Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine Patent, missing from the National Archives
December 17 is a bittersweet anniversary at the National Archives. While it’s the date of the Wright Brother’s historic first flight in 1903, it’s also a reminder of the threat that archives, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions face on a daily basis. The patent for the Wright Flyer is missing—presumed stolen—last seen in 1979, and it’s not the only item missing.
When such records are stolen our shared history is lost and our ability to maintain accountability in our government is lessened. With your help, we can return our cultural heritage to its rightful place.
How you can help:
Wright Brothers Take Flight
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful sustained powered flight of a heavy-than-air vehicle near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Surfman John T. Daniel of the U.S. Life-Saving Service snapped this picture when the Wright Flyer made its historic first flight.
“Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, NC. Orville Wright at controls. Wilbur Wright at right (First flight was 12 seconds)”
By Orville Wright and John T. Daniels, December 17, 1903 (165-WW-7B-6); Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; Record Group 165; National Archives.
[12/17/2013 1:00pm - Correction made to photo ID number]
Modern Aviation’s First Fatality
"Bystanders help extricate the mortally wounded US Army (USA) Lieutenant (LT) Thomas Selfridge from the wreck of the Wright Brothers Flyer after its crash at Fort Myer, Virginia (VA). At right, several men attend the injuries of Orville Wright, who lies on the ground at their feet, 09/17/1908”
Lieutenant Selfridge became the first fatality of powered aviation, succumbing to his injuries shortly after this crash. The flight had been part of a series of tests by Orville Wright to demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to carry a passenger.
Happy National Aviation Day!
Orville Wright takes flight with observer Lt. Frank P. Lahm at Ft. Myer Virginia to win the Army’s prize for sustained flight with a passenger in September 1908.
National Aviation Day was proclaimed by President Franklin Roosevelt in honor of pioneering aviator Orville Wright’s birthday (August 19, 1871).
“Make America First in the Air" from the series Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities, 1947 - 1984, from the Records of the U.S. Air Force.