Sketch by aviation pioneer Orville Wright to auction

'Orville Wright' is now a name which now needs no introduction to aviation collectors or anyone else. However, back in 1915, one of the earliest biographies of the brothers and their historic flight was just in germination.

Earl Findlay and his assistant John McMahon spent several days interviewing Orville Wright at the family home (Wilbur having died from typhoid in 1912). However, the Wright family was not satisfied with the draft manuscript and blocked its publication. A version of the biography was eventually published anyway.

Orville Wright Sketch showing the results of wind tunnel experiments
Orville Wright sketch showing the results of wind tunnel experiments

One piece of memorabilia which survived the process is a sketch, literally on the back of an envelope, by Orville Wright, illustrating wind tunnel tests they had carried out showing that rounding the front and rear corners of the uprights sharply reduced air resistance.

The simple pencil drawing, which remained in the archives of John McMahon, is expected to bring $5,000-7,000 at Swann Auction Galleries' sale in New York.

Also appearing in the sale will be 1,000 items from Stanley Yale Beach, mostly letters addressed to him. Beach is remembered partly for financially backing Gustave Whitehead, who has sometimes been claimed to have flown a plane before the Wright brothers did.

Included in the archive are several pictures relating to a 1919 air race. The lot has been given a guide price of $3,000-4,000.

Swann Auction Galleries' auction takes place during the afternoon of this Thursday, March 18, but the items are already open to viewing.


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