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    Orville Wright Unsigned Pencil Drawing of the wheel used in launching the Wright Brothers' airplane in 1904 and 1905. The drawing is accompanied by a nine-page manuscript written by author John Walter Wood recounting an interview he had with Wright on February 15, 1940. Shortly before the publication of his book, Airports: Some Elements of Design and Future Development in 1940, John Wood visited Orville Wright at his office in Dayton, Ohio, to check his facts and, more importantly, to receive the inventor's blessing for his book. According to Wood's manuscript, the two met from 10:45 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. During the interview, as Wright explained the airplane's launching device used in 1904 and 1905, he drew this sketch of the wheel which he explained to be part of the "catapult car". Beside the simple pencil drawing, Wood writes a description of the drawing in purple ink (the same ink used to write the accompanying manuscript) which reads, "The pencil drwg. was made by Orville Wright on Feb. 15, 1940 at 15 North Broadway Dayton Ohio. It is a full size detail of the wheel or roller used on the catapult launching car he and Wilbur Wright used at Wright Field, Dayton, in 1904 and 1905. The drwg. was made for use to illustrate his description of the catapult for use in 'Airports'. [Signed] J. W."

    On the verso (the page measures 9.25" x 12") is a printed diagram entitled "'Wright Field, 1904-1905'/ The World's First Airplane Field", illustrating the field that the Wright Brothers chose for their flights in January 1904-only weeks after their four celebrated flights on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk. "Wright Field", eight miles from their home in Dayton, Ohio, was situated in a prairie owned by Dayton banker Torrence Huffman located at a crossroads between Dayton and Springfield, Ohio. Huffman allowed the Wrights to use his field for free, as long as the brothers wouldn't harm any of his grazing cows and horses. It was here at Huffman Prairie, with its barbed-wire fences and half a dozen trees, that the Wright Brothers performed the arduous task of mastering their flying machine. The diagram shows relevant markers, such as the crossroads, Simm's Station, and the locations within "Wright Field" of trees and the "track[s] used to launch the Wright Planes." In pencil is written "(see back of this sheet)".

    Wood's handwritten manuscript (8.5" x 11") is written on the letterhead of Dayton's Hotel Gibbons and dated February 15, 1940. Wood, writing while he returned home that evening "on train: Dayton to Buffalo", begins his account with his arrival earlier "this morning on train from Cincinnati." He "went to Orville Wright's office, 15 North Broadway, at 10:45 a.m. The front door of the small one story brick faced building was open. . . . Orville Wright came in. He shook hands cordially and smiled." Wood describes Wright's physical condition and characteristics ("an old scar over his left eye and a black bruise on his left thumb nail") and the clothes he was wearing ("cheap blue tie with thin white stripes"). They discussed Wood's upcoming book, though Wright "made no particular comment". The two also discussed the Wright Brothers' wind tunnel; "other pioneers working independently of the Wrights"; Octave Chanute (including his visit to the Wrights while at Kitty Hawk); the St. Louis Exposition; the "extremely inaccurate and misleading" book by John R. McMahon, The Wright Brothers (1930); Ferdinand Ferber; Samuel Langley and his Aerodrome; the first night flight; and other topics. Wood also explained in his manuscript the point in the conversation when Orville Wright "drew the wheel in pencil": "Regarding the catapult car used at Dayton in 1904-1905 by him and Wilbur Wright he explained that the car rode on tandem rollers on small wheels of metal with flanges which rode on a metal rail secured to a 4" x 8". Explaining this he drew the wheel in pencil full size on the back of the plan of Wright field." All pages are lightly toned with two file holes in top margin. Fine condition.

    John Walter Wood first met Orville Wright in 1935. 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 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.

    Auction Info

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