Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, January 18, 1904

Your letter of 14th inst. is at hand. I regret that the oversight in addressing the envelope of my last should have made such trouble in the delivery of my letter.

You seem to regard the Herring letter with more seriousness than we do. We do not anticipate any trouble in the Patent Office from him, and do not think he has had any intention of interfering there.

The object of the statement, concerning which you have made inquiry, was to make it clear that we stood on quite different ground from Prof. Langley, and were entirely justified in refusing to make our discoveries public property at this time. We had paid the freight, and had a right to do as we pleased. The use of the word "any," which you underscored, grew out of the fact that we found from articles in both foreign and American papers, and even in correspondence, that there was a somewhat general impression that our Kitty Hawk experiments had not been carried on at our own expense, &c. We thought it might save embarrassment to correct this promptly.1 We are at work building three machines with which we shall probably give exhibitions at several different places during the coming season. We may decide to enter one at St. Louis, and have written for copy of the revised rules & regulations. When these come we will give the matter serious consideration, and if we find that the objectionable features of the original rules have been eliminated we may decide to make a try for it. Otherwise we will see what we can do elsewhere than inside the Fair Grounds, if we go to St. Louis at all.

Orville and I may go to Springfield for a few hours some day this week, but otherwise shall probably be at home steadily for some time.

1 This paragraph foreshadows the rift between the Wrights and Chanute, which was to be the subject of the last five letters to pass between them (January May 1910). Examples of the "general impressions" referred to by Wilbur Wright will be found in Ernest Archdeacon's article in La Locomotion, Apr. 11, 1903 (see Appendix IV, B, for text), in which, in alluding to the Kitty Hawk experiments of 1902, Chanute is made to appear as the master and Wilbur Wright as one of his young, intelligent, and daring pupils." While the Wrights never took themselves so seriously that they could not chuckle with Chanute and agree that Archdeacon was "such an ass," they nevertheless realized that, without correction (which Chanute made no attempt to make), misstatements like Archdeacon's could lead to permanent misconceptions that might eventually deprive them of the credit and the profit of their discoveries. No fair minded reader of the Wright Chanute letters can doubt that the Wrights preferred not to have Chanute's gliders tested in their camp or entrusted to their custody afterward; yet Chanute insisted, against their friendly protest and better judgment, in forcing on them both his machines and such dubious " experts" as Huffaker and Herring. The genuineness of their friendship for Chanute and their awareness of the real debt they owed him for his encouragement and for the stimulation of the contact with his active, seasoned mind is plainly evidenced by the fact that they kept their reproaches to themselves until Chanute, in 1909 and 1910, betrayed the sympathies he felt for their opponents in their patent suits.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, January 20, 1904