Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, January 16, 1908

Of course it is not possible to know just how the financial end of our flyer will come out until the event shows, but I think the prospects as good now as at any time since Fordyce & Letellier spoiled things for us. It would have been a great advantage if we could have organized our company before beginning business, but we will still do very well unless we are much mistaken. The governments will each spend many times $200,000 on flying machines within the next fifteen years, and we think we will have patents1, knowledge, and business associations sufficient to insure a good share of it coming our way. Yet we may be mistaken.

The belief that others would soon succeed in attaining results equal or superior to ours has of course been one of the serious obstacles we have always had to contend with. It has never been stronger than in the first few months after our announcement of success. It was based on the general principle that what one can do, others can do. The actual progress made by others was much slower than was expected and tended to dispel the belief that we would be overtaken almost at once. I do not think that very much respect is paid to Archdeacon's opinions. He is such an ass. In any event, the day when such talk could do us serious harm is now past. For nearly a year we have worked on the plan of selling the governments for a lump sum, only when forced to it. Our real idea has been to get a proper organization for doing a regular business with governments first and the general trade afterwards.

I have not seen the McClure article. Mr. Turner came to see us about a year ago, but we said that we could furnish him nothing new, and supposed he would write nothing. The first knowledge we had that he was preparing an article was obtained from the advertisements in the January magazines. I am curious to know what he will have to say.

On my way home from Europe I stopped a day at Washington and went back a week later to meet the Board of Ordnance. I was not very favorably impressed with the attitude of Gen. Allen, and while the Board was courteous I did not feel like "hustling" for an order very hard. When I first learned that the Board was advertising for bids I doubted its good faith, but am now inclined to think I did them an injustice in suspecting such a thing. On the whole I think the conditions are fair, though a limitation of three trials is rather severe. I notice that they require bond in a sum equal to the amount of the bid. What do you think bond is for in such a case? It surely is not the intention to proceed against the bondsmen for the full amount of the bond in case we fail to fulfill all conditions within three trials if we should get the contract. The terms provide that no advance payments shall be made; the expense of the trials shall be borne by the contractor, and that the machine will be paid for and accepted only after successful demonstrations. Under such circumstances it is difficult to see why the bond should be in proportion to the price asked. If the bond covered the expenses of the officials who attend the trials it should be sufficient. If we find there is no intention to be unreasonable, we will probably make a bid at twenty five thousand dollars. The Board has already authorized a change permitting latitude in the matter of detail "plans."

The St. Louis article is said to have been prepared by Dienstbach, at least that is the idea of Mr. Jones, of the New York paper, who wrote us in regard to it some weeks ago.2

We of course have no objection to Mr. Means reprinting the addresses before the Western Society of Eng., though a condensation of them with some slight additions on our soaring experiments of 1903 would be better. It is doubtful whether we can find time to prepare anything entirely new.

[P.S.] We would of course have preferred for sentimental reasons to have taken the Deutsch prize but we considered the matter carefully before returning home and decided to let it go.3

1 The Wright 1903 patent, granted in 1906, had seventeen years to run until March 22, 1923.

2 Ernest L. Jones, editor of Aeronautics, had written on December 14, 1907, pointing out an announcement in The American Aeronaut, Nov. Dec. 1907, to the effect that its January 1908 issue would "give the world a complete description of the Wright Brothers' solution of aerial flight, accompanied by detailed drawings of their invention." The Wrights had apparently not yet seen the article in question, "The Perfect Flying Machine," plainly signed by Dienstbach.

3 Henri Farman, using a Voisin machine, had won the Deutsch Archdeacon prize for a closed circuit flight of one kilometer on January 13, 1908, three days before this letter was written, and more than three years after the Wrights had made flights of comparable duration and distance with the 1904 machine. The following letter to. Stanley Y. Beach, of the Scientific American, analyses the Farman machine and its performance.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, January 19, 1908