THE WRIGHT BROTHERS
and the
'SMITHSONIAN CONSPIRACY'

This is from a well-researched article in Air Enthusiast - No. 35, August 1988, by G.K. Weissenborn. Although concerning the pioneering 'flights' of Gustave Whitehead its relevance is obvious to the achievements of Richard Pearse and the many other early aviation pioneers. The entire article can be found in "Did Whitehead Fly?"

"For years after their 7 December 1903 flights in North Carolina, the Wrights were virtually ignored, but after their success in France on 31 December 1908 brought about a growing conviction that the aeroplane could be used in war, they were invited to the White House in 1909. At this time Professor Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, was being hailed by that institution as the "father of flight".

"Samuel P Langley, who had for years been conducting successful glider experiments, and his assistant C M Manley had been employed by the government to construct an aircraft that could be used in war. In late 1903, he launched his creation, the "Aerodrome", over water but the aircraft was unsuccessful and fell into the Potomac. Despite this, Langley's position at the Smithsonian was secure, and very much coveted by the Wrights. Orville Wright, embittered by the Institution's attitude, lent the "Flyer" to the London Science Museum for a term of years, thereby bringing external pressure to bear: the aircraft would not be returned to the USA until he and his brother were acknowledged as the "Fathers of Powered Flight". The Smithsonian eventually gave in but Orville nevertheless extended the period of loan to England through World War II then intervened to prevent the safe transfer of the "Flyer" to the US until 1948.

"On 23 November of that same year, the executors of Orville Wright's estate entered into a contract with the Smithsonian for the display of the aircraft which dealt with, among other - things, the wording to be used on the accompanying plaque. Paragraph 2 (d) of the Agreement reads:

"Neither the Smithsonian Institution or its successors, nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered for the United States of America by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight."

"Failure to observe this condition by the Smithsonian would result in a return of the "Flyer" to the vendors, according to paragraph 4 of the contract.

"The implication is clear. By trading its integrity for an aeroplane, the Smithsonian one of the most prestigious public institutions in the world, was condemning Gustave Whitehead [and by inference also condemning all other early aviation pioneers including Richard Pearse of New Zealand - CJB] to obscurity."

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