Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright

Chicago, January 26, 1904

I have seen Mr. Willard A. Smith, Chief of the Dept. of Transportation, World's Fair, and mentioned the points which you raised concerning the rules for the aeronautical contests.1 He says that it was not the intention of the Advisory Committee (himself, Prof. Woodward, Mr. C. D. Mosher, and Santos Dumont2) who framed these rules to have them interpreted as you have done.

That if you will write him a letter stating the points concerning which you are in doubt he will have a ruling made by the Advisory Committee, which will be binding upon the international Jury, as to the interpretation to be given these rules so far as they apply to flying machines.

[P.S.] I mail separately a map of the Exposition grounds assigned to aeronautics, and copies of the rules. Mr. Smith's address is Manhattan Bldg., Chicago.

1 The contest rules were discussed during Chanute's visit to Dayton, January 22, 1904. The following memorandum by Chanute is among the Chanute Papers in the Library of Congress:

"Points made by Wright. St. Louis Rules.

"l. The judges may require (under V) 16 to 18 trials, while 3 will suffice to win the prize.

"2. Landing within 50 yards of starting point is most difficult (IV).

"3. Starting in amphitheatre is probably impracticable for a flying machine.

"4. The course to be laid out may be dangerous from obstructions.

"5. What 'serious injury' will be ruled to disqualify?"

2 Alberto Santos Dumont (1873 1932) was one of the most influential as well as one of the most colorful personalities in aeronautical history. Son of a wealthy Brazilian planter, Santos spent his most active years in France, to which he was attracted in part by his maternal ancestry and in part by the pre eminence of that country in lighter than air experimentation. Before he was twenty five, Santos had made a balloon ascension (with Machuron), and by the end of 1898 had tested his own first (non rigid) dirigible. The flight was not a success as the gas bag developed a dangerous fold when at 1,200 feet, and the machine crashed a few hundred yards from the starting point. This was the first of Santos' many narrow escapes. By 1900 he had built and tried three more dirigibles, chiefly experimental types. Of his nine "practical" airships (sixteen were built up to 1907), Nos. 5 and 6 were the best known and the most reliable. It was with No. 6 that Santos won the Deutsch prize for the first flight around the Eiffel Tower (1901). Not a little of Santos' success was due to his light yet powerful engines relatively so much more important in early airships than in early aeroplanes. (For information on the power plant of his No. 5, see Memorandum enclosed in Chanute to Wilbur Wright, June 7, 1903.)

Santos Dumont's association with the St. Louis Exposition, as an adviser on rules and a prospective exhibitor, was largely the work of Chanute, one of whose principal objects in going to Europe in 1903 had been to win Santos as one of the main attractions of the proposed aeronautical contests. The Chanute Santos relationship, although casual and of brief duration, is important in aviation history because it was his knowledge of the Wrights' gliding successes and of the imminence of their power plane experiments, confirmed by Chanute, that turned Santos' thinking toward heavier than air flying. The development of his first aeroplane, the 14 bis, and its justly celebrated flights of 1906 are directly traceable to indispensable information Santos had of the work of the Wrights. (For a brief appreciation of Santos Dumont's contributions to aeronautics, see the obituary article, "Santos Dumont," by Charles Dollfus, in L'Aeronautique, Sept. 1932, pp. 291 292.)

Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute, February 13, 1904