One of aviation’s greatest storylines comes to life during Swann Auction Galleries’ Autographs Sale on May 23.
On Nov. 10, 1921, Orville Wright sent a typed, signed letter to the publisher of Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering, in response to the controversy surrounding the Langley vs. Wright flight.
In October 1921, Griffith Brewer, a member of the Royal Aero Club and friend to the Wright Brothers, gave a lecture to the Royal Society (later published as “Aviation’s Greatest Controversy”). In this speech he described differences between Samuel Langley’s 1903 flying machine, which failed to fly a short time before the Wright Flyer succeeded, and the reconstructions of this machine, which that Glenn Curtiss later flew successfully at Hammondsport.
Charles D. Walcott, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, believed that the successful Langley machine was not different from the earlier machine, concluding that the Langley machine was the first successfully flown mechanically powered heavier-than-air craft – not the Wright Flyer.
In response to statements made by Griffith Brewer and Glenn Curtiss in the Aeronautical Journal, Wright stated that Brewer had been misled by Charles D. Walcott regarding the cost, payment, and transportation of the Langley machine to Hammondsport.
In his letter to Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering, Wright wrote: “. . . I cannot help but admire Curtiss’ nerve. Only one with colossal nerve would dare to come out with the flat statement such as Curtiss makes, that the machine he flew at Hammondsport was the original Langley machine without any change except the addition of floats. . . .”
Auction officials estimate the letter will go for between $4,000 and $6,000.
Also included in the auction is a signed portrait of aviator and aerospace engineer Howard Hughes, from the pressbook for his 1930 film Hell’s Angels (estimate: $1,000-$2,000).
The lot also features a ticket to the film’s premiere, held at the Criterion Theater in New York City (now the location of the Toys“R”Us store in Times Square).
For more information: SwannGalleries.com