“...We did have unusual advantages in childhood, without which I doubt we could have accomplished much.... The greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity. If my father had not been the kind who encouraged his children to pursue intellectual interests without any thought of profit, our early curiosity about flying would have been nipped too early to bear fruit.”
ONLY KNOWN COPY TO INCLUDE FABRIC FROM THE WING OF THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL WRIGHT FLYER AND TWICE INSCRIBED BY ORVILLE WRIGHT: “This little piece of wing covering did its part in lifting the plane in this flight. O.W.” and “To John W. Dougherty / Orville Wright”.
On a cold and windy morning in December 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright, high school dropouts turned printers, bicycle makers and aeronautics pioneers, made history on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. After years of studying the movements of soaring birds, perfecting a bicycle steering system, building gliders, and experimenting in the back of their bicycle shop, they decided to attempt a powered flight. They built an engine for their biplane and created a structure that could be balanced and steered just like a bicycle. At 10:35 on the morning of December 17, 1903, with five people in attendance, Orville started the engine, the oversized bicycle chains turned on the two custom bicycle sprockets, he laid down inside, and the machine flew for twelve seconds and 120 feet. Their success that day changed the course of history—Orville had flown in a heavier-than-air machine and safely touched down. They would repeat the same feat three more times that day, the longest trip covering 852 feet in 59 seconds. Simply called the Wright Flyer, the airplane had been invented.
This one-of-a-kind collection we have on offer includes a 1938 book which celebrates the relocation and dedication of the restored Wright brothers’ bicycle shop and family home to Henry Ford’s museum in Michigan. The book includes a photo, affixed opposite the title page, of Orville Wright on the Wright Flyer with Wilbur Wright running alongside at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903—it is a photographic print, using Orville’s pre-positioned camera, from the original negative taken of man’s first flight. Below the photo is a fragment of wing fabric glued onto the page with a handwritten note from Orville Wright: “This little piece of wing covering did its part in lifting the plane in this flight. O.W.” The dedication page is inscribed “To John W. Dougherty / Orville Wright” (please see notes in the “Provenance” section below).
This remarkable book honors the Wright brothers, icons of ingenuity. In 1929 Henry Ford created Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan to pay tribute to bold inventors like the Wright brothers and Thomas Edison. In 1936 Ford purchased the last building used by the Wright brothers for their bicycle shop and their family home and moved them to his Greenfield Village museum. The book we are offering is from the dedication held on April 16, 1938, the date of the opening of the restored Wright brothers’ buildings and Wilbur’s birthday. It was inside this bicycle shop that these two brilliant men designed the world’s first airplane. The Wright Flyer cost the brothers less than $1,000 to build, which they had earned building, repairing and selling bicycles.
Wilbur’s vision and Orville’s mechanical genius, enabled these outwardly ordinary men to solve the problem of aerial navigation that had plagued engineers, scientists, and dreamers for decades. Despite a lack of formal technical training, frequent failures, and only occasional successes they were methodical and persistent.
More than a century after Wilbur and Orville Wright famously gave wings to mankind, they remain an important part of our national cultural identity. They created an entirely new way to travel and explore the world, and just 66 years after their first flight, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. This collection, which also includes photos and plan drawings, honors the grit, innovation, technical creativity, and immeasurable impact of these two extraordinary men.
Provenance: The Dougherty Family of Dayton, Ohio. Mrs. John (Bess) Dougherty was a member of the Wright Library Board from 1923 until 1946 and served alongside Orville Wright during his tenure from 1934-1946. Her husband, John Dougherty, was an educator, sculptor, and photographer.
Dedication of the Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan, April 16, 1938. Printed for the Edison Institute (no publisher listed). 1938. Octavo (approx. 6-1/2" wide x 9-1/4" high); generally fine condition with only light general wear.
WITH ARCHIVE OF OTHER MATERIAL INCLUDING: (1) Huge (24x36 in) oversized photographic print of the Wright Flyer at the Wright brothers’ camp and hangar in Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, with the hangar on the left and their living quarters on the right. Print tightly rolled with some cracking and edge tears. (2) A plan drawing of the Wright Flyer drawn to 1/40 scale. Pen and ink on paper, signed “By Bollinger” in the lower right. 15" high x 22" wide. With creases from being rolled; scattered tears to margins, one with associated small loss upper left. Scattered areas of soil associated with creases. (3) A group of eight Christmas cards from Orville Wright addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Dougherty of Dayton, Ohio dated from 1939 to 1947. Two of the cards are hand-signed by Orville Wright. Six of the cards have their original envelopes. (4) Two items from the Wright Library Board addressed to Mrs. John Dougherty dated December 19, 1946. One is a letter accepting her resignation as a member of the Wright Library Board. The other is a resolution accepting her resignation and noting her extraordinary 23 years of service to the board. (5) Various newspaper clippings about the life and death of Orville Wright.
Shilo Brooks. “Why Did the Wright Brothers Succeed When Others Failed?” Scientific American. March 14, 2020.
Tom D. Crouch. The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.
Tom D. Crouch. “Wright brothers.” Encyclopedia Britannica. March 30, 2023.
Fred C. Fisk and Marlin W. Todd. The Wright Brothers: from Bicycle to Biplane. Miami Graphic Services, 1995.
“What Happened to the Original Wright Flyer?” National Air and Space Museum. December 15, 2022.
Price: $32,000 .