Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, January 2, 1906

It seems that Capt. Ferber realized that it would require a year or two for the French Government to act, and, fearing another nation would anticipate it, he went to some wealthy friends and newspaper publishers and induced them to form a syndicate to purchase our invention and present it to the nation as a gift for war purposes. We have made an agreement by which the secret formulas communicated, not to the syndicate, but to the government direct. We give a license to manufacture only for government use. The syndicate cannot exploit the invention commercially. The members are not Aero-Club people, and have no wish to make the machine public. Their idea seems to be to secure their return in the shape of army promotions, or decorations of the "Legion of Honor," &c., &c. They are to post a forfeit of 25,000 francs by Febr. 5th, and deposit one million francs in a New York bank before April 5th, of which sum 750,000 frs. is to become ours absolutely as soon as we have delivered a machine to them, after a trial flight of 50 kilometers. The balance is to become ours absolutely after an interval not exceeding three months more, during which time we are to exercise diligence in imparting instruction, &c.

We agree to furnish no machine or instruction to any other nation or individuals until a period of three months from the delivery of the machine has expired. We reserve all rights to sell to other governments after that time. They figure that it will take other governments a year or two to act, and that France will accordingly obtain much more than three months’ start. M. Fordyce told us after the contract had been signed that his instructions had been to waste no words over the price but to make sure that the machine would do what we claimed. He returned thoroughly convinced. All that his associates were particular about was to ‘avoid being "hoaxed."’

We have just received a letter from the "Austrian Association of Builders" of Vienna, who, having seen that we are offering the invention to the French for 1 million francs, write to inquire whether they cannot become the purchasers for the purpose of presenting it to the Emperor Franz Joseph on the occasion of his 60[th] jubilee in 1908 as a national gift. The idea is to make it the star feature of the Vienna Exposition. If the idea of acquiring the machine in different countries by popular subscription should spread, we may, be able to secure all the remuneration we care for, and establish free trade in flying machines within a year or two. Nothing would suit us better, but we shall not begin counting our chickens until we are sure of them.

I am sending a few clippings. Those from Dayton papers you may keep as we have duplicates.


Wright Letter to Frank S. Lahm