Appendix to correspondence between
Octave Chanute and Louis Pierre Mouillard

Apparently Mouillard was unable to reply to the letter from Octave Chanute dated 20 May 1897. On 11 October 1897 Chanute received word from G. Corelli that Mouillard had died on September 20, 1897. The Corelli - Chanute and related correspondence is added as an Appendix. They were translated from the originals in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress by Marvin McFarland on August 1, 1951.

One might guess that Corelli is the aide mentioned in Mouillard's letter of July 24, 1895:

I am afraid of the practitioner, my clerk, who has to construct all the iron devices. He is an Italian. The smiths and mechanics here are all Italians. They speak an idiom among themselves... This Italian aide knows the machine as well as I do, but there is one thing that baffles him; he is conscious that I know flying by heart and he does not understand it at all. As I do not instruct him on the theory of flight, he searches I see but he does not understand anything about the equilibrium of the machine and about its control!

Also it is obvious why Chanute was so uncooperative about his suggestions.

Cairo, September 23, 1897

Mr. O. Chanute

It is with regret that I come to give you pain by announcing that our mutual friend and colleague, M. Mouillard, departed this life the 20th of this month at 3 o'clock in the morning and at the same day was taken to his last resting place.

It has taken me these several days to recover from this blow so unexpected at this time and which was the consequence of a third attack of apoplexy.

Brought back to relative calmness by this brief interval, I have reflected that I am the only person morally responsible to you to take care of his interests should there be any occasion to, since I was the sole collaborator in the construction of his last aeroplane, for which you furnished the funds and took out the Inventor's Patents.

None of his family being in Cairo to witness the irreparable loss of our dear friend, the French consulate as being its duty has affixed seals on all that belonged to him to be opened only by whoever has the right of inheritance.

As there will probably be no one to claim rights on the few things he has left, there being nothing of liquid capital, I am taking the liberty to inform you of the situation so that his studies on aviation, sketches, manuscripts, among others a book - the sequel of L'Empire de L'Air - and a disassembled machine itself, may be of very great utility for subsequent studies, may not be lost. On this subject besides giving you possession of these facts by the present letter, I shall submit this letter to M., your consul here so that he may take cognizance of it and may delay the decision to be taken by the French consul on the inheritance of our regretted Mouillard. Moreover, being in a position to furnish very valuable information on this question of aviation, I place myself at your disposal. (Formal Closing) G. Corelli

Memo in Octave Chanute's handwriting: Mouillard's assets: Aeroplane (démonte), 1/2 American patent, Studies in Aviation, Sketches - manuscripts, 1 Book - Le Vol sans Battement.

Chicago, October 12, 1897

Mr. G. Corelli

I was very moved yesterday to receive your letter of 23. September advising me that our friend Mouillard had departed this life. However, I had a presentiment of it, not having received any reply to my last letter which concerned his interests; but it is very painful to think that he died without seeing the dream of his whole life ‹ to obtain a first success in aviation - realized.

I thank you for your thought of safeguarding my interests. If I have some rights to the machine, which cost me 5000 francs, I beg you to claim them and accept them from me. If you should not wish to do so, it would however be well not to destroy this machine in view of the possibility that I may come to Cairo this winter or that a museum might want to have it.

It is otherwise with his studies on aviation, his sketches, manuscripts, etc. I should be happy to receive all that the family does not claim; notably my letters to Mouillard, which might be useful to me in preparing a notice later on. His book Le Vol sans Battement ought to be published, if a publisher can be found. I had pointed out some changes to be made but do not know if they were made.

The important thing to my mind would be to observe the desires of our regretted friend; you must know what they were, and I would be very obliged to you to inform me of them as well as of any valuable information on this question of aviation of which you speak.

I am holding at the disposal of his family one half of the American patent for which I paid the expenses. It is scarcely possible to profit from it at this time, but should another person attain success with the same principle, the patent might be sold. If some expenses have been necessary in complying with the last wishes of our friend, I beg you to inform me of them.

It is very sadly, sir, that I present you my civilities. O. Chanute

Chicago, April 21, 1898

Mr. G. Corelli

I duly received your letter of 23 September announcing the death of our regretted Mouillard. I replied on the 12th of October begging you to accept for yourself all my rights to the flying machine, the expenses of which I paid, and to send me such of his papers as his family did not claim.

I have received nothing from you since; please be good enough to let me know what has been done.

Accept my heartfelt civilities.

O. Chanute
413 E. Huron Street
Chicago, Ill.

Cairo, May 18, 1898

Mr. O. Chanute

Finally your honored letter of 28 April last has explained the mystery of your prolonged silence. Your letter of 12. October, 1897 I received on November 1 of the same year. And after having taken the necessary steps, I replied on the 8th of December 1897.

In that letter, which must unfortunately have been lost, I told you that I had an interview with the French Consul who claimed not to be able to honor your and my demands because the inheritance estate was not yet settled (as it is not even today), because the heirs attach no importance to it.

Several members of the French Colony, on the contrary, attach great importance to the works of the defunct, which is embarrassing to the consul and which causes him to add that it might happen that the five direct heirs today scattered around the world might unite to demand from him an account of his actions.

He advised me therefore to look up the heirs and make them understand why I desired to obtain these papers and to get from them a legal statement giving me the right to withdraw what these heirs might wish to give me. Faced with these difficulties and knowing what remains pertaining to aviation, I asked you if you thought it proper to pursue these courses and today I again repeat the same question, submitting my opinion to your judgment.

As for the machine. During the first experiment made in the mountains Abassieh the machine rose about 30 meters attached by a cord which I held in my hand. It glided down, yes, but veering transversely. It bumped against a hillock (boulder) and a spring of the undercarriage was broken. This experiment nevertheless showed that the course being followed was correct, but that the surface of the machine was too small to sustain a weight of 175 kg in the air (weight of the machine and a man).

In agreement with M. Mouillard we decided to take the whole thing back to the shop and increase the soaring surface to the dimensions which practice had dictated. This work required us to disassemble the machine to replace the spars of the wings, which were consequently too short.

It was at this period that our friend Mouillard was stricken of his second stroke of apoplexy and about a month later expired.

As for the papers. A great quantity of his manuscripts had been destroyed by himself before his death but delicacy prevented me from learning to which studies they belong because besides aviation he also had ideas about a boat (navigation on three waves of the sea) of which he must have apprised you.

In conclusion: The machine is in a state to be abandoned, having no value except that of having served to demonstrate the course to follow and having been the first useful one in this science.

In order to get anywhere with the papers it would be necessary to overcome difficulties and expenses of which I do not see the use. However, if you wish I will put all my good will into rendering you this service.

Now it only remains for me to explain to you in a few words the studies which I have continued and of which I spoke in my first letter.

As a point of departure, the machine which you know, I will describe for you the modifications which I expect to make in it: (1) the three surfaces (A), (B), (C), which comprise the wings and the tail, must be carried out to 120 square meters. Surface D of the two wings must fold back on itself (movement to be executed by the forearms) which by doing away with la vise de rappel still permits the wing to be advanced or retracted for the ascent and descent of the machine. (2) the undercarriage must be replaced by a bicycle, much lighter but fulfilling the same purpose. On the handlebars (steering device) would be fixed the small base of the trapezoid (ab) and the large base (cd) would be fixed beneath the seat. This last base would also be used for supports for the movement of the tail. (3) The movements of the tail must be effected by the inclination of the body to the fore such as the cyclist makes when pedalling fast. Consequently the two principal spars that constitute the tail would be attached to the shoulders so as to leave the forearms free for the movement of the wings. These modifications, which simplify greatly the construction of the machine without in anyway modifying the movements which must be produced, and even to execute them with more security in less time, and it also permits with ease the enlargement and diminution of the surfaces in order to find the equilibrium in calm weather of the machine in the air. I mean, by its equilibrium when the machine is able to rise from the ground without a considerable effort with a load of at least 75 kilograms; or in other words, when the density of the air will offer the air a resistance such as to permit it to descend at a speed of 1 meter in 15 seconds.

Having obtained this result in absolutely calm weather, be it understood, it would then be possible to assist the horizontal flight of the machine with a propeller, which attached in front of the handlebars of the bicycle would be operated by the feet, which until now had no function to perform. Leaving aside, theoretically, the speed and force of the wind, which for this purpose would be unknown, I attack the principle of mechanics that it is necessary first to have equilibrium, and then power to obtain movement, applying therefore a little force I will have a very slow locomotion. It is in that set of circumstances that I intend to study the effects of the flights of the soaring birds, the principle cause of which is doubtless the speed and force of the wind.

Here I terminate, in summary, the first part of my studies in aviation and the little enclosed sketch will permit you to understand my ideas on the whole theory which I have just described to you.

The second part is concerned with the calculations for the resolution of the details of construction which if it takes place I will submit to you.

When you inform me what I am to do to be agreeable to you on the subject of the papers in question please add whether in your opinion I should pursue the studies which are the subject of my letter. From the ideas which I have just confided to you, you may decide whether I am to work alone or whether you would consider extending me your support.

Awaiting your reply, accept.;... G. Corelli

June 6, 1898 Chicago

Mr. G. Corelli

I have just received yours of the 18th of May. As you have guessed, I did not receive that of the 8th of December 1897 which you assumed I had received.

I already supposed that the estate of M. Mouillard had no pecuniary value but the important thing for his relatives and friends is to carry out his last wishes. What were they?

I suppose he desired that his last book "Le Vol sans Battement" should be published, so that aviation would not lose the fruit of his observations and labors. He wrote me that he intended to make some improvements and changes in the text. Did he make them? In any case, I recommend that there be an expert in aviation given the task of editing this book if it is to be published.

I have not seen a single notice of the death of our friend among the French publications which I receive. I am surprised and saddened. The inventions of M. Mouillard were, it is true of little practicality, but his observations and his writings were, to my mind, of great value and his death leaves a void. I recommend that the French Consul and yourself get in communication with the heirs to obtain a document to permit you to examine the papers and carry out the desires of our friend. I would even be disposed in joining his other friends in bearing the expense, if there is any.

Since you do not want the machine, I will give it to a museum. Please let me know if there is a museum in Cairo which might want to take charge of it. I suppose that this machine belongs to me as I paid all the expenses but if it is necessary to pay a nominal sum at a public sale to obtain complete owner ship, I will do so.

If I had a summary of the papers left by our friend, I might perhaps better be able to point out the use that might be made of them. Tell the heirs that I still hold at their disposal one half of the American patent, the expense of which I paid. O. Chanute

Chicago, June 6, 1898

Mr. G. Corelli

I reply separately on the subject of your studies on aviation. Our friend Mouillard was on the wrong track in his latter days, proposing large surfaces to reduce speed. Still it was he who wrote, "no speed, no flight."

  1. A surface of 120 sq m. is absolutely impracticable for a test aeroplane. I have established by experiments, of which I send you a copy, that a surface of 12 sq. meters to sustain a man without a motor and that for a machine with a 5 h.p. motor a surface of 16 sq. m. is enough; for that, one must resort to superposed planes. Folding surfaces have yet to be tried; I am afraid they could not be maneuvered in full flight.
  2. The undercarriage as you propose it must be abandoned, but a simple runner is enough for the first experiments. I have obtained about 1000 glides by suspending a man by his shoulders.
  3. It was in trying to regulate the movement of the tail by movements of the body that Lilienthal was killed. He attached it to his head; perhaps he would have succeeded better if he had attached it to his shoulders.

I do not think it practical to increase and diminish the surfaces in full flight in the first experiments. Later, one might come to that. The first thing to accomplish is to obtain automatic equilibrium in the wind; that is the most crucial point in which I was already directing my attention in testing two methods that are satisfactory and being engaged in trying a third method this summer.

You will see from my pamphlet which contains a lecture which I gave to the engineers the 20th of last October that I have built five machines of which two have succeeded in giving satisfactory equilibrium. I therefore do not wish to detour from this course to try the modifications of the Mouillard machine which you propose. But I am entirely in sympathy with researchers and it would give me pleasure to give you the information which my experience may suggest concerning your work. O. Chanute

November 22, 1898

Mr. G. Corelli

I have duly received your letter of 18 May and I replied to you on 6 June.

I think that the estate of M. Mouillard must have been settled, and I should be grateful to you to let me know what has happened. What were his last desires? Is his book to be published? What has become of his papers? Is there a museum which would accept his aeroplane? 0. Chanute

Chicago, February 3, 1910

M. de Consul de France, Cairo, Egypt

Dear Mr. Consul,

In 1894-95 I furnished M. L. P. Mouillard of Cairo certain sums to build an aeroplane with which he made some interesting experiments in 1896 and I took out an undivided patent in the USA.

M. Mouillard died the 20th of September, 1897 and when I passed through Cairo in 1902 [Chanute was in Cairo June 20 to February 1, 1903], the French Consul told me his natural heirs had refused to accept his estate, that his effects were on deposit at the consulate, and would be sold subject to legal postponement.

Be so good as to let me know what the terms of this sale are to be. The effects contained the manuscript of a book "Le Vol sans Battement", which I had read and corrected in part and which would be worth publishing at present; and the undivided half of his patent which might be exploited in the USA.

I would be disposed to occupy myself with these two affairs.

Yours truly, 0. Chanute