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    "What will future generations know about aviation when such 'bunk' is handed out by an official organization. . . . Its carelessness in handling records and historical facts is a disgrace to our country."

    Orville Wright Typed Letter Signed, along with a collection of other letters, most written by author John Walter Wood to Wright concerning aeronautical history. Orville Wright's letter (two pages, 7" x 10.5", Dayton, Ohio, September 18, 1947) is written to Wood, the author of Airports: Some Elements of Design and Future Development (1940), only three weeks before Wright's first heart attack and four months before his death. In this letter, written on his personal letterhead, the co-inventor of the airplane provides a brief history (along with statistics) of some of his earliest flights, as well as a rebuke to the National Aeronautic Association. He writes, "I have your letter of September 8th asking for information about our early flights. I have no record of the exact altitudes of the 1903, 1904 or 1905 flights. The 1903 flights varied in altitude from several feet up to ten or twelve feet; the 1904 and 1905 flights from several feet up to sixty or more feet as shown in photographs. I am inclosing a report made to the Aero Club of America in March, 1906. From it you will see that the longest flight in 1903 covered a distance of 852 feet in 59 seconds. Two flights each covering a distance of three miles were made in 1904. . . . In the years 1904 and 1905 more than 150 complete circles were made in which the plane returned and passed over the starting point. The first complete circle was made on the 20th of September, 1904. All of the flights made in 1904 and 1905, excepting one, were made before the organization of the F. A. I. [Federation Aeronautique Internationale] The last flight in 1905 was on October 16th, just two days after the F. A. I. was organized!"

    Wright also clarifies statistical data that Wood had sent to him regarding an F.A.I. record held by Santos Dumont ("Dumont is credited with such a flight on Nov. 12, 1906 [flying .136 of a mile "In Closed Circuit"]. This is absolutely false"). He also corrects an inaccurate record for the Henri Farman flight of October 26, 1907, which was "likewise listed as having been made in a straight line and as returning to the point of departure! . . . I was in Paris in October and November of 1907 and saw one of Farman's attempts to make a circular flight. After flying in a straight line about a thousand feet he started a slow turn to the left. His machine immediately began sinking, landed on the ground. The power of the motor at that time was not sufficient to keep the plane up while making a slow turn. Both of these records of Farman's are erroneously listed. What will future generations know about aviation when such 'bunk' is handed out by an official organization like the N.A.A. [National Aeronautic Association] Its carelessness in handling records and historical facts is a disgrace to our country." Wright's letter bears two file holes along the top margin. The paper is lightly toned and in fine condition.

    John Walter Wood, of Locust Valley, New York, first met Orville Wright in 1935 as Wood worked on his book, Airports. Over the next twelve years, the two met on several occasions to discuss Wood's aeronautical writing projects. Between those visits, Wood wrote numerous letters soliciting information from Wright concerning the earliest aviation history (most of Wood's requests were for information about the Wright Brothers' flights from "Wright Field" near Dayton, Ohio, in 1904 and 1905). Wright seemed to happily comply with answers. Following the publication of Airports in 1940, Wood, who continued to correspond with Wright until the aviator's death in January 1948, served as an airport analyst with the Port of New York Authority from 1943-1944; later in 1945, he served with the Airport Development Branch, U.S. Air Force, in Washington, D.C.

    Also included:
    (1) Four Christmas cards (1943, 1944, 1945, and 1946) from Orville Wright, each with Wright's name printed inside. All cards are in envelopes addressed by Wright to John Wood.
    (2) Numerous letters (carbon copies) from Wood to Orville Wright asking for information, photographs, text corrections, and drawings for his upcoming book. Letters date from April 5, 1935, through December 19, 1947, and include a carbon copy of Wood's letter (dated September 8, 1947), to which Wright responded with the featured letter above. In Wood's letter, he asked Wright for "relevant data for Wright planes which antedate 'official' F.A.I. records". Wood's later letters from late 1947 went unanswered, except for a letter signed by Wright's secretary, Mabel Beck, dated December 8, 1847, acknowledging "receipt of your several letters. . . . Due to Mr. Wright's illness [a heart attack on October 10] we have had a great accumulation of matters to attend to and it has been impossible for him to take care of all he would like to." One sheet of paper contains eight typed questions that Wood hoped to ask Wright during their 1935 meeting. According to Wood's handwritten note at the bottom of the page, Wright didn't want to answer them: "List of questions to ask Orville Wright - April 1935. I at first found him so reticent - that I put this paper away and had a chat. [Signed] J.W." All correspondence has two file holes at the top.
    (3) Numerous letters (with envelopes) of congratulations written to Wood following the publication of Airports in 1940. Included are letters signed by Edward, Duke of Windsor; New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardial; Maine Governor Sumner Sewall; Wendell Willkie; Edward Warner; Brooke Claxton; Eddie V. Rickenbacker; Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.; Marguerite LeHand ("in the President's behalf"); and other prominent officials, engineers, and businessmen. All correspondence has two file holes at the top.
    (4) Aeronautical records compiled by the N.A.A.; technical drawings of Wright's Field ("the world's first airport"); and various pages of information for Wood's book, all dated in the 1930s and 1940s, including one telegram from Wood to Wright. All items are in very good condition to fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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