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Feisty letter by Mabel Beck, the Wright brothers loyal secretary, who here advocates 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 on 30 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 7 October 1948, Mabel Beck here writes to Major Lester Gardner of the Smithsonian. After first discussing what part Roy Knabenshue had in restoring and exhibiting the Kitty Hawk in 1916, Beck takes aim at the Smithsonian: ''...There seems to be many versions of the label. Mr. [Earl] Findley sent me last week what was supposed to be a final label. Now in the one you inclose you say that the changes in last week's label have been omitted and the word 'further' added. You also say [Grover] Loening 'suggested they use 'They further developed the aeroplane'. The reason for this was that the Wrights (Wilbur) gave credit to [Otto] Lilienthal, [Octave] Chanute, [Samuel] Langley, [Hiram] Maxim for earlier work'. Where can you point out to me Wilbur Wright gave credit to the ones mentioned except for inspiration and much misinformation...I can see the handwriting on the wall. You or Loening have been taken in again by [Charles] Walcott's trickery. I take it when you say Wilbur gave credit to others, you are referring to the misleading account of the exercises on Feb. 10, 1910, on the occasion of the awarding of the Langley medals to the Wrights...The addition of the words 'basic', 'controlled', 'Aviators', and 'to practical form' in last week's label were acceptable. I do not think they should be omitted and the word 'further' substituted. 'Further' should come out. Neither do I think a quotation from O.W. and W.W. should go on the label. Furthermore no one has taken the trouble to check the quotation...The wording of the bill of sale directing that if the word 'capable' is ever used in connection with any other exhibit that the plane will be returned to the heirs is silly. What are the heirs going to do with it? Mr. Wright never wanted to leave the disposition of the machine to his administrators. He knew they would not have good judgement in dealing with the Smithsonian. He had intended to bring the machine back during his lifetime and deal with the Smithsonian direct. In this draft of his new will besides naming the National Museum as the depository, he had intended to draft a label and Deed of Gift. But he did not get that far. The Executors and their lawyers are too eager to get the machine off of their hands for tax purposes. I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England. You say 'so many persons of different ideas have to be satisfied' in regards to the label; to my way of thinking there is only one person to satisfy, and that person passed on on January 30th. It seems to me the Smithsonian is writing its own ticket...'' Two page letter on two sheets is the retained copy for Earl Findley, accompanied by an envelope to Findley from Dayton, OH postmarked September 1948, and an unsigned letter from Findley to Harold Miller, co-executor of Orville Wright's estate. Beck's letter measures 7.25'' x 10.5''. Folds, otherwise near fine.
Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''
Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''
Orville Wright's Secretary Chastises the Smithsonian Regarding Its Display of the Kitty Hawk -- ''...I am beginning to think it would have been better to have left the machine in England...''
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