Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, December 4, 1905

We have yours of Nov. 24th. The only experiments with following surfaces we ever made were with the surfaces spaced their own breadth apart, and had reference only to the ratio of drift to lift. The conclusion was that the ratio was almost independent of position, whether superposed, stepped, or tandem. It was always less favorable than a single surface.

We are investigating the report which Mr. Manly made of our experiments in his address before the Aero Club and are convinced that he had private information, but are not certain whether he was here himself, or whether he simply wrote to someone here. Do you know any means of finding out whether he was wearing a mustache about the 1st of October? The original report of the address in the N.Y. Herald attributed to Mr. Manly the statement that we had made "fifty rounds of the park" in secret experiments at Dayton in the last two months. This agrees with the telegram of inquiry sent to Dayton by Mr. Hedge.1 But in a later article in the Herald of Nov. 26th, it is attributed to "a man in this city [New York]2 who was in the secret of their success." It is evident that the news was obtained by some underhand method, but it shows internal evidence of being derived from someone not an actual witness of the flights and surroundings.

A few days ago Mr. F. S. Lahm, a member of the French AeroClub, cabled his brother in law, Mr. H. M. Weaver of Mansfield, Ohio, as follows: "Verify what Wright Bros. claim. Necessary go Dayton today. Prompt answer cable." Mr. Weaver, who is a manufacturer of cash carriers used in stores, came down Sunday and, after interviewing several farmers at Simms and a few of our friends in Dayton who had been present at our long flights, cabled back: "Claims fully verified, particulars by mail."3

Col. Foster, British military attache at Washington, has written us that he has been instructed to come to Dayton to witness a flight of our machine. We have informed him that the machine has been dismantled, but have invited him to make an investigation of our past flights. To tell the truth we are unwilling to show the machine to the attache of any government without some assurance that a sale will follow a demonstration that the machine can really fly as we claim. We think it a poor time to bargain as to terms after the goods have been partly delivered.

We made a "special" price of $200,000 (1,000,000 francs) to Capt. Ferber. The matter of price we consider less difficult than that of overcoming incredulity without showing so much of the machine as to lead to an impression that it would be easy to duplicate the machine independently. I enclose Capt. Ferber's last letter. He seems to be experiencing some of the troubles of Cassandra.

It has come to our knowledge that shortly after our flights in October a man offered $50 to one of our friends for a "tip" as to when we would make another flight. The man was a stranger but was supposed to be a newspaper man of some kind. The offer was refused.

1 Homer W. Hedge, president of the Aero Club of America, had sent a telegram to the secretary of the Dayton Commercial Club (later the Chamber of Commerce), Mr. James B. Siders, requesting verification of the information concerning flights by the Wright brothers which Manly had included in his November 14 talk before the Aero Club. Mr. Siders thereupon telephoned the Wrights, who were till then unaware that Manly had made such a talk.

2 The brackets are Wilbur Wright's.

3 On December 4, the Wrights wrote to Weaver, giving names of witnesses other than those interviewed during Weaver's visit. Lahm's cable was actually addressed to Weaver's son, Henry M., Jr.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, December 6, 1905