The Once-Secret Contract Between the Wrights' Heirs and the Smithsonian Institute
In 1948, the Smithsonian Institute and the Wright brothers' heirs entered into a contract. The contract was kept secret until a US Senator invoked the Freedom of Information Act to force its exposure in 1976. The contract requires the Smithsonian Institute and all its affiliates/employees to state that the Wright Brothers made the first powered, controlled, sustained flight. It thereby hinders investigation of other flights before that date. Indeed, it requires that they be denied by the Smithsonian Institute. A 1978 book by Major William J. O'Dwyer (USAF) entitled 'History by Contract' was the first to comment on the Contract. It was Major J. O'Dwyer who had enlisted the US Senator's help to expose the Contract. The following text is the display label, the stipulation:
The Original Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane
The world’s First Power-Driven Heavier-than-Air Machine
In Which Man Made Free, Controlled, and
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
As Inventors, Builders and Flyers They Further Developed the Aeroplane
Taught Man to Fly and Opened the Era of Aviation
Deposited by the Estate of Orville Wright.
Neither the Smithsonian Institution or its successors nor any museum or other agency, bureau of facilities, administered for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors, shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight.
FULL CONTRACT TEXT