Your letters of the 15th & 16th December have been received, and also one sent to Europe about the first of the month. I note what you say about the Geographical Magazine; I also have a certificate of membership in the Society for which I am doubtless indebted to you. Please [accept] my sincere thanks for such kindness. The new year is beginning beautifully in Dayton and I trust that the same is true in Chicago. I wish you pleasure and happiness throughout the year.
The remark of Mr. Herring, reported by Capt. Hildebrandt to you, is doubtless about on par with a similar claim made by the Voisin brothers in Paris last spring. They sent word by Mr. Bishop that they could give a complete drawing to scale of our machine, and proposed to make a bet that their drawing deposited in a sealed envelope would correspond to our machine. I sent word back that if they knew all about our machine as they pretended, they could make money without betting by the simple expedient of building several of the machines immediately and doing some flying with them. I have not seen any of our machines emerge from their shop so far.
I note from several remarks in your recent letters that you evidently view the present situation in aviation circles with very different eyes from what we do. I must confess that I still hold to my prediction that an independent solution of the flying problem would require at least five years. The two years that have passed since Archdeacon, Santos, and Ferber predicted that the feats of the Wrights would be surpassed in France within three months have seen all other predictions than ours overturned or repeatedly amended. I have confidence that our prediction will still stand solid after the scythe of time has reaped several fresh crops of French predictions. This judgment is based on a consideration of the net advance shown by a comparison of the design of the Santos machine of 1906 with any one of the 1907 machines. What do you consider the amount of this advance to be?
This question however is now becoming one of little practical importance. We had all the time we needed for negotiations on the line of secrecy, and at no time were our plans overturned or seriously affected by the work of other experimenters. If there was a possible exception to this statement, it was due to the fact that some of the people with whom we were in negotiation may have been rendered more skeptical of the usefulness of aeroplanes by the ups and downs of aeroplane inventors during these years. The things actually accomplished by them were a negligible factor so far as effects on our negotiations were concerned.
As to the matter of price, we have always felt that it is impossible to fix a definite price on an invention of this kind and then say: "More would be too much; less too little." Of one thing I feel very certain the result of every negotiation would probably have been the same if the price named had been one half as great, or even one fourth as great, as it was. Other points were the real stumbling blocks, and a moderate reduction in price would not have removed them. We considered it the better plan to vary our plans to meet the real issues. This is what we are doing.
With best wishes, [&c.]
Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, January 4, 1908