Wright Brothers' Fantastic Flying Machines

Wright Brothers' Fantastic Flying Machines

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Poster Auctions International.

Photographs are footprints in history.  Truth tellers.  Eyes into the past.

They show as well as tell us about the way it was.  Unedited.  The summer of 1908 was no exception.  The eyes of the world were on the Wright Brothers and their revolutionary flying machines. 

From the time we were little children, my brother Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together, and, in fact, thought together. 
— Wilbur Wright

It was the first time one of them flew solo without the other close by and the flight was captured on film.

Wilbur was flying almost daily out of a field in Le Mans, France.  In five months he made 129 flights while Orville stayed in Dayton, Ohio, getting ready to fly a second airplane to Fort Myer, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

After week-long flights in Hunaudieres, France, Wilbur moved to a larger field not far away at Camp d’ Auvours and made his flight out of there on August 21. 

He was in the air everyday breaking records as fast as he set them.     

Letters of congratulations arrived daily from heads of state all over Europe.  Bouquets of flowers and baskets of fruit kept arriving at Wilbur’s shack.  On some days crowds at the field were so large the local military commander had to start a ticket system. 

In a letter to Orville, Wilbur talked about the people who watched and flew with him.

“Princes and millionaires” appeared to be “as thick as thieves” at the flying ground.

Each brother worried about the other’s solo flights. Wilbur warned Orville:

“In your flights at Washington I think you should be careful to begin practice in calms and keep well about the ground.  You will probably be unable to cut as short curves as I do here, but you will have it easier on your speed test in a straight line.”

Some doubted Wilbur could even get his flying machine off the ground.  They figured if he did it was because he was an accomplished acrobat trained to balance his machine in flight.

Others said Wilbur could clearly be seen coasting in the sky above France between 35 to 40 miles an hour.  Sitting upright, almost motionless, they said you could see him applying light pressure to the levers in each hand like handlebars on a bicycle. 

In truth Wilbur said controlling the unstable Flyer was not easy.  He made numerous mistakes but was able to correct them before spectators on the ground were even aware.

The Wright brothers were a team from the beginning.  Wilbur described it best:

“From the time we were little children, my brother Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together, and, in fact, thought together.  We usually owned all our toys in common, talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions, and discussions between us.”

Their alchemy resulted in the “Wright Flyer” the world’s first successful airplane. The aircraft was the first heavier-than-air powered airplane to make a continual, controlled flight with a pilot aboard. 

Teamwork and gumption made it possible for the self-taught engineers to pull it off.

On Nov. 8, 2009, the Poster Auctions International featured several pieces of Wright Brothers memorabilia in its sale.  Here are some values.

Update: 2018. Wright Brothers Autograph and Signed Patent Document sold for $15,000 in 2016

Wright Brothers

Banquet Menu; Wilbur Wright/L’Aero Club de France; 1908; 9 ½ inches by 12 1/8 inches;  $2,760.  

Lithograph Aviation Poster; The World’s Greatest Aviators; 1909; 26 ½ inches by 30 inches;  $5,750.

Gelatin Silver Print Photo; flight preparation at Camp d’Auvours; hand-signed by Wilbur Wright; 1908; 16 ½ inches by 12 ¼ inches;  $5,750.  

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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