edited numerous aviation journals, including Who’s Who in American Aeronautics. Orville also entrusted Gardner with the famous bolt of wing fabric from the 1903 first flight for distribution to a select few. This recipient, Frank W. Caldwell, was a similarly significant figure. A leading propeller engineer and designer as aeronautical progress accelerated during the 1920s and 1930s, Caldwell made major contributions to the development of propulsion technology. His revolutionary hydraulically controllable propeller was recognized by the National Aeronautics Association in 1933 with the Collier Trophy, one of aviation’s most esteemed awards. With this fantastic association to a fellow aviation innovator, this is a superb relic of man’s first flight.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.