August 2017 Auction Ends Thursday, August 24th, 5pm Pacific
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/24/2017
Fascinating letter signed by Mabel Beck, the Wright brothers long serving secretary, who here fights on behalf of the brothers for proper credit due them for inventing human flight. The much publicized feud between the Wright brothers and the Smithsonian Institution is well documented, but the minutiae over wording of the ''label'' that was to accompany the Kitty Hawk is not as well known, which this letter elucidates. After Orville Wright's death in January 1948, it fell to Mabel Beck and the heirs to negotiate with the Smithsonian to give proper credit for the Wrights' invention, in exchange for the Smithsonian's right to purchase the ''first in flight'' Kitty Hawk. Mabel Beck was suspicious (as Orville Wright had been) that the Smithsonian wouldn't properly credit the plane in its display, since the secretary of the Smithsonian, Samuel Langley, fancied himself as building the first plane capable of human flight. Dated 13 September 1948, letter to reporter Earl Findley reads in part, ''...I received a letter from [Orville Wright's nephew and Estate Co-Executor Harold] Miller inclosing a copy of the label in its final form. The Smithsonian will not accept the label with the word 'capable' in it. I still maintain that the words 'capable of sustained free flight' should be on that label. Miller says they plan to incorporate in the bill of sale that the word capable will never be used in connection with any other aeroplane in the collection. It isn't the collection I am concerned about--it is the literature that goes out under the Smithsonian. The 'bill of sale' as he terms it will be filed away--eventually lost--and the public will soon be told that some one else invented and built the first machine capable of free flight--but through some slight mishap did not get to make the first flight, which honor belongs to the Wrights...I thought those words 'in the history, etc.', and 'capable, etc.' should be said by the Smithsonian. I feel sure two names mentioned in Miller's last letters (not yours) have sold the Wrights out to the Smithsonian, and I am very surprised at the one...[signed] Mabel Beck''. The word ''capable'' incidentally wasn't included in the final label, though the Smithsonian did, of course, give full credit to the Wright brothers for their transformative invention. Single page letter measures 7'' x 10.25''. Folds and paper clip impression, overall very good condition.
Orville Wright's Secretary Argues With the Smithsonian Regarding the Infamous Label to Display the Kitty Hawk -- ''...the words 'capable of sustained free flight' should be on that label...''
Orville Wright's Secretary Argues With the Smithsonian Regarding the Infamous Label to Display the Kitty Hawk -- ''...the words 'capable of sustained free flight' should be on that label...''
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Auction closed on Thursday, August 24, 2017.
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