WRIGHT, Orville. Typed letter signed to Mr. J.F. Victory. Dayton, Ohio, 25 March 1931. 2½ pages, 4to, on rectos only, personal stationery. [With:] Early photostat (by Wright) of two pages from the Wright brothers' original flight log of their Huffmann Prairie experiments, 1904-1905, showing the record of the historic first circular flight, 20 September 1904. 2 pp., 12mo.
DOCUMENTING 'THE GREAT BREAK-THROUGH': THE WRIGHT BROTHERS' HISTORIC FIRST CIRCULAR FLIGHT, HUFFMANN PRAIRIE, 15 SEPTEMBER 1904
In response for an inquiry regarding the documentation of the Wrights milestone first circular flight-the experiment which finally proved actual navigation and aerial manoeuver possible-Wright provides a vivid account of their memorable Huffman Prairie flights of 1904. As one biographer has written "By September 15, they were making flights of up to half a mile in length complete with their first turns in the air. The great break-through came five days later, when Orville flew a complete circuit of the Prairie, covering 4,080 feet in just over 1 minute, 35 seconds" (T. Crouch, The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright, p.284).
Twenty-one years later, Wright furnishes explicit details of that momentous flight: "Our first flight accomplishing a closed circuit was made on the 20th of September, 1904. The only witnesses on the field at the time this flight was made beside Wilbur and myself were Mr. A.I. Root, now deceased...and Charles E. Taylor, our mechanic and helper. Mr. Root told of this flight in the January 1, 1905 issue of "Gleanings in Bee Culture." His was the first public mention of it. Ironically, as Crouch observes, "for the two years, 1904-1905, when Wilbur and Orville were perfecting their invention, the only accurate coverage appeared in a journal aimed at an audience of beekeepers" (Ibid, p.285). Wright continues: "This first closed circuit flight is mentioned in a letter dated March 2, 1906, addressed by Wilbur and myself to the Aero Club of America...published in the Aero Club of America bulletin of March 12, 1906. I find a clipping from the "Dayton Press" of December 17, 1904, which says that twenty circles were made during that year. From an examination of our note books I do not feel certain that more than thirteen circuits were fully completed. The oldest record of the flight is a record made on September 20, 1904 in the field note-book kept by Wilbur and myself. I am sending enclosed a photostat [present] of the two pages on which this record appears. The record for the 51st flight at the top of the first page is in Wilbur's hand. The record on the first page of the 52nd flight (the first complete circuit) is in my handwriting, excepting the last sentence, which is in Wilbur's. The drawing and the writing of the second page is all in Wilbur's hand."
"The total distance of flight No. 52 measured with a wheel following...the course flown by the machine was 4080 feet. My time for the flight was 1 minute, 35-2/5 seconds taken with a stop-watch and counting from the time the machine left the rail until it touched the ground. C.E. Taylor caught the time 1:35-1/5. The stop-watch on the Richard anemometer (carried on the machine) recorded 1:35-1/5. The Richard anemometer recorded 1505 meters as the distance travelled through the air... Wilbur shut off the motor and anemometer about three seconds before touching the ground. You will note that at the bottom of the second page Wilbur recorded the fact that Root was present."
That September afternoon, the unsuspecting beekeeper Amos Root, lodging with a nearby farmer, "witnessed the first circular flight of an airplane in the history of the world. It was a moment he would not forget." In his journal of beekeeping he later wrote "'When it turned that circle, and came near the starting point, I was right in front of it; and I said then, and I believe still, it was...the grandest sight of my life'" (Ibid., p.284). (3)