Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, June 1, 1905

Your letter of May 30th at hand. We would be ashamed of ourselves if we had offered our machine to a foreign government without giving our own country a chance at it, but our consciences are clear. At the Christmas holidays we talked with Mr. Nevin,1 Congressman from this district, and he proposed that we write him a letter containing a general statement of our business,2 and that he take it to Mr. Taft and secure an appointment for us to meet with the War Department officials, thus saving us delay when we should visit Washington. But owing to sickness he was compelled to turn over our letter without personally seeing Mr. Taft and shortly afterward received the letter from the Ordnance Department which I enclose. As we had made no request for an appropriation, but on the contrary had offered to furnish machines of "agreed specifications at a contract price" (which offer was entirely ignored), we were driven to the conclusion that the letter of the War Department was intended as a flat turndown. We still think so.

A note to Col. Capper3 informing him that we were ready to talk business with the British Government soon brought a response from the English War Office requesting us to make a definite proposition. We submitted our proposition, and now have an answer stating that an officer will be sent to see us.4

It is no pleasant thought to us that any foreign country should take from America any share of the glory of having conquered the flying problem, but we feel that we have done our full share toward making this an American invention, and if it is sent abroad for further development the responsibility does not rest upon us. We have taken pains to see that "Opportunity" gave a good clear knock on the War Department door. It has for years been our business practice to sell to those who wished to buy, instead of trying to force goods upon people who did not want them. If the American Government has decided to spend no more money on flying machines till their practical use has been demonstrated in actual service abroad, we are sorry, but we cannot reasonably object. They are the judges.

1 Robert M. Nevin. Bishop Wright's Diary for Jan. 3, 1905, notes: "Wilbur saw Hon. Robt. Nevin in the evening."

2 Wilbur Wright to Nevin, Jan. 18, 1905, not included in this work. This letter, together with the reply to Nevin from the Board of Ordnance and Fortification, is quoted in full in Kelly, Miracle at Kitty Hawk, pp. 135 136.

3 Wright Cycle Co, to Lt. Col. John E. Capper, Jan. 10, 1905. Lt. Col. Capper, British army representative, had visited the Wrights in October 1904.

4 Wright Cycle Co. to the War Office, London, Mar. 1, 1905, not included in this work. An excerpt follows: "Before the said machine is accepted by the British Government, and before any part of the purchase price is paid, the constructors shall in the presence of representatives of the British Government demonstrate by trial flights that the specifications have been met, the number of trials to be optional with the constructors.,,

The British, however, were unwilling to commit themselves to a contract until a representative had first witnessed a demonstration flight. See Wright Cycle Co. to the British Military Attache, Nov. 25, 1905.

Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute, June 3, 1905