8 December 2015
WRIGHT, Orville. Typed letter signed (“Orville Wright”) to Senator Hiram Bingham, Dayton Ohio, 24 March 1928. Folio, 1.½ in immaculate condition. [With:] Printed H.J. Res. 224...Joint Resolution “To ascertain which was the first heavier-than air flying machine.” 3pp. incorporating the 20-line text of the resolution.
THE IMPORTANT POINT AT ISSUE IS AS TO WHO WAS THE INVENTOR OF THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL FLYING MACHINE
A thoughtful letter regarding the so-called McSwain resolution, H.J. Res.224, intended "to ascertain which was the first heavier-than-air flying machine" (a printed copy of the resolution accompanies the letter). Wright explains: "I have your letter...asking whether I still think the passage of the McSwain Resolution is needed in view of the action taken by the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution on March 15th. It makes me believe more than ever that it is needed. The resolution indicates that the same policy is going to be pursued in the future as has been in the years past. It is apparent that the resolution, passed just on the eve of the hearing of the McSwain Resolution, was purely for the purpose of having this investigation dropped; and it seems to have had the desired effect.
"The resolution gave the impression to many throughout the country that the Smithsonian Regents had made an important concession in an endeavor to smooth out the differences between that Institution and myself. The statement evidently was intended to give this impression. You seem to have been one of those so misled. The resolution made no concession whatever and did not touch on any point at issue. The point as to whether my brother and I were the first to fly had never been questioned by the Smithsonian. The present label on the Langley machine clearly states this. The important point at issue is as to who was the inventor of the first successful flying machine. The Smithsonian for the past seventeen years has kept up a constant propaganda to take the credit for this away from my brother and myself. It has done this partly through some actually false statements and partly through statements so cunningly worded as to give a false impression without actually being false in themselves. This last resolution is a fair sample. It certainly can not be considered ingenuous....Such practice as this is beneath the dignity of a scientific institution, such as the Smithsonian purports to be, and such conduct on the part of an institution administering government bureaus with government funds certainly needs investigation by the Government.
"A good many people do not seem to grasp the difference between the first man-carrying flying machine and the first man-carrying machine to fly. There may be a big difference. Our pride was in producing the first man-carrying flying machine rather than in producing the first man flight. Wilbur and I did not take nearly so much pride in the fact that we were the first to fly as we did in the fact that we were the first to have the scientific data from which a flying machine could be built. I have never thought for an instant that I made the first flight. There were thousands of men who could have taken our 1903 machine into the air for the first flight; but I believe there was no one else in the world at that time beside Wilbur and myself that had the scientific data for building a machine that would fly."
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