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Wright Brothers Autograph Patent Document Signed Sells for $15,000 at Nate D. Sanders

To buy, sell or consign a Wright Brothers Autograph (Orville &/ or Wilbur), please email Nate@NateDSanders.com or call Nate D. Sanders at (310) 440-2982.  Thank you.

Wright Brothers Autograph

This very historic and important Wright Brothers Autograph; a U.S. Patent Office document was signed by Orville Wright on 25 October 1916, releasing five patents including the notorious #821,393.

Wright Brothers Autograph Landmark Wright Bros. Patent Document, Signed by Orville Wright in 1916 -- Orville Releases Patent #821,393, the Cornerstone of Aviation & Basis for Patent War That Affected WWI Readiness

Landmark Wright Bros. Patent Document, Signed by Orville Wright in 1916 — Orville Releases Patent #821,393, the Cornerstone of Aviation & Basis for Patent War That Affected WWI Readiness

Originally approved as a patent in May 1906, #821,393 allowed the Wright Brothers to dominate the U.S. and world aviation industry for ten years, as this patent was the only one allowing humans to control movement of an aircraft in flight. It allowed for the control of the important 3 axes of flight: the airplane’s pitch, roll and yaw; without such control, an airplane could not safely be flown. The Wright Brothers so focused on controlling the use of this patent, in fact, that they failed to technologically innovate in other ways, allowing for Europe to surpass the U.S. in aviation prowess just before the outbreak of World War I. The expensive royalties to license the technology protected by this patent also stunted the production of American aircraft before WWI, causing the federal government in 1917 under President Wilson to step in and force plane manufacturers to share patents so that America could ready itself for WWI. This action by the federal government effectively ended the decade long “patent war” surrounding #821,393.

The lot included the Wright Brothers autograph document dated 25 October 1916, signed by Orville Wright and his brother Lorin Wright (Wilbur had died in 1912), releasing the five patents, since payment had been completed on them. A group of New York investors led by William Boyce Thompson had bought the patents, not knowing that they’d be stymied from collecting royalties on them come 1917. Document reads in part, “I, ORVILLE WRIGHT, of the City of Dayton, State of Ohio, do hereby certify that a certain mortgage…made and executed by The Wright Company…covering the following described United States letters patent: No. 821,393, dated May 22nd, 1906, for improvements in flying machines…is paid. And I do hereby consent that the same be discharged of record…” Attached to the document is a notarized slip from Montgomery County, Ohio, and also a U.S. Patent Office slip with seal, dated 28 October 1916, confirming the patent transfer. This was an extremely rare document in early 20th century aviation history, and one of the few important Wright Brothers autograph documents in private hands.  Also, a fine example of a Wright Brothers autograph.


Wright Brothers Autograph Wilbur Wright

Wilbur Wright

Wright Brothers autograph items continue to be popular among collectors.  This very large 12″ x 16″ photo of Wilbur Wright with six other men, preparing his plane in France during August 1908 in an attempt to mute French critics, who had portrayed the Wright Brothers as bluffers, sold for $36,000 by Nate D. Sanders.  A great example of a Wright Brothers autograph.

Wright Brothers Autograph Wright Brothers autograph

Wright Brothers autograph

Orville’s first flight lasted only one minute 45 seconds, but his ability to effortlessly make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers, including several pioneer French aviators, among them Louis Bleriot. In the following days, Wilbur made a series of technically challenging flights, including figure-eights, demonstrating his skills as a pilot and the capability of his flying machine, which far surpassed those of all other pilot pioneers. The French public was thrilled by Wilbur’s feats and flocked to the field by the thousands. The Wright brothers catapulted to world fame overnight. Former doubters issued apologies and effusive praise. “L’arophile” editor Georges Besanaon wrote that the flights “have completely dissipated all doubts. Not one of the former detractors of the Wrights dare question, today, the previous experiments of the men who were truly the first to fly….” Leading French aviation promoter Ernest Archdeacon wrote, “For a long time, the Wright brothers have been accused in Europe of bluff… They are today hallowed in France, and I feel an intense pleasure…to make amends.”


This exceptional Wright Brothers autograph letter; an Orville Wright typed letter signed, dated 24 March 1928 on his personal stationery sold for $12,963 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

Wright Brothers Autograph Wright Brothers autograph letter

Wright Brothers Autograph Letter

Addressed to Senator Hiram Bingham, Wright defends his and Wilbur’s reputation as inventors of the “first flying machine” and attacks the Smithsonian for trying to discredit them. Page one of the letter reads: “The important point at issue is as to who was the inventor of the first successful flying machine. The Smithsonian for the past seventeen years has kept up a constant propaganda to take the credit for this away from my brother and myself. It has done this partly through some actually false statements and partly through statements so cunningly worded as to give a false impression without actually being false in themselves. This last resolution is a fair sample. It certainly can not be considered ingenuous…Such practice as this is beneath the dignity of a scientific institution, such as the Smithsonian purports to be, and such conduct on the part of an institution administering government bureaus with government funds certainly needs investigation by the Government…” Wright then ends his letter on page 2 by writing: “A good many people do not seem to grasp the difference between the first man-carrying flying machine and the first man-carrying machine to fly. There may be a big difference. Our pride was in producing the first man-carrying flying machine rather than in producing the first man flight. Wilbur and I did not take nearly so much pride in the fact that we were the first to fly as we did in the fact that we were the first to have the scientific data from which a flying machine could be built…I believe there was no one else in the world at that time beside Wilbur and myself that had the scientific data for building a machine that would fly.” Wright’s letter runs 2pp. on 2 separate sheets, signed “Orville Wright” in striking black ink. Included is a 2pp. joint resolution spanning 20 lines on card-style paper. Dated 29 February 1928, the resolution reads: “the President of the United States be, and is hereby, authorized and directed to appoint a commission of five distinguished citizens of the United States to whom Orville Wright, and all other persons in any way interested, shall be publicly invited to present evidence as to which was the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine.”  A nice example of a Wright Brothers autograph.



We also sold this Wright Brothers autograph; a typed letter signed by the very rare Wilbur Wright on Wright Cycle Company letterhead, dated March 3, 1902, for $10,745.

Wright Brothers Autograph Wilbur Wright Types Letter Signed

Wilbur Wright Types Letter Signed

The letter to Edmund Doyle in San Francisco reads: “The December number of the Journal of the Western Society of Engineers may be obtained of the secretary, Mr. J. H. Warder, Monadnock Building, Chicago, Ill. The price of single numbers is fifty cents each.”  Pre-dating their historic first flight by more than a year, this letter references a lengthy piece that appeared in the aforementioned publication. In that piece, entitled “Some Aeronautical Experiments,” Wright discussed some of “the difficulties which obstruct the pathway to success in flying-machine construction,” giving detailed engineering insight into the topic that he admits to being “very simple in theory.” In that article, he goes through great pains to discuss an unmanned flight in 1900 at Kitty Hawk, a test run that would lead to a date with history. It’s no small wonder then that someone like Mr. Doyle, and presumably countless others, would want to read more about his experiments.  Wilbur is the rare Wright Brothers autograph.


Another great Wright Brothers autograph sold by Nate D. Sanders auctions is an Orville Wright typed letter signed from Dayton, Ohio, 18 September 1947, written to John Walter Wood, the author of “Airports: Some Elements of Design and Future Development,” only three weeks before Wright’s first heart attack and four months before his death. This sold for $6,500.

Wright Brothers Autograph Orville Wright typed letter signed from Dayton, Ohio,

Orville Wright Typed Letter Signed from Dayton, Ohio,

In this 2 page 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 including the famous first flight, 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 enclosing 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, who was credited with such a flight on 12 November 1906; “This is absolutely false.” He also corrects an inaccurate record for the Henri Farman flight of 26 October 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.”  An excellent Orville Wright Brothers autograph.


Wright Brothers Autograph Orville Wright Cards and Letters

Orville Wright Cards and Letters

Also included in the lot were: (1) Four Christmas cards (1943-1946) from Orville Wright, each with Wright’s name printed inside. All cards are in envelopes addressed by Wright to John Wood. (2) Numerous carbon copy letters from Wood to Orville Wright asking for information, photographs, text corrections, and drawings for his upcoming book. Letters date from 5 April 1935 through 19 December 1947, and include a carbon copy of Wood’s letter (dated 8 September 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 8 December 1947, 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 1930’s and 1940’s, including one telegram from Wood to Wright.


We also sold this Wright Brothers autograph; a  Wilbur Wright signed postcard, dated 6 October 1908 from Camp d’Auvours in France, for $6,500.

Wright Brothers Autograph Wilbur Wright signed postcard

Wilbur Wright Signed Postcard

Signed clearly “Wilbur Wright” just five years after the brothers’ famed flight in 1903, the postcard is originally from British sculptor Theodore Spicer-Simson to his wife and includes small notes in Spicer-Simson’s hand. Verso of postcard depicts Wilbur Wright standing with Hart O. Berg, whose wife flew with Wilbur in September of 1908 as the first female American passenger on an airplane.  A fantastic Wright Brothers autograph example.

To buy, sell or consign a Wright Brothers Autograph (Orville &/ or Wilbur), please email Nate@NateDSanders.com or call Nate D. Sanders at (310) 440-2982.  Thank you.


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