Orville Wright Typed Letter Signed
Historic letter on the birth of aviation where the famed flier fact-checks information on man’s first flight
Orville Wright first met John Walter Wood in 1935, and the two began a steady stream of correspondence regarding Wood’s writing projects. Wright, concerned with leaving behind accurate records for generations to come, happily complied with the author’s requests for information. In this letter, he corrects facts about his airplane, the weight and orientation of the motor, and the topography of Kill Devil Hills, the dunes just south of Kitty Hawk where the Wrights’ first historic flight began in 1903. The hill, difficult to measure due to shifting sands over the three decades since the first flight, holds a small rockfaced granite boulder placed by the National Aeronautic Association to mark the lift-off site. Wright references the marker, saying, “The base of the hill at that time was a little over 1200 feet from the spot on which the boulder now stands. I can not believe it is more than 1600 or 1700 feet from the boulder now.”
After years of work, with his facts checked by the pioneers of aviation, Wood’s book was published in 1940 and provided one of the first thorough surveys of early flight. This is a wonderful glimpse into the correspondence between two passionate figures in aviation history, presenting facts of the first flight straight from the aviator’s hand.
Historic TLS, two pages, 7.25 x 10.5, personal letterhead, May 16, 1940. Wright responds to fact-checking requests regarding his first flight from John Walter Wood, author of Airports: Some Elements of Design and Future Development.
In part: “First in regard to ‘Wright Field 1904–905’: On page 1, last line, the length of the 1901 wind tunnel is given as 8 feet instead of 6 feet. I should have noticed this error in former drafts but failed to do so…The statement that Kill Devil Hill has moved about a quarter mile south since the early years of our experiments there is not correct. The base of the hill at that time was a little over 1200 feet from the spot on which the boulder now stands. I can not believe it is more than 1600 or 1700 feet from the boulder now. Maybe the reference to the hill moving had better be omitted…The weight of the bare motor was 152 pounds; with magneto it weighed 170 pounds…It might be well to state that the motor was a horizontal one, so that it be not confused with our later four cylinder vertical one.”
In fine condition, with two punch holes to top edge and faint staple mark to the upper left corner. Accompanied by two carbon copies of Wood’s February 21 and February 27 letters to Wright.