Letters from the Wright Brothers

Letters from the Wright Brothers

In 1900, three years before he and his brother accomplished the first controlled, powered heavier-than-air flight, Wilbur Wright wrote to renowned engineer Octave Chanute for advice, one inventor and thinker to another:

…My business requires that my experimental work be confined to the months between September and January and I would be particularly thankful for advice as to a suitable locality where I could depend on winds of about fifteen miles per hour without rain or too inclement weather. I am certain that such localities are rare.

I have your Progress in Flying Machines and your articles in the Annuals of ’95, ’96, & ’97, as also your recent articles in the Independent. If you can give me information as to where an account of Pilcher’s experiments can be obtained I would greatly appreciate your kindness.

Letters from the Wright Brothers

In 1917, after decades of inventions, feuds, lawsuits, the death of his brother from typhoid, and only one year before his last flight ever as a pilot, Orville wrote a letter of his own to a certain Master Milford T. Ware:

Dear Sir,
I have your letter of October 21st. I am sorry that I have no drawings of gliders that I can send you.

I’m kind of having fun pretending that the brothers were writing to each other. What a mismatched pair my Imaginary-Wright-Brothers are, ol’ earnest Wilbur and cantankerous, cigar-chompin’ Orville.

“We’ll never getting this thing to fly!” barks Orville, pacing in his shirtsleeves in the dusty bicycle-garage, as Wilbur reaches into his suspenders for a pair of calipers to check a measurement. By way of response, he confidently spins a propeller — “Oh, no?”

With a sputter, a crack, and a clatter, the motor seizes and tumbles into a pile of bicycle gears. Outside, chickens scatter as the air heats for the hundredth time that day: “Willl-burrr!!!!”

(This post is really to bring to your attention the existence of 100,000 aviation photos and artifacts recently posted by the San Diego Air & Space Museum on Flickr — where the latter letter was found — and the website Letters of Note, which reprints correspondence from all manner of notable figures, and whence the former letter was found. Both collections are well worth your exploration.)


^ 3 Comments...

  1. patg00

    The first letter to Chanute shows what a letterhead should look like!

  2. patg00

    Also, although you’re a beard connoisseur, the Roscoe Turner mustache from SDASM shouldn’t be missed.

  3. TexasNinjaBuzzard

    In 1900, three years before he and his brother accomplished the first controlled, powered heavier-than-air flight

    …And only one year after Gustave Weisskopf had already done it in Pittsburgh! Weisskopf also leaned heavily on Chanute’s work, by the way.