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Jennifer Rosenberg

Smithsonian Required to State Wright Brothers First

By April 4, 2013

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As more information is found out about a 1901 manned flight by German immigrant Gustav Whitehead, experts are questioning who really was the first to fly. However, the Smithsonian has just released information about a 1948 contract it made with the estate of Orville Wright that gave the Smithsonian the Wrights' famous Flyer for $1 but stipulated that the museum must always state that the Wrights were the first to fly.

Specifically, the contract states: "Neither the Smithsonian Institution or its successors nor any museum or other agency, bureau or 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 model aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane [sic] of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight."

The Senior Aeronautics Curator of the Smithsonian, Tom Couch, has stated, "The contract remains in force today, a healthy reminder of a less than exemplary moment in Smithsonian history."

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