Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright

Chicago, June 6, 1905

I have your letter of June 1st and return the enclosures.1

I am at a loss to understand how the Ordnance Department misconstrued your letter into an application for an appropriation to experiment and assumed that your invention was not brought to the stage of practical operation. Are you sure that no written or verbal mistaken statements were transmitted with your letter?

My first feelings were of mortification and regret that the United States War Department should have extended to you "a flat turndown," as you express it. Now that I have cooled down I see some advantages in your being forced to consider the overtures made by Col. Capper for the British Government, because: First, your invention is worth far more to the British than to the United States Government. Second, the British are less hampered than we in appropriating secret service funds, so that you can probably get a better price,, and sooner. Third, your invention will make more for peace in the hands of the British than in our own, for its existence will soon become known in a general way and the knowledge will deter embroilments.

I think that you should, however, endeavor to protect the interests of the United States in your deal with the British. I fear that this will be difficult; for their war department will probably want you and your brother to enter its service, to build machines and to teach operators, and will insist upon absolute secrecy on all present construction and future improvement. It will probably forbid all taking out of patents.

If you close negotiations with England I hope that you will find some way of saving our government from any ill results of its present blunder.

I enclose the translation of a private letter just received from Captain Ferber,2 now at Chalais Meudon, who seems fully aware of the importance of an efficient flying machine in war.

1 The Wrights' file of their correspondence with Congressman Nevin and the Board of Ordnance and Fortification sent in Wilbur Wright's letter to Chanute, June 1, 1905.

22 Ferber to Chanute, May 24, 1905.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, June 6, 1905