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Friday, August 19, 2005

Orville Wright's curious contract

Today is Orville Wright’s birthday.  The co-inventor of the airplane was born on this date in 1871 at 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio.

Wright’s heirs are responsible for an unusual contract with the Smithsonian Institution.  Irritated by the number of people who claimed to have invented power flight before the Wright Brothers, they gave the original Wright Flyer to the institution, but only on condition:

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.

If the museum ever does so, the heirs get the Flyer back.  [Frank Snyder]

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