A "phenomenally rare" photograph of the Wright brothers is currently selling as top lot in an online auction, which will close on January 16.
The photograph, signed and inscribed by Wilbur and Orville, has received 24 bids within a few days of the auction opening and is selling for $15,385. The high number of bids received is testament to the pioneering aviators' enduring appeal among collectors.
The image's inscription reads: "A souvenir of our school days at Pau, in February and March 1909. Wilbur Wright," and is also signed "Orville Wright". The photograph itself shows the brothers posing in front of a launching derrick with the first three French pilots that were trained by Wilbur.
The move to train three pilots followed the offer of a contract from French businessman Lazare Wieller to buy the Wright Flyer, who required the brothers to complete several public demonstrations to prove that the Flyer could fly at least 50 km with a passenger.
These requirements were far surpassed by the 1908 flights at Le Mans, and Wilbur was joined in France by Orville, who had been completing similar test flights in the US. The brothers then travelled to Pau to train the pilots before transferring their invention to the French company.
The photograph therefore represents the first major financial success of the Wright Brothers company and was taken at the peak of their international fame.
Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering the remarkable Charles Rolls Collection of Wright Brothers Aviation Photographs, which was compiled by the pioneering aviator following his own flight with Wilbur Wright.