Response to open letter – and Wrights Secrets #1

Truth in History‘s Open Responses (in bold) to “An Open Letter to John Brown from Carroll Gray“. [The responses were made independently of John Brown.]

[Mr. Gray is on the board of a nonprofit with an aviation magazine that has been a staunch Wrights’ supporter and Whitehead antagonist; he also works on the Gustave Whitehead Wikipedia page with a group which appears to be concerned that the page doesnt show Whitehead flew – see the Gustave Whitehead Wikipedia Talk page for discussions related to this]:

[Gray’s letter is in regular font, responses by Truth In History in bold.]

June 13, 2013 [This letter is to John Brown in Germany, owner of the excellent site, in this website author’s opinion]

I’ve followed the recent flurry surrounding Gustave Whitehead with great interest.

I wrote a lengthy article in February of 2004 describing what I believed Gustave Whitehead had actually done. I’ve posted that article on the Gustave Whitehead page of my XXXXX web site. I have what I believe is a very good understanding of aviation of that period, and a very good understanding of what Gustave Whitehead did and what he did not do.

I think it is an opinion-based editorial, not an article on Gustave Whitehead, Carroll. It is not based on what appear to be good research methods, but rather, conjecture. Your “understanding” of aviation during that period appears to be based on what others thought or “fed” you [and to be fair, all of us], not what truly happened. How much “primary sources-type” research have you done? Because early aviation wasn’t the way we have been told, which is the point of the whole “flap” about the Contract and Gustave Whitehead. But there is more, contained within this blog. Secrets from a century ago that will help clarify, secrets unearthed when primary sources research was conducted for thirty years.

In your recent “Open Letter to Tom Crouch” posted on Flight Journal, you lay claim to having “uncovered a photo of Gustave Whitehead in powered flight more than 2 years before the Wright brothers.” (You wisely did not say “controlled, powered flight.”)

Whitehead’s flight was sustained, controlled, and powered. Witnesses with affidavits and a journalist eye-witness tell us so. Another site with this information is

The Wrights’ flights, on the other hand, were none of the above. Read the description by Orville Wright How We Made the First Flight” and compare to the Chronology of Aviation description (p. 432 – 446) that was written with the Wright’s help in 1910 by William Hammer, approved by Orville in a letter to Mr. Hammer (who happened to be in their employment at the time). Further, compare to the Wrights’ witness’ descriptions of how they started from a hill and had to have wind to get lift. By the way, the Chronology of Aviation describes both of Orville’s flights to be failures – failed attempts, as it also does for the second attempt (Wilbur’s first flight  of the day). So the famous photo is of a failed attempt, and is of Orville’s plane about 2 feet off the ground. You want photo proof? Don’t use that one for the Wrights. Do you, by any chance, recall the Centennial Anniversary of the “flights” of the Wright Brothers? Ouch. Very embarrassing, no wind, no lift. No hill, no momentum. Tipped into a mud puddle and stopped. Video of this  – skip the hype and go to 3:13 using the slider. There you are! Question - Do you really believe the Wright Flyer flew under its own power on Dec. 17, 1903 [which was two years, four months, and three days AFTER Whitehead flew for 1.5 miles and made four successful flights in one day]?

I have some questions to ask of you, John, and would like you to respond here, if Flight Journal will permit it, so all those interested in this matter can read what your answers are.

Matter #1 – The Original Photo Displayed at the 1906 Aero Club of America’s Exhibition of “Aeronautical Apparatus” at the Sixth Annual Automobile Show in New York

You say that the “original version of that photo” (which shows, in the distance, the display of William J. Hammer’s collection of aviation photos – blue box added to show location of Whitehead photos) is “not accessible to researchers.” Technically that is true but only because of the fragile condition of the original image – an archival copy image can be inspected. You appear to be using innuendo to suggest it is being hidden for some nefarious reason.

* So, my first question to you is: Do you believe that the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum is keeping a photo of Gustave Whitehead in flight aboard his No. 21 hidden from view, away from prying researcher’s eyes ?

I will go on record that the Hammer sign on the wall would indicate that all these photos were in his collection. The entire collection was donated to Smithsonian in the 1960’s. Yet it has only one Whitehead plane photo, that of the so-called Whitehead Beach plane. So where are the other photos from the wall? Yes, I believe Smithsonian is hiding them. If they aren’t, why are they the only photos missing from the collection?

By the way, on your web site you mistakenly term the overall exhibition photo a “panoramic photo,” it is not.

Is that supposed to be a major point? I think it is panoramic, by the way, it shows an extensive part of the walls. But that is a minor point, is that the best you can do, Carroll? Really!

* My second question to you is: Do you believe that Dr. Tom Crouch is knowingly assisting in keeping that supposed photo hidden ?

Perhaps you can explain where the Whitehead photos that were part of the Hammer Collection, at least, on his wall in the exhibition, have disappeared to? They aren’t there now. The collection was given by IBM to the Smithsonian in the 1960’s, right when Smithsonians hallowed curators were busily denying there was a Contract and denying Whitehead could have ever flown before the Wrights. Their head curator did say though, that he’d agree that Whitehead flew AFTER the Wrights, but then he changed his story later.

So where do you think the Whitehead photos on that wall are, Carroll?

1. The Smithsonian has them.

2. The Smithsonian has destroyed them.

3. They never had them because Hammer got rid of them.

4. They never had them because someone else took them.

5. Hammer never had them, as he was not at the exhibition in Jan. 1906, as his wife died the day before it opened and he was gone the whole week. Did you know that? Maybe someone else hung the photos on his wall during that time. We don’t know.

But it is POSSIBLE Smithsonian has them, as I have watched their manipulative behavior for 50 years. I believe the Smithsonian is a corrupted institution (for the past 100 years) that took something that sure smells – “we’ll give you an exhibit if you give Orville Wright credit (he doesn’t deserve) for first flight”. Further, the curators make money from publishing Wright books AND Crouch is from Dayton, OH, the Wrights’ hometown. How cozy. Recognize Whitehead: have egg on their faces, embarrass the nation, lose income from publications that were false, have to change the history books, can’t go home to live in Dayton… you can imagine what it would mean. We won’t have change till the old guard is gone. As in retired. Good time to retire, by the way, Dr. Crouch! Before it gets more embarrassing….

Matter #2 – The Agreement – You refer to the “Agreement” between the Wright family and the Smithsonian as a “Contract.”

I was dismayed when I learned of the Agreement (which is what it is termed, not a “Contract” as you and others keep repeating) many years ago. On first blush it looked unseemly that such an agreement would exist.

Oh, my, “unseemly“. It sure is.

I then looked more deeply into the matter and found that it was utterly understandable why the Wright heirs would want a written agreement with the Smithsonian’s “National Museum” (as it was known then) regarding the display of the reconstructed 1903 Wright Flyer. The Smithsonian and several individuals had treated the Wrights very shabbily, especially in the matter of the 1914 Langley Large Aerodrome “A” “trials” which took place on Lake Keuka, New York.

Sorry, Carroll, it is unseemly (we do have something to agree on), in fact, a sign of corruption, to agree to end historic inquiry in order to obtain an exhibit (click here to read the Contract). Excuses don’t matter. What is interesting is that some people find this ok. Usually those whose careers are tied into making money off the Wright legend. Yes, legend.

* So, my next question for you is: Do you know and understand the context of that Agreement ? I ask because you appear to be of the mind, and many are, that the Agreement was put in place to prevent Gustave Whitehead from receiving his due recognition.

Since in the 14 years before “the Contract” was signed (and it is a contract, legally, no matter what they want to call it) Whitehead was being given credit by some, a Congressional hearing requested, and Orville was worried enough to write an article on it published in a major air enthusiasts’ magazine in 1945. That was only three years before he died and three years before the Contract. The Langley claim was “dead” for a long time at that point, but the Whitehead claim was very current then. Dr. Alfred  Zahm and Dr. John Crane of Harvard were supportive of Whitehead’s flights, as were a number of other researchers. Either way, the Contract, devised by attorneys, undoubtedly, for the Wright heirs, killed all birds with one stone. The Contract (yes CONTRACT) prevents anyone else from being recognized. Even Wilbur Wright cannot be recognized as first in flight, according to the required label, which falsely credits Orville.

Matter #3 – The image in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald article (August 18, 1901) of Whitehead flying aboard his “No. 21″

Intrigued, I examined in detail, and with an open mind, what you’ve offered on your web site as the photo of Gustave Whitehead in powered flight on August 14, 1901.

I was surprised to see how filled with errors and misunderstandings your narrative is, given the fuss and furor your comments and activities have caused.

One minor – yet telling – example: you betray a complete lack of understanding of what a photographic half-tone is, somehow equating that process, which renders a photo as a series of dots, with some proccess that renders “outlines” of what is found in a photo. It does not.

Neither is half-toning the same as lithography, as you say it is: “That’s lithography or ‘half-toning’ was invented. By reducing an image to its outlines, massive cost savings were achieved. Without the use of half-toing [sic], many small newspapers wouldn’t have been able to afford to ilustrating [sic] their articles.”

Along the same line, you have a false notion of what a lithograph is, believing that the pen and ink line drawing displayed in the August 18, 1901, Sunday Herald story about the supposed “flight” of Gustave Whitehead on August 14, 1901, is a “lithograph.” It is not.

At that time, a pen and ink line drawing would have been acid engraved onto a flat piece of copper using a photographic negative and an acid resist. The process reproduced drawings and line art in great detail and the resulting engraving, nailed to a wooden block, would then be added to the text block for printing.

I mention these errors not to educate you on late 19th and early 20th century photo reproduction, but to point out how shallow your understanding is of the processes about which you write so confidently. You’ve devoted considerable space on your web site to commentary about how newspapers of the period rendered photographs and altered them and much of that section on your web site suffers from your lack of knowledge.

I see the reason why you devote the space you do to that aspect, even if what you have to say is wrong. You believe that by construing the article’s image of Whitehead’s No. 21 monoplane as a manipulated photograph and not a drawing, you can then assert that a photo had existed from which the manipulated image was made.

There are several problems with this. Not the least of which is that you’ve built this supposition about a photo being the source behind the image of No. 21 on a completely erroneous belief as to what that image is. To repeat, it is an artist’s pen and ink drawing. Of course, to say that, breaks the link to the imagined photo which was imagined to have been used to produce that image. You also seem to overlook that the article displays a photo of Whitehead, taken for use in that article. Why not simply use the supposed photo of Whitehead in flight ? Why, then, use a drawing ?

Even more telling is that you digitally massage the “single blurred photograph” seen in the photo of the January 1906 exhibition until it reveals under digital torture that it is the photo from which the Sunday Herald’s image was made. Was this done with some notion of the process being “forensic” ?

If you paid for this “forensic” photo analysis, perhaps you might consider asking for a refund of your money.

When I examined that “blurred photograph” on your web site, I immediately saw a John J. Montgomery glider in profile with its characteristic vertical tail surface and drooping tandem monoplane wings, most likely indoors, in Montgomery’s workshop.

I was amazed that you’ve managed to convince people that the blurred photo is of Whitehead in flight.

The Montgomery photo looks nothing like it. You are grasping at straws. This was a Whitehead section. Further, if you look at the Herald about 95% of the pictures in it are hand drawn or lithograph or whatever, it matters not. It could have been drawn from a photo just as well. Howell was an artist and no doubt saved money as their processes were not the ones we have today. The photos I have seen there in many issues were posed, not moving objects, also.  The technical details we do not have, the eye witness report, we do, which is more than the Wrights had, they had not a single affidavit for an eye-witness, nor did the famous photo show a successful flight. That flight was designated a failure of Orville’s, which he later manipulated into a “success”. Carroll, your research is lacking, your diatribe above comes across as “sour grapes”.

* My next question for you is in two parts: Do you admit you’ve misunderstood and misstated the processes you’ve discussed, and, do you honestly intend to say that the pen and ink drawing of No. 21 aloft is some degree of proof that a photo of that event exists or existed ?

I believe that you’re seeing what you wish to see and that your desire to make the whole process appear scientific and “forensic” is little more than highly manipulated imagery.

There is a photo (on page 48 of John Joseph Montgomery, Father of Basic Flying by Arthur Dunning Spearman, S.J., University of Santa Clara, 1967) that is very similar (though not exactly so) to the image in the ’06 exhibition. I believe that the “blurred photograph” will likely be shown to be of a Montgomery glider, not Whitehead in flight in his No. 21 monoplane.

Ridiculous conjecture, Carroll.

Matter #4 – Your selection of quoted material

I noticed that on your web site you chose to highlight in bold the following text from the January 27, 1906, Scientific American article about the Aero Club’s display of photos… “A single blurred photograph of a large birdlike machine propelled by compressed air, and which was constructed by Whitehead in 1901, was the only other photograph besides that of Langley’s machines of a motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight.”

In another place you surround the above quote with a red box, underlining words in red. What you chose to not underline was the sentence that immediately preceded the one you did highlight. The preceding sentence reads “No photographs of this [a powered A. M. Herring machine] or of larger man-carrying machines in flight were shown, nor has any trustworthy account of their reported achievements ever been published.”

I assume that you read that sentence while reading the January 27, 1906, Scientific American article. You must have realized that the meaning of that sentence was that a photograph of Whitehead aloft in his No. 21 was not displayed – nor were photos of anyone else in “larger man-carrying machines in flight” displayed.

* So, therefore, my question to you is: Did you read the entire January 27, 1906, Scientific American article, if so, did you not understand that no photos of “larger man-carrying machines in flight” were displayed ? If you did understand that, why search for one in that exhibition ? Did you not believe what the article stated ?

Carroll, you have taken the sentences from the Scientific American article about the Aero Club’s January 1906 Exhibition (p. 93-94 for entire article) that do mention viewing a blurred photo of Whitehead’s plane in flight, out of context (from page 94). My answer to this is below. The whole paragraph is below (and above in the link from the original article which is worth reading in its entirety). My notes below:

“Another interesting model is that exhibited by Mr.Herring, and which he claims has made numerous successful
flights. When tethered to a high pole with a long cord, this machine is said to have flown 15 miles in a circle in December, 1902, and to have stopped only when the gasoline supply gave out. A single-cylinder, air-cooled gasoline motor having mechanically operated inlet and exhaust valves and a make-and-break igniter, all worked from a single cam, and carrying a small propeller on its crankshaft, was shown on this
machine. The weight of the motor was said to be only 2 pounds, and its maximum horse-power 0.51 at 3,400 R. P. M. In flight, however, the engine only made about 850 R. P. M. and developed but 0.07 horse-power. The aeroplanes of this model (which is shown in the lower left-hand picture on the preceding page) were 514 feet long by 14 inches wide, and the 19-inch pro­peller which was fitted drew them through the air at a speed of about 30 miles an hour. This machine is of the usual rectangular, curved, superposed plane type invented by Chanute and Herring about the year 1896. Its successful operation is said to be due to an equilibrium-maintaining device which its inventor prefers to keep secret. No photographs of THIS or of [THEIR] larger man-carrying machines in flight [1] were shown, nor has any trustworthy account of THEIR [emphasis added] reported achievements ever been published [2] . [“THEIR” AND THE FIRST PART OF THE SENTENCE REFERS TO HERRING AND CHANUTE’S CLAIMS, IN THE SENTENCES BEFORE THIS ONE.]

A single blurred photograph of a large birdlike machine propelled by compressed air, and which was constructed by Whitehead in 1901,was the ONLY other photograph besides that of Langley’s machines of a motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight. [3] .  [emphasis added]

In order at least partially to substantiate their claims, it would seem as if aeroplane inventors would show photographs of their machines in flight. This has been done by Mr. Maxim and Prof. Langley; and on account of his desire to secure photographs of his tetrahedral kites in mid-air, Prof. Bell uses red silk in their construction instead of nainsook, which he prefers, but which, owing to its…” (From Scientific American, Jan. 27, 1906 – see article link above for more)

[1] It is referring to the “model” in the preceeding sentences
[2] This sentence obviously refers to Herring and Chanute’s model and no other larger machines of theirs with “in flight” photos. Note the word “their”.
[3] How much more clear can this be?
Research must be thorough, one cannot just read two sentences to make sense of a paragraph.

Matter #5 – “Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft” recognition of Whitehead as first person to fly

If “Jane’s” were an historical journal this might be of great importance, but it is the leading aviation industry publication, not involved with matters of history and certainly not an arbitrator of historical fact. Your personal association with “Jane’s” must have helped with this recognition, and since you are an advocate for Whitehead, I should offer congratulations to you for having managed to do this.

* My last two questions for you are about history and the printed word: Do you believe that prior to March of 1898 Gustave Whitehead flew 4-1/2 miles across a valley, aboard a four-winged flapping-wing glider, taking off after a run of 30 ft. from a mountaintop at 2,000 ft altitude, as the New York World of March 4, 1898, tells us Whitehead claimed ? Do you believe Whitehead made this flight ?

The Whitehead research collection has affidavits from a score of witnesses to his flights from 1901-1902, this makes it very compelling. Trying to grasp at straws or ridicule people is not appropriate.

Question: Do you believe that the Wrights flew on Dec. 17, 1903, based on their say-so? With no photos in flight (18 inches isn’t flight) and no witness affidavits? With all four having control issues and 3 out of four ending in a hard landing and damage to the craft? With the Chronology of Aviation that both Wrights approved the entry for, giving credit only to Wilbur, not Orville, for a “successful flight” that was 1/10 of Whitehead’s shortest flight, attested to by sworn witnesses?

It is impossible without seeing the documents that prove all of the above about the Wrights, to understand how you – and the world – have been duped into believing that the Wrights invented the airplane and were first in flight. They were not. But “see the proof”, you will … starting with this blog entry.

Here is one for you. Think about this. Mr. Hammer was behind the recognition of the Wrights as first in flight. He was an outstanding promoter, having worked with Edison. He testified on behalf of the Wrights in their lawsuits, claiming he had no connection with them other than as an expert witness. He wrote the Chronology and got it put into the World Almanac 1911 so everyone thought they’d flown first, ignoring Gustave Whitehead entirely. He did this as their employee. This relationship went on for YEARS and YEARS. The payments were received, the proof is irrefutable. This “first in flight” information was used to gain more power using the patents, as “pioneer inventions” vs. “improvements to the art”, allowing the patent to include “all horizontal surfaces”. If Whitehead had been credited by the court to have flown first, that wouldn’t have been possible.  There is much more to this. You’ll have to wait for it, however, unless you wish to do your own research using primary sources. Start reading all “The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright” for starters at the LOC. We are not dealing with saints, here, this was corporate-style conduct of a quite nasty variety. A lot was at stake, a lot of money. That is one reason Chanute broke with the Wrights and many found them unpopular “back in the day”. Ruthless conduct, in the eyes of many. But what they did is still available to view. Start with this…

I look forward to continuing our conversation and to reading, here on Flight Journal, your answers to my questions. (Carroll Gray)

I (and anyone who cares about real history) look forward to the day when we can learn history that is accurate, not contrived by special interests nor governmental institutions that have been corrupted by signing a Contract that provides an incentive to stop historical inquiry. We’d like “truth in history”. Isn’t that what learning is about? Otherwise, why learn it at all?



May 19, 1910

Dear Mr. Hammer:

We propose to enlist your services for the Wright Company in accordance with the understanding already reached, and which is as follows: The connection is between yourself and the Wright Company. Except by special instruction all communication with the Company is to be through its president, and directions are to be received from him. You are to give expert testimony in lawsuits if necessary, assist in obtaining evidence, etc. etc. …You are to receive the sum of One Hundred Dollars ($100) per month for six months at the expiration of which period the written consent of both parties shall be necessary to the extension of the agreement.

Yours truly,

Wilbur Wright


Hammer Hired by Wrights May 1910

Hammer Hired by Wrights May 1910