Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright

Chicago, March 3, 1904

I have your letter of 1st inst. I wrote to Capt. Ferber that he would infallibly have broken his neck if he had tried his dynamic apparatus without previous practice.

I hope that you will succeed so well when you resume experiment that you will see your way to entering for the grand prize. You are mistaken however as to there being no "consolation" prizes for flying machines. There are three of them if you can contrive to go slow enough.

I enclose two French clippings, which please return. One of them amused me so much that I made a translation of it. I do not know the author but I have seen articles signed by him in the Aerophile. I presume that he is a friend of the editor and that he feels sore because you are not ready to disclose the construction of your last machine. I admire his advice to discard the American types of machines, and to try others with lower centers of gravity.1

I will send you in a few days reprints2 of my paper to the Am[erican] Ass[ociation for the] Adv[ancemcnt of] Science.

1 The clippings have not been positively identified, but the disgruntled author may have been Ferber writing under his pen name, de Rue, as in the February 1903 Aerophile. The French press at this time was buzzing with opinions pro and con of the reality of the power flights reported to have been made by the Wrights the preceding December. Mr. F. Le Beschu, in Le Monde Illustre, Jan. 2, 1904, p. 17, filled half a page with improbable details but conceded that a flight had been made. L'Aerophile, in its Jan. 1904 issue, pp. 16 18, published a translation of the Wrights' Jan. 5 statement to the Associated Press, with the following (translated) remarks:

"Mr. Orville Wright, protesting against the ultra fantastic accounts of the experiments at Kitty Hawk, addresses to us a faithful and very interesting recital of the first aerial flights with a man carrying 'heavier than air' [machine], moving under its own power. . . .

"Any commentary would detract from the value of this document, which is nevertheless marred, we must point out, by several obscurities. Among other things, Mr. Orville Wright does not tell us the difference in the level between the starting and landing points. Notwithstanding, the experiment was a fine one and merits our warmest applause.

"Gliding flight, so vigorously launched in France by Mr. Archdeacon, will not be long in bearing its own fruit. What do we lack? A few specialists trained in the tricks of the trade."

In the Feb. 27, 1904, issue of L'Automobile, under the heading "Gliding Competitions" ("Les concours de vol plane"), pp. 132 134, Philippe Rey gave an account of the progress of Arch_ deacon's machine and two photographs. It was stated that this apparatus (actually constructed from the plans of the Wright 1902 machine published by Chanute in L'Aerophile, Aug. 1903 see Appendix IV, C but modified to suit French ideas) was "of the same type as the one with which the Wright brothers, in America, recently carried out their sensational experiments." This machine (Plate 110), with which Archdeacon was soon to begin experiments and on which, later in the year, Ferber was to give Voisin his first flying instruction, was the work of the Renard brothers, Charles and Paul, and a certain Dargent, of Meudon. The most interesting feature of Rey's article is a letter of Ferber's to Archdeacon (n. d.) which is quoted in full:

"I finally have a letter [Chanute to Ferber, Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, 1904; a copy of the Wrights' press statement of Jan. 5 was enclosed in the latter]. It is not as wonderful as they say.

"The machine has 47.3 square meters of surface, is 12.9 meters across, weighs 338.61 kg. mounted on wheels, with 12 horsepower motor.

"It started from a little slope on the plain and went for fifty nine seconds against a wind of 10 meters a second. It traveled only 266 meters, four times in a row, on December 17. The cold drove away the experimenters, who will not begin again until next season. That gives us a respite of six months.

"The experiment is not as grand as we thought, but it nevertheless represents a new fact. For the first time, a heavierthan air machine (338 kilograms!) has flown in horizontal flight for 266 meters.

"My machine, weighing about 225 kg., with 50 square meters and only 6 horsepower, ought to fly too. I am going to spend some more money to make sure; but, really, I think we ought to unite our efforts." [Italics supplied.]

2 From the Mar. 1904 issue of Popular Science Monthly.

Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute, March 14, 1904