Smithsonian conspiracy to deny Whitehead flew first now provable

Smithsonian conspiracy to deny Whitehead flew first now provable

Who flew first? Order the new book “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” to find out!

Smithsonian conspiracy to deny Whitehead flew first


March 21, 2014

A Smithsonian conspiracy to deny Whitehead flew first – ahead of the Wrights – is now provable. A never-before-known, direct connection between denying Whitehead flew first and the designing of the “Contract” (1) (2) with Smithsonian, including the label on the Wright Flyer has been “unearthed”. This is a game-changer that establishes exactly how Whitehead’s claim was deliberately, secretly, and effectively denied, all these years. It involves plotting behind the scenes, by Smithsonian curators and influential friends of Orville Wright, to provide Orville permanent credit that he did not deserve, without regard for historical facts. It worked for 70 years.

From 1935 through 1937, Stella Randolph, Whitehead’s first researcher and original biographer, wrote a series of articles and a book about Gustave Whitehead’s flights, which predated those of the Wright brothers. Her writings received national attention, to the dismay of Orville Wright and his supporters.

Following the death of Wilbur Wright in 1912, Orville, previously considered “the lesser brother”, worked unceasingly to establish his role in first flight. Until the date of Wilbur’s death, it was Wilbur who’d been credited with being first, established in the publication of the World Almanac of 1911. Orville’s flights of December 17, 1903 had been openly admitted as failures, by both brothers. Whitehead had been ignored, as the data and article had been put together by a secret, subrosa employee of the Wrights, Thomas Edison’s former right-hand engineer, William J. Hammer. Hammer was hired by Wilbur Wright to promote the brothers as first in flight, amongst other duties. Hammer would go on to perjure himself as an independent expert during the Wright patent trials, where the World Almanac article was entered as evidence that the Wright brothers deserved “pioneer inventors” status. In the popular mind and the media, following Hammer’s PR campaigns that began in 1906, and with the support of the New York aero clubs, the Wrights were seen as “first in flight”.

Once Randolph began to publicize the earlier flights of Whitehead, friends of the Wrights organized to stamp out the claims wherever they appeared. They began to use their considerable influence to attempt to stop the Whitehead information from getting out the public, as if it was heresy. News of Whitehead’s credit was spreading like wildfire in Hollywood, in syndicated magazine articles nationwide, on a very popular coast-to-coast radio show, in ads on NYC subway cars, an article in the Reader’s Digest, and with a Harvard professor of transportation who called for a Congressional hearing on the topic. Friends of Orville felt these had to be controlled.

Major Lester D. Gardner and Earl Nelson Findley, two of the most influential Wright supporters, openly discussed their mutual campaign to credit Orville and wipe out Whitehead’s claim in letters that they wrote, back and forth, from 1939-1946. Both Gardner and Findley were widely recognized in aeronautical circles of the era, particularly for their close relationships with Orville Wright. Major Lester D. Gardner was the former publisher of the journal Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering in 1916, and founder of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences (IAS), located in New York City, in 1932. Its first honorary fellow was Orville Wright. Earl Findley was the first editor of US Air Services magazine. Findley formerly was a reporter and editor for the New York Times who became very close to the Wright brothers and the Wright family, for the rest of his life.

In 1939, Major Lester D. Gardner and Earl Findley orchestrated and co-produced the so-called “Stanley Yale Beach Whitehead Statement“, which denounced Whitehead could ever have flown (mentioned in the book “History by Contract” by O’Dwyer and Randolph).

Stanley Yale Beach, former Aviation Editor and supporter of Whitehead flights through 1908, is influenced to write a negative statement on GW in 1939, and he writes Major Lester Gardner to ask him to "cut out anything he doesn't like" in the Beach statement that Gardner and Findley solicited. The draft is heavily edited by three individuals, one is Gardner, the other, Findley. Letters back and forth clearly show this.

Stanley Yale Beach, former Aviation Editor and supporter of Whitehead flights through 1908, is influenced to write a negative statement on GW in 1939, and he writes Major Lester Gardner to ask him to “cut out anything he doesn’t like” in the Beach statement that Gardner and Findley solicited. The draft is heavily edited by three individuals, one is Gardner, the other, Findley. Letters back and forth clearly show this.

The heavily edited Beach statement drafts looked like this (pages 1 & 2 of 6):

Beach Whitehead Statement Draft 1 (p. 1 of 6) with heavy edits including Gardner's.

Beach Whitehead Statement Draft 1 (p. 1 of 6) with heavy edits including Gardner’s.


Beach Whitehead Statement Draft 1 (p. 2 of 6) with heavy edits including Gardner's.

Beach Whitehead Statement Draft 1 (p. 2 of 6) with heavy edits including Gardner’s.

Major Lester Gardner (LDF) wrote Earl Findley on April 11, 1939, after he’d received the final draft. He said, “I have just received the statement from Stanley Beach…If you knew him you would know what a job it was to pry this out of him. I could not edit it as I would have wished, but you could do so by omissions in any article you write.” Then Gardner proceeds to express concern that Stella Randolph, in her book “Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead” (1937) talked about an early visit to Whitehead’s shop from the Wright brothers. He wants Findley to look into it. Also, Gardner mentions Randolph used a Wright quote in her 1935 Popular Aviation article, without a citation, “Man will never fly in a thousand years” and asks Findley to read it. Gardner and Findley have become a “tag-team” to defend Orville’s desired position as first in flight and attack Whitehead researcher Randolph and supporters. They will continue this through 1948 culminating in the legal contract requiring Orville to receive that credit, to the exclusion of Whitehead, their nemesis, and all others.

Gardner writes Findley about the final Beach statement, revealing how to best use it and that he couldn't edit it fully as he wished, but Findley can.

Gardner writes Findley about the final Beach statement, revealing how to best use it and that he couldn’t edit it fully as he wished, but Findley can.

Both Gardner and Findley became recipients of a piece of cloth from the Wright Flyer as a token of esteem afterward(perhaps, thanks for their dogged support) from Orville.

The unpublished and unsigned Beach statement was then deliberately provided to Orville Wright, influencing him to use it as the basis for his “The Mythical Whitehead Flight” article of 1945 (below), published in Findley’s US Air Services magazine. Orville’s negative Whitehead article, denying Whitehead or his plane could ever have flown is still the “playbook” for denying Whitehead, used by Smithsonian curators through the present date.

Just a few years later, Gardner and Findley, who vowed to salvage Orville’s title and to destroy Whitehead’s claims, have now been revealed as key consultants, invited by the Smithsonian curator, Paul Garber (3), to design the final details of the “Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948″ (aka “the Contract”), following Orville’s death in January, 1948. This direct connection to the creators of the denouncement of Whitehead and their subsequent influence on “the Contract” was never before known, outside of the inner circles in Smithsonian, where the documents are kept. Others who worked on the label included Wright family members, Orville’s longtime secretary, Mabel Beck (with whom he is said to have had a longterm affair), and the Smithsonian curator, Paul Garber, described as “very loyal to Orville”. The Wright Flyer label was designed by highly biased individuals based on what they felt Orville would have wanted, and what would secure credit for the first flight. No historical investigation was conducted to make the label accurate. This is clear from the correspondence and transcripts included in the Smithsonian archives concerning the planning of the Contract.

This is the required wording for the Wright Flyer* exhibit that resulted from the biased group’s efforts, which attempts to “cement” the credit for first flight for Orville, who had just died earlier that year.

“The Original Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane

The World’s First Power-Driven Heavier-than-Air Machine

In Which Man Made Free, Controlled, and

Sustained Flight

Invented and Built by Wilbur and Orville Wright

Flown by Them at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

December 17, 1903

By Original Scientific Research the Wright Brothers Discovered The Principles of Human Flight”


“The first flight lasted only twelve seconds, a flight very modest compared with that of birds, but it was nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in free flight, had sailed forward on a level course without reduction of speed, and had finally landed without being wrecked. The second and third flights were a little longer, and the fourth lasted 59 seconds covering a distance of 852 feet over the ground against a 20 mile wind.

Wilbur and Orville Wright
(From Century Magazine**, Vol. 76 September 1908, p. 649)”
Author’s Notes:
* A link to the Wright Flyer Wikipedia page is cited
**Orville and his sister Katherine wrote the Century Magazine article without Wilbur, crediting Orville, when Wilbur was out of the country for an extended period. By the time Wilbur returned, it had been published. Orville credited himself, rather than Wilbur, then, and later, as first in flight. This is a matter of record, per the correspondences concerning this article, located at the LOC in the Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948, allowed Smithsonian to obtain the Wright Flyer for $1 from the Orville Wright estate. It also allowed Orville Wright heirs significant estate tax benefits. The agreement, often referred to as “the Contract”, essentially requires Smithsonian and all its affiliates, to recognize the Wright Flyer as the first airplane that flew with power, and Orville Wright as the first successful aviator. Required labels on the exhibit and required placement in the Smithsonian are included. If the Contract is broken, the Wright Flyer, the most popular exhibit at the Smithsonian, returns to the heirs. The Contract, originally kept secret from the public, was learned of and obtained by Major William J. O’Dwyer (USAF, ret.), with the help of then-Senator Lowell Weicker, Jr., in 1976. [More on “the Contract” here. Photocopy (pdf) of the “Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948″ on Fox News’ site (Fox News, Apr.1, 2013)]

The communications between Gardner and Findley concerning Whitehead’s claim as first in flight were very clear – they wanted to stamp out that claim and worked on this for 11 years following the publication of Stella Randolph’s book. They were in a position to do so, behind the scenes. Letters received and sent between Gardner, Findley, Beach, and Orville Wright, amongst others, are located at the Library of Congress, in their Gustave Whitehead collection, and the Earl Findley and Lester Gardner sections of the Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright archives. Interestingly, and obviously by design, none of these appear on the public listing online, but they are there. Who at the LOC decided that these should be hidden from the public?

Their efforts worked, too, quite effectively, for the past (nearly) seven decades. Exposing the Gardner – Findley involvement in the development of Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948 “the Contract” exposes “the agreement” with Smithsonian for what it was – a means to deny Whitehead a claim on first flight. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) curators and Wright supporters cannot continue to maintain that it was developed solely to fend off old Smithsonian claims that its former Secretary, Samuel P. Langley, built “the first plane capable of flight”, which had so angered Orville in 1928.

Below is a letter sent in August from Smithsonian’s Assistant Secretary, naming Gardner and Findley as parties to the ongoing process to determine the wording of the Wright Flyer exhibit labels, which continued through Sept. and Oct. of 1948. Additional documents obtained include transcripts of conversations and letters between the principal parties.




Letter confirming Lester Gardner's involvement with development of Wright Flyer labels.

Letter confirming Lester Gardner’s involvement with development of Wright Flyer labels (part a).

….. (letter continues to end):

Letter confirming Gardner participation (part b).

Letter confirming Gardner participation (part b).


Lester Gardner replies to Graff that he will see Mr. Miller (co-executor of OW estate) on Tues. and if the changes [to the labels] are satisfactory to him and Ms. Beck [OW secretary] he will be glad to agree with them.

Lester Gardner replies to a letter from Smithsonian Asst. Secretary Graf that he will see Mr. Miller (co-executor of OW estate) on Tues. and if the changes [to the labels] are satisfactory to him and Ms. Beck [OW secretary] he will be glad to agree with them.

Earl N. Findley describes some of his meetings re: the label, below, in a transcribed discussion with Paul Garber of the Smithsonian. Findley tries to downplay his importance within the group in determining the Wright Flyer label.

Transcript of talk between Findley and Paul Garber, heading.

Transcript of talk between Findley and Paul Garber, heading.


Paul Garber reminds Findley he is participating in the label process to represent Orville Wright.

Paul Garber reminds Findley he is participating in the label process to represent Orville Wright.

Paul Garber, key founder and a first curator of the Smithsonian National Air Museum (1946) reminds Findley he is there to represent Orville Wright, due to his close relationship. It is very important to note that Findley had sent Orville a telegram on July 14, 1945, three years before, where he asks Orville to help him “dynamite” the Whitehead claim that appeared in the Reader’s Digest of July, 1945.

This is the “offending” Reader’s Digest article:

This Reader's Digest column entitled "Firsts" mentions Gustave Whitehead claims recently covered in a coast-to-coast radio show featuring Whitehead's son, Charles. Findley became upset and worked with Orville to correct this "problem". Later, Findley ridiculed the Readers Digest editors and even mentioned trying to get them to retract the statements.

Originally published in “Liberty Magazine”, this Reader’s Digest column entitled “Firsts” mentions Gustave Whitehead claims recently covered in a coast-to-coast radio show featuring Whitehead’s son, Charles. Findley became upset and worked with Orville to correct this “problem”. Later, Findley ridiculed the Readers Digest editors and even mentioned trying to get them to retract the statements.

Earl Findley writes his good friend Orville Wright about the July 1945 Reader's Digest article giving credit to Whitehead for first flight. Findley wishes to "dynamite" it. Asks OW to help use "facts" which Findley and Gardner had supplied him with in the so-called Stanley Yale Beach Whitehead Statement that Findley and Gardner had edited heavily.

Earl Findley writes his good friend Orville Wright about the July 1945 Reader’s Digest article giving credit to Whitehead for first flight. Findley wishes to “dynamite” it. Asks OW to help use “facts” which Findley and Gardner had supplied him with in the so-called Stanley Yale Beach Whitehead Statement that Findley and Gardner had edited heavily.


What evolved out of that suggestion was Orville’s inaccurate attack on Whitehead, “The Mythical Whitehead Flight” article published in Findley’s magazine in August, 1945:

Orville Wright's heavily biased, misleading article, "Mythical Whitehead Flight", part of scheme to discredit Whitehead, orchestrated by Findley and Gardner 1939-1945.

Orville Wright’s heavily biased, misleading article, “Mythical Whitehead Flight”, part of scheme to discredit Whitehead, orchestrated by Findley and Gardner 1939-1945.

Earl Findley, in a letter to Orville on November 30, 1945, describes Whitehead supporters including Dr. Albert Zahm, very unpleasantly, as follows: “Zahm is still not the only ——- in the woodpile, but several snakes in the bull-rushes as well” [see below]. Findley further lambasts Zahm, who has been improperly blamed for the Wbitehead claims, by telling him that the new Librarian of Congress wishes to find a younger man to take the place of Zahm…, then stating, “They couldn’t get a worse man than Zahm, even if they offered a reward of a million dollars for him. There isn’t any.”

Findley writes Orville crudely criticizing Dr. Albert Zahm of the LOC, who has been unfairly blamed for the Whitehead claims. Censored for 2014 audience.

Findley writes Orville crudely criticizing Dr. Albert Zahm of the LOC, who has been unfairly blamed for the Whitehead claims. Censored for 2014 audience.

Dr. Albert Zahm, professor of physics, was a highly esteemed national authority on early aviation, a chief of the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Library of Congress, and a longtime critic of the Wrights, who’d published a treatise called “Early Powerplane Fathers” in 1945 that came close to crediting Whitehead for pre-Wright flights. Dr. Zahm wrote in May, 1944, ” It is technically possible, humanly very credible, that in 1902, Whitehead flew with petrol power.” Earl N. Findley was not only very angry at all the Whitehead supporters, including Dr. Zahm, but spent a decade trying to destroy the Whitehead claim to first flight and exact retractions. When he got his chance to develop a label that would forevermore credit Orville for first flight, it was the culmination of those efforts.

These are the missing links that shows “the Contract”, with the required Wright Flyer’s misleading label was directly aimed at denying Whitehead a chance for recognition as “first in flight”, having been developed by his foremost attackers within a small, heavily biased group. The above is only a small part of what is available at the Library of Congress and Smithsonian showing decades of collusion resulting in false credit for Orville Wright and the reasons why Whitehead never received credit nor even a fair evaluation from the Smithsonian.

1. More on “the Contract” here. Photocopy (pdf) of the “Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948″ on Fox News’ site (Fox News, Apr.1, 2013)]

2. Visit for more information on the Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948.

3. Transcript of Conversation between Mr. Findley and Mr. Garber, September 15, 1948 (NASM, Smithsonian)

4. Wrong With Wright: Smithsonian Under Fire For Wright Brothers Contract (Jonathan Turley, April 2, 2013)

This full article may be freely shared and posted under “fair use”, as long as it is complete and credited to Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman.

For media inquiries, contact gwfirstinflight (at) gmail (dot) com

© Susan Brinchman 2014

FOIA Submitted for Smithsonian-Wright Contract Documents


Who flew first? Order the new book “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” to find out!

On October 31, 2013, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was sent to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM)‘s Head Curator Tom Crouch, to obtain documents pertaining to the Smithsonian Wright Agreement of 1948, whereby Smithsonian obtained the Wright Flyer for $1 and the Orville Wright heirs were allowed a significant estate tax benefit.

Head curator Tom Crouch who is from the Wrights' hometown of Dayton OH is one reason Whitehead can't get a fair evaluation.

Head Curator Tom Crouch , native of the Wrights’ hometown of Dayton OH, received the FOIA request. The Wright Flyer, obtained with the Contract in 1948, is pictured behind him.


The agreement, often referred to as “the Contract”, essentially requires Smithsonian and all its affiliates, to recognize the Wright Flyer as the first airplane that flew with power, and Orville Wright as the first successful aviator. If the Contract is broken, the Wright Flyer, the most popular exhibit at the Smithsonian, returns to the heirs. The Contract, originally kept secret from the public, was learned of and obtained by Major William J. O’Dwyer (USAF, ret.), with the help of then-Senator Lowell Weiker, Jr., in 1976.

This FOIA was submitted by a resident of Connecticut.

FOIA Smithsonian Wright Contract p. 1

FOIA Smithsonian Wright Contract p. 2

FOIA Smithsonian page 1

FOIA Smithsonian page 1

Smithsonian FOIA page 2

FOIA Smithsonian page 2

Gustave Whitehead Position Statement Oct. 12, 2013

Who flew first? Order the new book “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” to find out!

Compelling Evidence

The preponderance of the evidence makes it clear that Gustave Whitehead made a significant number of successful powered flights in Connecticut that predated the Wrights by at least two years. The evidence includes an eye-witness journalist account, journalists who were eye-witnesses to photos of Whitehead in powered flight, and close to a score of affidavits and statements from eye-witnesses to the powered flights. This evidence was all part of the record, up through 1974, obtained by researchers Stella Randolph and Major William J. O’Dwyer (USAF, ret.), summarized in their book “History by Contract” (1978). Further research by Major William J. O’Dwyer (USAF, ret.) revealed more facts about Whitehead, up through 2008, some of which was written up in articles such as “The Who Flew First Debate” and which resides in O’Dwyer’s research, housed at the Gustav Weisskopf Museum in Leutershausen, Germany and the Fairfield Museum, Fairfield, CT. Recently, John Brown, an Australian noted as an expert on roadable aircraft, became became aware of Whitehead, studied the research of O’Dwyer and Randolph (the only existing body of research to date) and summarized its contents for the media and “Jane’s All the World Aircraft”. Brown also located a number of additional articles disseminated worldwide through the Associated Press on Whitehead, which added to the 50 key articles located by O’Dwyer. This body of evidence is compelling, which is leading to an increased number of authorities recognizing Whitehead as “first in flight” in a new generation. Brown thought he’d found a “missing photo” of Whitehead in flight, which was widely carried in the media for months, but it does not appear to be so at this writing. O’Dwyer had studied the wall of photos twenty years ago, that Brown studied in 2012,  and could not determine which photo the Scientific American referred to when it reported in 1906 that a blurred photo of Whitehead in flight was seen on the wall of an Aero Club exhibition. Despite the lack of a photo, there is solid evidence, deriving from the work of O’Dwyer and Randolph, that Gustave Whitehead should hold the title, worldwide, of “first in flight” and should receive additional recognition for a plethora of inventions that have been incorporated into aircraft up through the present date.

Gustave Whitehead First in Powered Flight 1901

Gustave Whitehead
First in Powered Flight 1901


Gustave Whitehead with “Condor”, the plane that flew in 1901.

Smithsonian Blocks Recognition for a Century

The Smithsonian Institution has done everything possible for the past hundred twelve years to avoid giving Whitehead recognition – first, so it could claim that its Secretary Langley should receive credit, and then, dropping that stance, it gave improper credit to Orville Wright in a legal maneuver, in order to gain the Wright Flyer as an exhibit for $1, in 1948. As admitting that Whitehead flew first is impossible for its staff, or they will lose the Wright Flyer, their premiere exhibit, which will return to Orville’s heirs, per the contract, Smithsonian has continued to ignore Whitehead’s accomplishments. Further, if Whitehead was known to fly first, this would undermine the broad terms of the “pioneer invention” patents obtained by the Wrights based on being first-in-flight, though no longer in force.

"History by Contract" (O'Dwyer and Randolph) (1978)

“History by Contract” by O’Dwyer and Randolph (1978) proves avoidance and attacks by Smithsonian, publicly documents Contract with Wright heirs, for the first time.

State of CT Recognition of Whitehead is Appropriate

Since the denial of Whitehead’s accomplishments by Smithsonian has existed for 112 years, the CT State Legislature and Governor has very appropriately, on a number of occasions over the past 60 years, recognized Whitehead’s early flights and his importance as an early aviation pioneer. A photo is not needed with all the evidence amassed by O’Dwyer and Randolph.


CT State Seal

State of Ct Flag

CT State Flag

Photo Demands

Unreasonably, Smithsonian demands a photo of Whitehead in flight. If this were necessary, the famed photo of the Wright Flyer raised 18″ in the air would not qualify, because it barely got off the ground in the photo, traveled only a hundred feet afterwards, out of control, and smashed into the sand. Smithsonian demands documentation, even though the documentation that exists for the Wrights does not include eye-witness affidavits, nor any concrete information except for diary entries and other documents written by the Wrights themselves.

No Missing Photo Found

With regards to the missing photos of Whitehead in flight that were known to exist, these appear to have been lost or destroyed over the past century. However, the William Hammer collection of photos, displayed at the First Annual Aero Club Exhibition of Aeronautical Apparatus of January 1906, included a photo of Whitehead’s plane in flight, according to the Scientific American: “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 [note: Langley models] of a motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight” (Scientific American, Jan. 27, 1906). The wall with the Whitehead photos was labeled “Collection of Pictures Presented by William J. Hammer”.

Despite worldwide media coverage related to the purported “finding” of the missing photo of Whitehead in flight in 2013 by John Brown, Australian roadable aircraft expert living in Germany several hours away from the Weisskopf museum, it has not been definitively located.  This website author, Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman, studied Whitehead for thirty years as a co-researcher with her father, Major O’Dwyer, and is familiar with the Whitehead flying machines. It is her opinion that the claimed finding of a photo by Mr. John Brown references one which appears to match a Montgomery aircraft, and does not resemble Whitehead’s plane, despite claims to the contrary.


Aero Club of America Exhibition Jan 1906
Hundreds of William J. Hammer photos displayed. Whitehead’s 1901 plane in flight reported to be on the wall by Scientific American.


Likely Location of Photo: Smithsonian

For decades, the original photo of Whitehead in flight displayed in that exhibit has been sought after, to no avail. It is more than likely that the photograph of Whitehead’s plane in flight was part of the William J. Hammer collection of aviation photographs locked away at the National Air and Space Museum, for three decades, following its donation to Smithsonian in 1962 by IBM.

Head curator Tom Crouch who is from the Wrights' hometown of Dayton OH is one reason Whitehead can't get a fair evaluation.

Smithsonian NASM’s head curator, Tom Crouch, from the Wrights’ hometown of Dayton, OH, is one reason Whitehead can’t get a fair evaluation.

Smithsonian Attacks

The Smithsonian Institution has grossly abdicated its responsibilities by ignoring the Whitehead evidence, engaging instead in a century of attacking and ridiculing Whitehead, then his researchers, and the nearly 20 eye-witnesses to his flights, and likely hiding the very photo evidence they demand as proof.


Smithsonian has a problem with its integrity, which is called “The Smithsonian-Wright Agreement of 1948”.

Audit Demanded

We demand an independent audit and search of Smithsonian to determine the location of that photograph and its culpability in misleading the American public by unprofessionally offering historical recognition ‘for sale’ on its premises, to the exclusion of those who truly deserve it, defending this as appropriate.

Whitehead Recognition Deserved

There is ample evidence that Whitehead was first in powered flight, ahead of the Wrights. There is ample evidence that Whitehead contributed to the body of knowledge that led to further development of the art by subsequent inventors such as the Wrights. Whitehead and his descendents deserve his recognition.


The American public deserves historical accuracy, integrity and professionalism in its historical institutions. The state of CT deserves to honor its aviation pioneer without attacks and ridicule. Whitehead clearly predated the Wrights, it is time to recognize that fact.

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained. “ (Ghandi)


Whitehead's # 21: "The Condor", First in Flight 1901

Whitehead’s # 21: “The Condor”, First in Flight 1901

Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman
Whitehead researcher, 30 years; educator 32 years; M. Ed
La Mesa, CA
To contact the author, email gwfirstinflight (at)

CAHA and Gustave Whitehead

Who flew first? Order the new book “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” to find out!

What role did CAHA (Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association) really play in the recognition of Gustave Whitehead?

1. Intro: 1950’s – 1970’s

2. 1981: YouTube: Historian Agrees Whitehead Flew 1901-1902

3. 1981: YouTube: Crouch & Lippincott Discussion of Whitehead

4. 2011: CAHA’s Research Archivist, Carlton Stidsen: Anti-Whitehead and Poorly Informed


1. Intro: 1950’s – 1970’s

CAHA (Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association), a CT 501c3 nonprofit aviation organization established in the late 1950’s, saw to it that Gustave Whitehead was recognized for his contributions to Connecticut aviation. The Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association (CAHA) was responsible for initiating this recognition of Gustave Whitehead as “Father of CT Aviation”, declared by Governor John Dempsey, on August 8, 1964 . Mr. Harvey Lippincott, Founder and then-President of CAHA, who helped interview and establish credibility for witnesses to Whitehead’s flights for the next decade, said, ” His [Whitehead’s] contributions to aviation were tremendous…This recognition … is long overdue.” (Bridgeport Post, Aug. 9, 1964). CAHA also sponsored a research committee to locate and interview witnesses, which occurred for ten years. The last living witness to be located and interviewed with CAHA’s participation was Elizabeth Koteles, in 1974.

Father of CT Aviation Aug. 1964

Quote from Harvey Lippincott, CAHA Founder and Director  (From article: “Governor Names Gustave Whitehead Father of Aviation in Connecticut”, Bridgeport Sunday Post, Aug. 9, 1964, p. 15)


2. 1981: YouTube: Historian Agrees Whitehead Flew 1901-1902

During a videotaped interview with CAHA President Emeritus Harvey Lippincott at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, NY, he answered  questions about Gustave Whitehead and CAHA’s research, posed by Major William J. O’Dwyer, (ret), Head of the CAHA Whitehead Research Committee (Interview took place Aug./Sept. 1981). Filming done by H. Spannenberger. Complete film resides at Gustav Weisskopf Museum, Leutershausen, Germany. Site author has a copy of this segment, which has been uploaded to YouTube at, view it and read transcript, below.

“Historian Agrees Gustave Whitehead Flew 1901-1902” on YouTube with Transcript as spoken and below:

>> ODWYER: Harv, being here at Old Rhinebeck, seeing you and seeing Bob Stepanek again today brings back good memories of when we did the Whitehead research together.

>> LIPPINCOTT: That’s right.

>> ODWYER:  And I was wondering if for the German listening audience, you could recall when we got into it and why we got into the research of Whitehead.

>> LIPPINCOTT: Well, when we started the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association in 1959, we were aware that Gustave Whitehead was one of the early Connecticut aviation pioneers. We’d read some snatches of information about him but knew very little about him. We recognized that he was one of the men who would require considerable research … into his research and activities to certainly at least record him. Some of our early members of the Association living in the Bridgeport area did some superficial research collecting some pictures, and newspaper accounts and so forth.

>> ODWYER: What date was that, Harvey?

>> LIPPINCOTT: That would date from about 1961-62. But it was not until you found a set of pictures which were labeled “Whitehead’s Effort” and you took them to the Bridgeport Post which had run some articles about the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association and asked what was this effort? Well this got us all together and all of our interest was increased about the Whitehead story. And you in particular took a deep interest and we encouraged you to take a deep interest because we were fifty miles up in Hartford, Connecticut and you were in the Bridgeport area where it all took place. Those who are living near an event have a better opportunity to research and put the time in. And you very generously did it and have done a splendid job of pulling the research together.

>> ODWYER: Because of our joint research though, this would include Stella Randolph’s work in the thirties, your work at CAHA before I got into it, and then our joint work, mutually, together … how do you see Whitehead fitting into the history of world … aviation history?

>> LIPPINCOTT: He is, in CT, the man who made the first airplane, the first airplane engines, and … we believe that he was a very early, earnest experimenter, attempting to solve the problem of flight. From the research that we… and particularly from what you did and from my observation of it, he appears that he was in flight in this very early period of 1901-1902, but not to the extent that some of the accounts give … I cannot accept the fact that he flew 7 miles, but I can accept the fact that this airplane of his may have flown 100 – 200 feet, 10-15 feet off the ground.  This is confirmed by the witnesses that we have interviewed and talked with, and this seems reasonable for the state of the art in aviation at that time. [Note by site author: even these “short flights” would predate the Wrights and beat the distance and altitude currently recognized by Smithsonian for the first flight.]

>> ODWYER: How reliable would you say the testimony of Mrs. Koteles was when she spoke with us at that time? [Site author note: 1974, see * below]

>> LIPPINCOTT:  I was quite impressed with what she said. Obviously not attuned to aeronautics, airplanes, or their capability. But I think she explained what she saw.

>> ODWYER: Sincere testimony?

>> LIPPINCOTT: Yes, sincere testimony. She explained exactly what she saw. [Note by site author: Mrs. Elizabeth Koteles said she saw Whitehead fly up to 250 feet* at a height of about five feet, in 1901. This surpasses Orville Wright’s record for 1903.]

>> ODWYER: Your personal opinion: Do you believe Whitehead flew in the time of 1901-1902?

>> LIPPINCOTT: Yes, I do.  There might have been some limitations to the flights. But he was in the air, in my opinion … for short flights.

>> ODWYER: Would you rate his engine work as noteworthy?

>> LIPPINCOTT: For the time, yes. Noteworthy.

>> ODWYER: With Whitehead having been forgotten or ignored or whatever, through the years, I think the German audience would appreciate knowing if, in your opinion, as a historian – a well-recognized historian – that Whitehead deserves a place of honor among the list of early pioneers in world history?

>> LIPPINCOTT: I believe he deserves a place of honor, yes.

>> ODWYER: OK. Thank you.

>> SPANNENBERGER: One question more.  Why do you think no more people …  only a small group of interested people recognize the fact he (Whitehead) has flown?

>> LIPPINCOTT: This is, uh, I think because, uh, the accomplishments of the Wright brothers were thoroughly documented by themselves at the time, to prove what they did. And through the years, this has become the real basis of fact and interest and acknowledgement. Whitehead, unfortunately, apparently did not keep the records that some of the other pioneers did, I mean the written records, and some of the photographic records that are sort of required by historians today, to really establish the veracity of what was done.  It is looked at today, more as, shall we say, circumstantial evidence of what he did.

>> ODWYER: Harvey, would you yield to this point, though. I, myself, don’t feel that we can any further accuse Whitehead of not having kept records, because we have found many records that he did keep that became dispersed through time. It was only because he did have these records and we inherited them by finding them.. Isn’t it possible that he did keep other records which may have become lost as well?

>> LIPPINCOTT:  It is possible they may have been lost, that he may have kept them, but they don’t exist today

>> ODWYER: But others, if they had been involved earlier than when we found them in the 1960’s…I feel very well convinced that they could have found a  lot more than we did.

>> LIPPINCOTT: Well it’s true that people did not dig into Whitehead at an early date, which if they had, we might have had a better picture of what he did. This is not necessarily unique to Whitehead. This happened to other pioneers, where the records just don’t exist today, it is very difficult to accept all their claims of what they did or did not do.

>> ODWYER: That’s the whole point to museums, today. At least our type of museum [CAHA] to try to collect that memorabilia.

>> LIPPINCOTT: Yup, yup.

>> ODWYER: Well it was nice to see you here today.

[Site author’s note: The Smithsonian-Wright Contract, compelling acceptance only of the Wrights as first in flight, known by the date of this interview to exist, was not addressed. The conversation did not mention, in its latter portion, the research work of Stella Randolph, who single-handedly did preserve some of what was available in the 1930’s, and was turned over to CAHA and O’Dwyer for their use.]


*When asked about Mrs. Koteles’ statement, this is what Mr. Lippincott referred to:

On February 2, 1974, Harvey Lippencott, President Emeritus of the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association (CAHA); Mr. Robert Thompson, CAHA member and teacher, Trumbull High School; Mr. and Mr.s Louis A. Beresz (son-in-law and daughter of Mrs. Koteles); Mr. Steve Koteles, a son; and Major William J. O’Dwyer, US AF (Reserve), who was also a CAHA member, were all present to interview Elizabeth Koteles, a witness to a Whitehead flight (along with her husband and a larger group of onlookers), that she recalled was in 1901. Missing were Smithsonian curators and staff, who had been invited (see ** below). She recalled the sound of the airplane motor, as well. The flight was for the No. 21 airplane, which she identified from photos. Mrs. Koteles was approximately 22 years of age at the time of the flight. She was an immediate next door neighbor to Gustave Whitehead. She was not promoting him, did not seem to think this flight was of any importance, as she expected it to be higher and was disappointed. She did not understand that at the time, that the powered flight she described was unprecedented at that point, in history.

From Mrs. Koteles’ affidavit, interpreted to her in both English and Hungarian by her daughter, Mrs. Ida Koteles Berecz, signed on Aug. 1, 1974:

“The area where the aircraft was tested was on the level portion, mid-hill…we stood at the side of the road and looked over the stone wall onto that field. The craft was just beyond the wall. The craft lifted off the ground during one experiment to an elevation of approximately 4 to 5 feet, and I doubt it was over 6 feet. It flew for a distance of approximately 150 to 250 feet before landing. There was no damage to either the aircraft or Mr. Whitehead. …”Was the ground level?” I can recall it was level and that the ground was smooth, like a park field, and covered with grass.” (from History by Contract, O’Dwyer and Randolph, page 63-64)

**Paul Garber, of the Smithsonian Institute, and additional Smithsonian staff had been invited to attend this interview. The invitation was at first declined, indicating the Smithsonian staff did not have the funds nor the time to do so. Smithsonian staff then did not respond when offered a travel funds advance by CAHA (History by Contract, p. 66-70). The truth was that Smithsonian staff did not wish to be present to hear yet another witness to a flight that predated that of the Wright brothers, and then be conflicted about the Contract that Smithsonian then secretly held with the Wright heirs, requiring them to acknowledge only the Wrights as first in flight. It would be two years later, in 1976, when the Contract was unearthed by Major William O’Dwyer with the assistance of CT Senator Weicker, following a tip from CAHA President Emeritus, Harvey Lippincott. (History by Contract, p. 219-220).


3. 1981: YouTube: Crouch & Lippincott Discussion of Whitehead


Gustave Whitehead’s flight capabilities discussed by Harvey Lippincott, CAHA President Emeritus, Interviewer and Observer for several Whitehead flight witnesses in 1960’s and 1970’s; and Tom Crouch, Curator, Smithsonian – native of Dayton, OH, and Wright biographer. Circa 1981, filmed by Spannenberger for German TV, raw footage donated to Gustav Weisskopf Museum, Leutershausen, Germany.

Harvey Lippincott states he believes Whitehead had control. The issue of what flight is, is brought up by Dr. Crouch, however by his own definition the Wrights also only made hops. Thirdly, the issue of measurement of distance is brought up by both men … however the Wrights didn’t measure either, only the last of the four flights on Dec. 17, 1903 was measured, the others estimated, by Orville’s own statements. So that should disqualify the currently credited flight by Orville, except for the requirement by the insidious Wright-Smithsonian Contract which forbids any deviation from crediting Orville as first in flight.


>> LIPPINCOTT: I feel very confident that he did make short flights from the various interviews I have done.

>> CROUCH: The only area in which Mr. Lippincott and I really have even minor disagreements is the fact that I am not at all sure in my own mind that there is evidence for the short hops. I think he and I agree that the hops, even if they did occur, as Harvey believes they did, can’t be qualified as flight in the sense that they were either sustained or honestly controlled in the air. And I think that both of those are important criteria when you are talking about flight.

>>LIPPINCOTT: I think that the Whitehead machine of the 1901-1902 period had control up to a point. We’re not sure exactly how much lateral control he had – he may not have had lateral control actually built into the machine, but he had sufficient dihedral that he might have been actually … in still air, he might have been able to fly laterally without disaster. In rough air he might have lost control. We know he had elevator control. We know that the propellers, by speeding one up and slowing one down would turn you,  not quickly but would turn you. But I have not found anybody who really gave any evidence that he made any major turns in his flights.

>>CROUCH: Of course, if we say that the flights, if they did exist, the hops, were limited to 50 to 200 feet, that is scarcely room to …

>>LIPPINCOTT: That’s not room to do too much.

>>CROUCH: Yeah. It ahh… We do have, have, material, material here…such as, such as exists. And again, to say I think that there was no interest in Whitehead is unfair.

>>SPANNENBERGER: Mr. Lippincott, do you believe that he should have a place in the gallery of early pioneers at Smithsonian?

>>LIPPINCOTT: I believe he should have mention. He certainly was a very dedicated, earnest pioneering experimenter in attempting to solve the problem of flight. The ultimate evaluation of how far he did accomplish may never be proved because we do not have the original documents of Whitehead. Whether Whitehead made the documents or he did not, they apparently don’t exist today. This is the unfortunate part. There is no picture of his airplane in flight. There is no written word of measurements or anything to prove how much he flew. I am not convinced that he really had much in the way of documents because in my interview with Anton Pruckner, we specifically asked him how far the aircraft flew. He said, well, we didn’t know. We didn’t measure it. We just guessed. So this is another reason why I just can’t quite accept figures of a mile or a mile and a half if it had not been measured. And his own associate says we did not measure.


4. 2011: CAHA’s Research Archivist, Carlton Stidsen: Anti-Whitehead and Poorly Informed

CAHA / New England Air Museum‘s current research librarian, Carlton A. Stidsen, pro-Smithsonian and pro-Wright as “first in flight” was interviewed in 2011 on the Colin Mcenroe Show, at WNPR.

Carl Stidsen, who doesn't know much about Whitehead.

Carl Stidsen, CAHA / NEAM research librarian, who doesn’t know much about Whitehead.

Unfortunately, Mr. Carl Stidsen appears to have been a poor student of Whitehead, though he says he’s studied him since 1980, as many of his remarks are false and misleading, easily proven so. Mr. Stidsen advises NEAM on its Whitehead stance, which is alarming. Perhaps Mr. Stidsen has been a student of Smithsonian propaganda about Whitehead and does not seem to be aware of NEAM’s parent organization’s [CAHA’s] founder, Harvey Lippincott, being so supportive of Whitehead’s flights. Some of the Carlton Stidsen bloopers [“mistakes”] include:

a. “Whitehead left at age 13 to go to sea” (FALSE! Whitehead went to sea at age 16 or 17). From age 13-15 he was at a German trade school learning to build engines, also learning engineering. Saying he left at 13 minimizes Whitehead’s crucial educational experiences in Germany.)

b. “Whitehead flew 7 miles in the middle of the night.” (FALSE! Whitehead never claimed that flight was in the night, it was in the daytime hours, according to his own account)

c. “Even his own contemporaries didn’t believe him…No one took him seriously.” (FALSE! Whitehead was written up in over 125 news articles, visited by a Smithsonian representative sent to spy on him and make measurements to bring back to Secretary Langley; visited by the Wright brothers on several occasions according to witnesses, funded by the Scientific American Aviation Editor and his father, the owner, visited often by prominent members of the esteemed Brooklawn Country Club. Orville Wright feared Whitehead’s record of achievements, as he’d flown first and they knew it interfered with their own claims. Thus, the Smithsonian Contract forbade recognition of aviators who predated the Wrights, such as Whitehead.)

d. “Wrights kept photo records of their flights.” (FALSE! Actually the photo record doesn’t show the Wrights in flight.)

e. “Scientific American funded Whitehead.” (FALSE! Actually it was the owner who privately funded Whitehead after his flights were made, not the magazine.)

f. “Most likely… that he built gliders.” (FALSE AND MISLEADING!  Actually, there are many surviving photos of his gliding experiments, so it is more than likely that Whitehead built gliders. However, it is also well-documented with photos that he built planes, and extensive witness statements show that he was in powered flight as early as 1900.)

g. “Gustave Whitehead was a typical tinkerer, blacksmith, businessman of period…” (FALSE! Actually, Whitehead was anything but typical! He developed and flew the first airplanes.)

h. “Smithsonian is neutral on this whole thing due to their relations with the Wright brothers.” (FALSE! Actually Smithsonian is not neutral, they have a contract forcing them to recognize only the Wrights as first in flight.)

i. “[The Wright Flyer] still belongs to the Wright Foundation, does not belong to NASM. (FALSE! The Wright Flyer was acquired by the US Gov’t and Smithsonian for $1 and tax benefits, in 1948. It reverts to the Wright heirs if Smithsonian breaks the contract.)

j. “Paul Garber [former Smithsonian curator]  is a superb gentleman.” (FALSE! Actually, it is a matter of record, memorialized in the book, “History by Contract” [O’Dwyer and Randolph] on page 216, in a letter written by CAHA Founder and President Harvey Lippincott, that Paul Garber lied and denied Smithsonian had such a contract with the Wright heirs.)

The Garber lie:

“Paul Garber volunteered the statement that he had always tried to keep an open mind on the subject (of Whitehead and first flight) and, in fact, when the Wright estate submitted an agreement pertaining to the transfer of the 1903 Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian, Garber refused to accpet a clause in the agreement that stipulated that the Smithsonian would not acknowledge any claimants to flight prior to that of the Wrights. He further stated that upon objection the Wright estate withdrew the clause after which Smithsonian signed the agreement. I acknowledge that the above statements are true, to the best of my recollection.”  (Harvey Lippincott, July 6, 1976)


Currently, with President Lippincott having passed on, CAHA runs the New England Air Museum (NEAM) based near Hartford, CT, under new leadership that supports the Wright brothers as first in flight, ignoring the Whitehead witness statements which CAHA collected in the 1960’s and 70’s that show Whitehead was first in flight.

CAHA and other museums like it are often in the position of having to “get along” with Smithsonian, which has a legal contract with the Wright heirs, to recognize only the Wright brothers as first in flight.

In May, 2013, Mr. Stidsen wrote the site author, and said the following, “I do not believe it advisable or possible for the New England Air Museum to “recognize Gustave Whitehead as first in flight” … nor to be involved in efforts at statewide or nationwide recognition of Mr. Whitehead beyond its existing recognition, as indicated above. I have so advised Mr. Spezial [Speciale], in his capacity as Director of NEAM. ” (Author’s comment: Yikes, we advise that Mr. Speciale obtain a NEW advisor and research librarian!)

In view of CAHA’s founding president supporting Whitehead flights, its members interviewing witnesses and issuing statements that they supported the veracity of the witnesses, it would seem that CAHA’s, Director Michael P. Speciale’s, research archivist Mr. Carlton Stidsen’s, and NEAM’s current position against Whitehead flights is untenable and should be changed. Similar negative statements about Whitehead and Whitehead researchers have been made by an out-of-state [North Carolina] CAHA member recently, who obviously isn’t aware of the above.

CAHA founder and longtime director Harvey Lippincott ‘s statements, above, directly contradict the Smithsonian’s and current Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association (CAHA) / (New England Air Museum) NEAM’s position, as well as the purported comments of the North Carolina-based CAHA member. Mr. Stidsen of CAHA / NEAM is so far off-base that we invite him to read “History by Contract” by O’Dwyer and Randolph, with its 200 original documents and photos, and study the above videotape and transcript. Then, open up the CAHA archives to the public, completely. The public has a right to know, CAHA is publicly funded, and CAHA claims it is transparent. Let’s see that in action!

[*Site author’s note: actually some of Whitehead’s plans and documentation have been located, the Whitehead family had preserved it and likely had nowhere safe to send it, as earlier attempts to allow examination of artifacts led to damage and loss (ie. a stack of stereoscopic Whitehead photos were known to be “mishandled” and destroyed; possible theft – called a “loss” – of a set of Whitehead tongs while at Smithsonian) of some of the artifacts, when entrusted to museum staff and organizations in the USA, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. With the extremely negative attitude toward Whitehead by USA museum directors and staff that existed then and continues into the present date, the site author believes the Whitehead artifacts would not have remained safe here, and still would not be safe in the USA. Mr. John Brown, of Germany, owner of a Whitehead website, reportedly has three boxes of artifacts sent to him by the Whitehead family in July, 2013, which he says he will release to the Gustav Weisskopf Museum, in Whitehead’s hometown of Leutershausen, Germany. One of these artifacts is a set of plans for Whitehead’s helicopter, which he has posted to his website.] The Gustav Weisskopf Museum remains the one museum exclusively and reliably dedicated to preserving Whitehead artifacts and information, while not readily accessible to the public via Internet-based access, a problem that we hope will be rectified through the increased funding received from the state of Bavaria. One must physically go to the museum to view its archives and collections. A Gustave Whitehead Museum is needed in the United States, as well. The fact remains Whitehead did use plans, he did have records, and some are available. He did die young and in bad health. His family was left impoverished and unable to deal with attacks on his legacy by Wright proponents, throughout the past four generations.]


Response to “Wronging the Wrights”

Who flew first? Order the new book “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” to find out!

Response by S. Brinchman to the CT Post’s Guest Editorial of July 5, 2013:

by Doug McIntyre: Wronging the Wrights an embarrassment to the state

The editorial, “Wronging the Wrights”, is a gross misrepresentation of the evidence concerning Gustave Whitehead and an insult to the state of CT, its governor and legislature.

I have been involved with Whitehead research since 1963, when my father, William J. O’Dwyer, found photos of some of his early planes, and began a research project that is still ongoing.

The mistaken facts in the editorial, below quoted in italics, need to be corrected and an apology issued. These are as follows:

“Acting upon the sketchiest of evidence, the state of Connecticut has inexplicably chosen to strip Wilbur and Orville Wright of their rightful title as the fathers of heavier-than-air flight.

By accepting as fact the highly dubious 1901 “flights” of Bridgeport’s Gustave Whitehead, the Nutmeg State has debased history, diminished one of the great achievements of the 20th century and muddied the waters historians work so diligently to clear.”

Which historians worked to clear the waters? Certainly not Smithsonian’s, under contract to the Wright heirs not to acknowledge that anyone else flew first. Certainly not their head curator Tom Crouch, from Dayton, Ohio, personal friend of the Wright family. Certainly not any historians making money off books about the Wrights.

The waters were muddied, for profit and fame, starting in 1911, when the Wrights’ paid subrosa employee, William Hammer, first caused them to be recognized as “first in flight”, by having this published in the World Almanac 1911. Before that, under Hammer’s guidance, they were recognized for contributions to flight, by the Aero Club of America. Whitehead’s achievements, published before that time in over a hundred newspapers and journals, were ignored. There are witnesses who also place the Wrights in Whitehead’s shop on several occasions before the Wrights flew and after Whitehead did. The Wrights’ photo evidence shows 18 inches off the ground for a failed flight, which didn’t surface for nearly five years and Wrights’ witnesses who never filed affidavits, are in conflict with the later Wright claims.

The waters were muddied further when the Smithsonian signed a contractual agreement in 1948, giving up the right to recognize anyone else flying before the Wrights, in order to obtain and keep the Wright Flyer as an exhibit. Highly placed friends of the Wrights helped see to it that history gave them the “first in flight” credit, over the years. Whitehead had no such friends in high places.

“As Orville Wright said during a previous effort to rob the brothers of their just due, “The truth cannot withstand a lie aided by continual propaganda.””

Indeed, I would agree that the truth will be outed. In this case, unfortunately for the Wrights, the truth is that a legend has been built up which has been difficult to remove. For instance, following Wilbur’s death in 1912, Orville began claiming the title of being “first in flight” on Dec. 17, 1903, whereas before Wilbur died, Wilbur was the one credited for this, with Orville’s flights of the day deemed failures. The Smithsonian contract credits Orville today. The truth cannot be held down, people want truth in history, not contrived legends, such as we have been spoonfed concerning the Wrights and first flight.

“By signing HB 6671 into law, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has added legitimacy to a lie.”

That is your opinion and it is demonstrably, incorrect and a direct insult to the governor. You have played fast and loose with the “facts” in order to substantiate it.

“The specious claims made by Australian aviation “historian” John Brown somehow buffaloed the editors of “Jane’s: All the World’s Aircraft,” and that blunder is the foundation of falsehood upon which Connecticut legislators have built this monument to misinformation. Brown’s so-called evidence wouldn’t pass the smell test for a high school history term paper.”

Once again, incorrect, it was the preponderance of all the evidence that caused Jane’s All the World Aircraft’s editors to be convinced. They also looked at witness statements, nearly a score of these, concerning Whitehead flights before 1903.

“Citing three “eye-witness” accounts published at the time of the alleged Whitehead flights, Brown neglected to mention the story originated with Stanley Yale Beach, the son of the publisher of “Scientific American” and a financial backer of Whitehead. He also failed to note when researchers tried to confirm the Whitehead story in the 1930s, of the three witnesses, one had died, a second could not be located and the third, James Dickie, emphatically denied seeing Whitehead fly and said the story was a hoax.”

The account of Whitehead’s flight in 1901 did not originate with Beach, who did not back Whitehead at the time of his flights in 1901 or 1902. It was later that Beach’s father began to partially back Whitehead, likely as a result of the earlier successful flights, but it appears only to build Beach’s designs, which failed. Of the five (not three) eye-witnesses to one of the four flights of August 14, 1901, only one denial occurred. Dickie, who had a grudge against Whitehead over money issues, is on record refusing to credit him. There were two others for the flight described in the full page article in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald of August 18, 1901 – and they had died by the time journalist and educator Stella Randolph (not Zahm) investigated and took formal affidavits from more than a dozen witnesses to Whitehead’s flights.

“Gustave Whitehead deserves to be honored as a serious aviation pioneer who invested his time and talents to try and tackle the great dream of mankind, human flight. But to believe Whitehead actually flew 1.5 miles at an altitude of 50 feet on Aug. 14, 1901, 28 months before the Wright’s four epochal flights of Dec. 17, 1903, is to explain away why he never flew publicly again.”

I don’t know where this incorrect information is coming from, but the Wrights’ so-called flights of Dec. 17, 1903 are based on their say-so, with information that changed over time. For instance, all four flights had control problems, the first three were considered failures (both of Orville’s and the first of Wilbur’s) and the last flight of the day was the only one considered to be a possible success, but it landed with damage, and was for only 500 feet, taking off from a rail that began on a higher point, a sand dune, and required wind to fly.  Witnesses under oath testified to Whitehead’s flights on Aug. 14, 1903, which numbered four on that day and more later in the fall and on January, 1902.

“He never told anyone he flew before the Wrights. In fact, he abandoned his own 1901 designs and turned his attention to gliders and helicopters.”

That is a false statement, read the witnesses testimonies, under oath, concerning the flights and public statements Whitehead made in the newspapers and journals of the era. After 1903, he was unable to sustain the expense of fully developing his own designs which he considered not to be in final form, turned to designing engines and planes for others, while continuing to work toward a practical plane, which he wanted to be able to rise vertically from the ground, like a helicopter or Harrier. Whitehead never found a funder to allow him to develop his own designs fully again, but he did contribute his early success, knowledge and engines to others of his era.

“Whitehead made a game try of it, but he is no more the father of flight than other early experimenters, such as Percy Pilcher, Otto Lilienthal, Augustus Herring, Ocatve Chanute, John Montgomery, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Samuel Langely or Alexander Graham Bell.”

This is incorrect as these others did not make successful, controlled, sustained  powered flights and Whitehead did, predating the Wrights by two years.

“The tortured tale of Gustave Whitehead comes from another aviation pioneer’s attempt to invalidate the Wright Brothers‘ patents.”

The above sentence is an attempt to circumvent the witnesses and all the evidence for Whitehead’s successes. It is a myth constructed by those who began to defend the Wrights’ “title” against the revelations concerning the early flights of Whitehead by Stella Randolph in the 1930’s. Zahm had nothing to do with her research. The Zahm-Whitehead connection is part of the defensive tactics of those who would keep the Wright legend in place.

Glenn Curtis was a rival aircraft manufacturer and aggressively searched for pre-Wright aircraft he could use to convince aviation-ignorant courts they were capable of flight prior to Kitty Hawk. Eventually he settled on Langley’s failed “aerodrome,” but Whitehead’s story was kept alive by a dedicated Wright-hater, Albert Zahm, part of the Curtis team.

Eventually his story appeared in two books, “The Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead” (1937) and “Before the Wright Brothers Flew” (1966). Both books were written by Stella Randolph based on material collected by Zahm.”

This is another falsehood in the article. Stella Randolph conducted her own original research and would not release it to Dr. Alfred Zahm, who was interested. Dr. Zahm, far from a crank, from 1916 to 1929 was the Director of the Aerodynamical Laboratory of the U.S. Navy, and Guggenheim Chair of Aeronautics at the Library of Congress (1929-1946). Zahm, a highly respected man of his era, designed and built the first significant wind tunnel in the United States (1901) and was awarded the Laetare and Mendel medals for his significant achievements in the field of aeronautics. The Library of Congress became a limited repository for information about Whitehead, following Randolph’s investigations. In 1945, Dr. Zahm called for more research to be done and found it possible that Whitehead had flown in 1901, in his Early Powerplane Fathers publication.

“Wilbur and Orville Wright were life-long diarists, prolific letter writers and talented amateur photographers. They left a voluminous paper trail documenting each step they took on the path to unlocking the secrets of flight. In 1953, the Library of Congress published the “Papers of Wilbur & Orville Wright” in two volumes. Anyone who has examined the record has no doubt the Wrights deserve the title as fathers of powered flight.”

But what you are saying is that we should trust the Wrights’ “say-so”, that the proof is in what they wrote. This is unacceptable. Also, what Orville claimed and is now credited with – that he was first in successful flight –  is in conflict with what the Wright brothers originally wrote, concerning the four flights, as well. You don’t seem to know that they hired William Hammer to get them credit for first flight in 1911, to help them in their lawsuits.

“The state of Connecticut has thrown in with cranks and frauds and contributed to the debasing of actual knowledge in a cheap attempt to secure local bragging rights over Ohio and North Carolina. In doing so, Gov. Malloy and the Legislature have diminished two great American heroes, Wilbur and Orville Wright, and embarrassed the state in the eyes of anyone who has bothered to examine the evidence.”

This is an uninformed insult to the state of CT, its governor and legislature that requires an immediate apology. They are correctly recognizing an authentic aviation pioneer with a mountain of evidence that says he flew several years before the Wrights, multiple times.

Doug McIntyre is a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News, television & Film writer/producer, and host of “McIntyre in the Morning” on KABC radio in Los Angeles. He has written about the Wrights for “American History Illustrated.””

That says it all. A columnist from Los Angeles, with no access to original research, making money off the Wright legend, upset at the Wrights’ claim being challenged. Last but not least, WRONG on his facts, which he should have checked.

Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman

La Mesa, CA, formerly of Fairfield, CT

  • Co-researcher on Gustave Whitehead with William J. O’Dwyer for 30 years
  • for 15 more years, often present and involved, during research and interviews with witnesses
  • Knew Stella Randolph, Whitehead researcher; Tony Pruckner, witness to the 1901 flights; and Charles Witteman, early aviation pioneer who considered Whitehead a genius.

Contact at info (at)