I have your letter of the 19th inst. and note that your views do not in all respects coincide with our own. You think a serious accident in the French camp would benefit us. We do not think so. Our real difficulty has been to convince army officials that an aeroplane could be made practical. If they had been certain on this point, all questions of price, &c., &c., would have been settled in short order. The troubles of the French experimenters made us much more trouble than their successes by throwing more and more doubt on the practicability of any aeroplane. If Farman should be killed by a fall, it would injure us to the extent of thousands of dollars, we believe.
Neither can we feel that a mistake was made in failing to organize a company at the beginning. It is true that we could have made big money by selling stock to ignorant gullible investors, but we never considered it proper to do such a thing. We might have sold some stock to persons like yourself, Mr. Root, and Mr. Cabot, who would have invested for other than sound business reasons, but we did not care to do that. As for selling to real businessmen on a strictly business basis, we feel certain that we can do much better today than we could have done at the beginning. In organizing a company the patents are the important things. They are fully as valuable now as at the beginning. The reason we have never worried for fear we would be overtaken was because we have felt that no machine depending on dihedral angle would ever be practical, while our patents would protect our own system broadly. We have never seen any indication of a new solution of the problem of lateral stability. Of course if the dihedral angle furnishes a satisfactory solution of this problem we have not now, and never had, the basis on which to found a company. But we had such confidence in this reserve, that we have always felt safe in taking all the time we needed for attempting sales on other than company plans. If these special plans failed, we would be no worse off than before we tried them. Meanwhile the increase in general interest in aeronautics would make our patents more saleable rather than less, saleable.
We have assurances from the U.S. War Dept. relieving us from fears as to bond, &c. We told the Ordnance Board what our price would be last December before it was decided to call for bids. We understand that it appropriated this amount before instructing Gen. Allen to go ahead. The call for bids was really for the purpose of forestalling criticism and sounding public sentiment.
You are quite mistaken as to the matter of shifting of weight in our machines. We do not shift weight. We combine right and left wings of variable inclination with means of preventing movement about a vertical axis.
The article in McClure's for Feb. is very largely "faked." It is compounded of old addresses & articles & newspaper stories, and a very few things elaborated from our real conversation.
Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, February 20, 1908