Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, January 20, 1910

The New York World has published several articles in the past few months in which you are represented as saying that our claim to have been the first to maintain lateral balance by adjusting the wing tips to different angles of incidence cannot be maintained, as this idea was well known in the art when we began our experiments. As this opinion is quite different from that which you expressed in 1901 when you became acquainted with our methods, I do not know whether it is mere newspaper talk or whether it really represents your present views. So far as we are aware the originality of this system of control with us was universally conceded when our machine was first made known, and the questioning of it is a matter of recent growth springing from a desire to escape the legal consequences of awarding it to us. In our affidavits we said that when we invented this system we were not aware that such an idea had ever suggested itself to any other person, and that we were the first to make a machine embodying it, and also that we were the first to demonstrate its value to the world, and that the world owed the invention to us and to no one else. The patent of Mouillard was cited as an anticipation by the German and the English patent offices, and also by the defendants' attorneys in the recent trial at Buffalo, and in each case it was decided that it did not constitute an anticipation. I have also seen Le Bris and d'Esterno mentioned as having anticipated us, but the accounts in your book regarding the works and writings of these men do not contain any explanation of such a system of lateral control. Do the French documents from which you derived your information contain it, and if so can you give information as to where such documents may be obtained? It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal use of our system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us. If however there is anything in print which might invalidate our legal rights, it will be to our advantage to know it before spending too much on lawyers, and any assistance you may be able to give us in this respect will be much appreciated, even though it may show that legally our labors of many years to provide a system of lateral control were of no benefit to the world and a mere waste of time, as the world already possessed the system without us.

I am expecting to begin next week a search for a southern experimenting grounds where we can work to advantage during the winter season.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, January 23, 1910