Reading original material written by Wilbur and Orville is a real treat. Both brothers were gifted writers and stated their ideas with eloquence and often a good deal of humor. Visit a growing collection of articles written by the Wrights, and also check out the Registry of the Wright papers produced by the Library of Congress. If you ever need to know what box to look in while at the Manuscript division, the answer is here.
The first article is by Wilbur, derived from a speech made in 1902 to the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago. The article came at a crucial moment in the Wright's efforts to develop an airplane. Their first two gliders had not worked as designed, and the Wrights were beginning a critical methodological shift that would enable them to discover the reason. Some Aeronautical Experiments begins with a lucid discussion of the problems to be solved before airplanes would fly, and an incisive account of the Wright's strategy to work with large gliders before proceeding to powered craft. After reading this text, anyone who tried to develop a powered craft before solving the glider problem was a fool.
The article continues with a discussion of the Wright's first two years of experiments at Kitty Hawk, then moves on to an analysis of the 'resistance' of aircraft, which Wilbur refers to as 'drift'. I don't believe drift is equivalent to drag as we understand it, and is the only part of the article that seems a little murky to me. Yet if you contrast this part of the article with the musings of their contemporaries, it is clear the Wrights were far closer to the truth than anyone else working on the problem. The article illustrates why Bishop Milton Wright noted that Wilbur could 'see the right clearly.'
The Wright Brothers Aëroplane appeared in Century magazine in 1908, after Wilbur had made his impressive flights in France. It provides an overview of the process of invention, describes what flights were like in the Wright biplane, and stresses the importance of control, which was the only aspect of airplane covered by the Wright patents. To me it seems like the two brothers have put a tinsy bit of spin on the story to emphasize the importance of control at the expense of numerous other breakthroughs they made in developing the airplane. Who can blame them?
Wilbur and Orville Wright, A Register of Their Papers In the Library of Congress will be of interest only to the true Wright fanatic. It describes the box number in the Manuscript division that contains a particular bit of Wright material. From the registry alone, it is possible to learn the Wrights corresponded with three different presidents and someone really important in Washington, J. Edgar Hoover. Whether Hoover sent mail to the Wrights or vice versa, I'll never know until I go look the letter up next time I'm in DC. Doubtless of greater interest is the fact that the Library of Congress microfilmed the contents of the first three containers that contain the Diaries and Notebooks of the Wright brothers. The Library will loan this microfilm out through interlibrary loan. Contact your local library, ask them to request microfilm reel AC #17,424 from the Library, then sit back and wait just like the rest of us. Where else but this site could you hope to find such valuable secrets?