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The History List

1938 book with rare print from the original negative of the only photo of the Wright Brothers’ first flight

Updated at 9:15 pm Eastern on December 4: This book has been sold.

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— Lee Wright | Founder

. . .

Book from the dedication of the Wright Brothers Home and Shop in Greenfield Village on April 16, 1938. In very good condition, without marks of any kind throughout and no bent or soiled pages.

The thing that makes this book even more valuable is the that it includes a print from the original negative of the only picture taken of that first successful flight on December 17, 1903.

Note that the print is attached and the wrinkling is normal.

However, not all books include the print. There were some made with an inexpensive commercial reproduction and a different caption.

My assumption is that the book we’re offering and the others with the rare print were given possibly to those who had attended the dedication, and that additional copies of the book, without the photo (and with a different caption) were printed and made available more widely, such as to libraries.

Historical background

Henry Ford assembled a collection of all sorts of wonderful historic items for his museum, including buildings for his “Greenfield Village” in Dearborn, Michigan.
Two of those were the Wright Brothers home and shop in Dayton, Ohio. Ford acquired these two buildings and had them disassembled, shipped, and reassembled in his Greenfield Village.

According to the museum:

Wilbur and Orville Wright operated their Dayton, Ohio, bicycle business out of this building from 1897 to 1908. The brothers sold and repaired bikes, and even produced models under their own brands. It was also in this shop that the Wright brothers built their earliest flying machines, including the 1903 Flyer that became the first successful heavier-than-air, powered, controlled aircraft.

I highly recommend a visit. The entire huge museum and Greenfield Village are filled with wonderful things. (I’ve included my photo from last May.)

A 62-page book was created for the dedication on April 16, 1938. The book is very nicely done. With a label on the front, crisp type, and deckled edges.

Some of the books included a photo that, albeit wrinkled, is very rare. It is the famous photo we have all seen of their successful flight on December 17, 1903 at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. (A side note: As you probably know, many people died experimenting with craft that they hoped would fly. The Wright Brothers, intentionally or not, stared this in the face every day: There was an undertaker next door to them in their small building, and if that isn’t tempting fate, they chose Kill Devil Hills for the flight.)

As you can see below the photograph, this print is from the original negative of the only picture taken of “man’s first flight, Kitty Hawk, N.C., December 17, 1903.” (Emphasis added.) They actually flew at Kill Devil Hills, about 4 miles south of Kitty Hawk. The airplane flew 852 ft on its fourth flight. It was damaged on landing and later blown over and damaged beyond what they could repair there.

Today the aircraft is on exhibit in the West Wing of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which re-opened in October 2022. My photo is from my visit there last March.


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