The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers
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COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS: Aviation Colleagues

Letter, Charles S. Rolls to Wilbur Wright, February 20, 1910
Image, caption following [Letter, Charles S. Rolls to Wilbur Wright, 20 February 1910]. General Correspondence: Rolls, Charles S., 1910. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Less than five months before his death in a French-built Wright machine, Charles Stewart Rolls, the British founder of the Rolls-Royce Motor Company, wrote to Wilbur Wright complaining about the quality of the Wright flyer that he had purchased in Europe. Unlike the sturdy machines built in Dayton, these license-built machines were often "unsafe & unfit to fly," said Rolls, tempting him "to go to another make" to use for the upcoming races in France. He tells Wilbur that he resigned his position at his company and taken one "which does not require any regular attendance at the office," in order "to devote myself to flight." Although Rolls is reconciled to fly "in the first few races with an old fashioned machine" that is expensive to repair, he asks Wilbur to send him drawings for a new racer, asking eagerly, " what about engine for racer? Will it have tail and wheels?" Charles Rolls died July 12, 1910, when the tail of his French-built Wright machine snapped off before a grandstand filled with horrified spectators at Bournemouth, England.
Letter, Amelia Earhart to Orville Wright, August 6, 1932
Image, caption following [Letter, Amelia Earhart to Orville Wright, 6 August 1932]. General Correspondence: Earhart, Amelia, 1932-1934. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Although Orville had mostly retired from the aeronautical scene by 1932, he was still a very popular and well-known figure who received considerable correspondence, sometimes from equally famous people. In May 1932 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. This letter was written after Earhart christened the Hudson Motor Company's newly released Essex Terraplane. This small, but very powerful, car with a steel frame, was built to exacting standards, which is probably why Orville purchased such a vehicle for himself.
Letter, Charles A. Lindbergh to Orville Wright, January 4, 1934
Image, caption following [Letter, Charles A. Lindbergh to Orville Wright, 4 January 1934]. General Correspondence: Lindbergh, Charles A., 1927, 1933-1940, undated. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. In 1927, when Charles Lindbergh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, he became an American aviation hero and an international celebrity. As such, he met Orville Wright several times and was on friendly terms with him. By 1934 Orville was involved in a prolonged conflict with the Smithsonian Institution over its claim that the machine built in 1903 by Samuel Langley was the first capable of flying. Orville regarded this as an attempt to rewrite history, and, as a result, he had sent the Wrights' historic 1903 flyer to the Science Museum in London, England, in 1928 and refused to bring it back to the United States. In this 1934 letter, Lindbergh offers his help to try and resolve the longstanding dispute between Orville and the Smithsonian. Consequently, he met later that year with Orville and Charles G. Abbot, the Smithsonian's secretary. The meeting was fruitless, but the dispute was eventually resolved in 1942 when the Smithsonian reversed its stance. However, the return of the Wright flyer to American soil had to wait until December 17, 1948, well after World War II and nearly a year after Orville's death.

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The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers