Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright

Chicago, January 4, 1908

I am glad to infer from your letter of the 1st that you consider the net advance of your competitors to be less threatening to your interests than I feared, and that the condition of your own negotiations is satisfactory to you.

I suppose that you have seen the outrageous things that Archdeacon said about those matters at the Aero club dinner of Nov. 7th. He is a "lightweight," yet such statements exercise an influence.1

I yesterday saw, for the first time, the advertisement of the Signal Corps for flying machines. Do you intend to compete, and will you submit the full plans of your machine, or will you be satisfied to file the "detail plans" which the St. Louis Aeronaut promises to publish next month?2 I am curious to know the origin of the latter.

Did you see Alexander in New York?

[P.S.] Did you revise the McClure article?3 It was sent to me in your absence and I thought it quite good. Would you object to Means reprinting your two papers given to the Western Society of Engineers?

1 Archdeacon's remarks, reported verbatim in L'Aerophile, Nov. 1907, pp. 307 308, were made at the monthly meeting of the Aero Club de France and were occasioned by Farman's flight of October 26, 1907. The following is a translation of the passages referred to by Chanute:

". . . Today the famous Wright brothers may claim all they wish. If it is true (which I more and more doubt) that they were the first to fly through the air, they will not have the glory of it before History. They had only to drop their incomprehensible mysteriousness and make their experiments in broad daylight, like Santos Dumont and Farman, in the presence of official recorders, surrounded, moreover, by thousands of spectators.

"The first authentic powered aerial flights took place in France. They will be bettered in France. And the famous 50 kilometers announced by the Wrights will, I am sure, be bettered here, long before the latter decide to show their phantom machine which they propose to sell unsuccessfully, I believe, to all the governments of the World.

"The recent successes of Farman have positively demonstrated the fact (which I have never stopped asserting) that the first aviators would use only known devices and could not maintain by patents exclusive ownership of their machines.

"If 'governments' had bought from the Wright brothers their supposed invention for a million [francs], they would have, quite definitely, thrown a million out of the window (even supposing the machine had flown), for, tomorrow, nothing will be able to prevent engineers from copying from A to Z [the mechanisms] of existing machines which shall have functioned the best. . . ."

2 A reference to the advance notice of Dienstbach's article, "The Perfect Flying Machine," and the faked sketch of a so called Wright "motor flyer." Seen. 5, p. 851.

3 "The Men Who Learned to Fly," by George K. Turner, McClure's Magazine, Feb. 1908, pp. 443 452.

Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute, January 16, 1908