The Wright/Smithsonian Controversy
The Plot to Kidnap the Flyer

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   The plot to    
Kidnap the flyer
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For those of you who love a good conspiracy theory, there exists in some dusty corner of the Library of Congress an enigmatic letter that purports to warn Orville Wright of a plot to kidnap the Wright Flyer. The writer admits in the first paragraph that his information is hearsay and he signs the note “H.M.,” so there is no way of knowing who the writer was and what his sources might have been. The alleged plot is almost certainly a rumor or someone’s flight of fantasy; there is no additional correspondence that indicates Orville took it seriously. It was too outlandish. Even if the kidnappers had attempted such a screwball act, the public outcry would have destroyed any possible political gain. Nonetheless, the letter does show that the exile of the Flyer was still a matter of public concern, even after a decade had passed.


anuary 3, 1937.

Dear Dr. Wright –

This will give you one good hearty laugh to start the New Year off cheerfully. Despite a week in bed with a bad cold which tried to turn into influenza, I have laughed and laughed. The following facts came to me within three hours of taking to bed. I can vouch for the truth of all this, and when I see you, will quote you my sources.

The Smithsonian has persuaded the people in charge of the New York World's Fair (1939) to help get the Wright plane back from England, for exhibition purposes, after which the Smithsonian will be able to claim it, as per its plan which is as follows:

Some years ago the Smithsonian persuaded the Army, etc. to make arrangements to put up a great museum at Wright Field Dayton, for the purpose of enshrining the Wright plane. The army fell for it, the money was set aside. The Army did not knew it at the time, but the Smithsonian planned to wait until the Wright plane had been put up in Dayton on Government property, and then the Smithsonian was to invoke a law already on the books that it could claim any scientific relics in the hands of the Government.

The only thing that blocked all this was Mr. Orville Wright's "obstinacy" and some uncanny sense that "prevented him from playing into our hands.” The quotes are those of a present executive of the Smithsonian.

The new plan is similar. The New York crowd have been told that the only thing needed to make their fair a success is the presence of the Wright plane. They have fallen for it and they are already getting a great number of people in aviation, including many of your acquaintances, to work on you with the object of having the plane returned under Government auspices, after which the Smithsonian intends to claim it, if possible.

Sounds fantastic but that plan was made out in detail here in New York at a  conference on  Dec. 23.

H. M.

A scan of the actual letter warning Orville of the plot.

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