Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Le Mans, July 10, 1908

I have expected to have the pleasure of meeting you in person ere this, instead of having to write, as Mr. Alexander sent me word soon after I came to Europe that you were also on this side. But I have had no confirmation of it from any other source, and presume the information to be one of Mr. Alexander's peculiar vagaries. He is certainly the strangest man I have ever known.

I have been at Le Mans for some three weeks setting up one of our machines, but by mischance & insufficient carefulness I scalded my side and left arm pretty badly. Fortunately the injuries have healed without any complications and I will be all right in a day or two more. It will probably be near the end of the month before I am ready to begin practice, as the machine was less completely finished when shipped than I supposed it to be and I have no real assistant. The helper I have seems to be a rather nice young fellow, but his knowledge of English and mechanics is rather more limited than I had hoped to find it. If I had known there was so much work to be done I would have brought a helper from America. Le Mans is an old fashioned town of some 75,000 inhabitants, almost as much out of the world in some respects as Kitty Hawk.

[P.S.] My address remains care H. O. Berg, 11 D. Regent St., London, S.W.1

1 The calm impersonality of this letter contrasts sharply with the real worries of which Wilbur Wright wrote Orville Wright five days earlier, on July 5:

". . . I have seen the statement you sent to Aerophile [in the letter to Besancon, June 3, 19081. It is very good, but should have said that in some of the flights two men were carried. I have been taking some pains to have the chief points of our patents well published so as to let the general public become accustomed to linking these ideas with us before others attempt to steal them. . . . I hope you bring out in your Century article the fundamental difference between our methods & those of Chanute, and call attention to the fact that we have obtained very broad patents on the general combinations as well as the particular constructions employed. . . ."

And in a P.S. to the same: "I note you say you have a letter from Flints regarding shipping goods and 'infer there is no rush.' I cannot conceive how you get such an idea when I have been writing time and again to forward goods as fast as they are finished. . . . You have never sent me a copy of your letters to British war dept. I ought to see them. I have asked you to tell me the date when British business must be worked to hold patent, but you seem to never notice requests or instructions. To think it is only a month away. . . ."

Another letter to Orville Wright, July 9, was in similar vein: ". . . If you had permitted me to have any anticipation of the state in which you had shipped things over here, it would have saved three weeks' time probably. I would have made preparations to build a machine instead of trying to get along with no assistance and no tools. If you have any conscience, it ought to be pretty sore. . . . I will not attempt to catalogue my troubles, both because I have not time and paper enough and because you are probably having troubles enough of your own. The thing I really blame you for is misrepresenting the amount of work remaining to be done. . . ."

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, July 22, 1908