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History by Contract, published in 1978, is a book written by Major William J. O'Dwyer, U.S. Air Force Reserve (ret.), of Fairfield, Conn. about the aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead.

After spending 30 years and a "small fortune" on detective work, O'Dwyer was convinced that historians who labeled Whitehead an empty dreamer or an outright charlatan were way off base. "It's strange," he said, "that those opinions evolved without extensive research, official inquiry or probe." In addition to presenting evidence that Whitehead made powered airplane flights more than two years before the Wright brothers, O'Dwyer's book says a 1948 agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and heirs of the Wright brothers unfairly hinders serious consideration of flight claims that precede the Wrights.

Contents

The title's meaning

The "contract" of the book title refers to the Wright-Smithsonian agreement. It prohibits the Smithsonian from officially recognizing any manned, powered, controlled airplane flight before that of the Wright brothers on Dec. 17, 1903. The agreement ended a bitter feud that existed between Orville Wright and the Smithsonian over credit for the first such flight. After short test flights of the heavily-modified Langley Aerodrome by Glenn Curtiss in 1914, the Smithsonian claimed that the Aerodrome, created by former Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Langley and unsuccessfully tested shortly before the 1903 Kitty Hawk flights, was the first winged machine to be "capable" of powered, controlled, manned flight. Orville believed that claim "perverted" the history of flying machines and refused to donate the 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer to the Smithsonian, loaning it instead to the London Science Museum. When the Smithsonian recanted its claim, Orville agreed to have the Flyer sent back, but died before it returned to the U.S.

Whitehead's work

Research showed that Whitehead's 1901 airplane, a high-wing monoplane with an enclosed fuselage and two propellers up front, was closer to today's lightplane configurations than any built by his contemporaries. His U.S. aviation "firsts" numbered more than 20. They included, to name but a few, aluminum in engines and propellers, wheels for takeoff and landing, ground-adjustable propeller pitch, individual control of propellers (to aid in directional control), folding wings for towing on roads (resulting in what was possibly the world's first roadable airplane), silk for wing covering, and concrete for a runway. He built more than 30 aircraft engines and sold them to customers as far west as California. An earlier student of Whitehead's life and career was the late Stella Randolph of Garrett Park, Md., author of two books, Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead (1937) and Before the Wrights Flew (1966). Despite details, documentation and photos of Whitehead's airplanes and engines on the ground, as well as in-flight photos of Whitehead gliders, the books were denounced by leading aeronautic agencies, including the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute of Aeronautics. They described Randolph as "unqualified" and her books as "unreliable."

External links

Books

  • History by Contract, by William J. O'Dwyer; Publisher: Fritz Majer & Sohn (West Germany), 1978; ISBN: 3922175007
  • Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead by Stella Randolph; Publisher: Places, Inc., 1937
  • The Story of Gustave Whitehead, Before the Wrights Flew, by Stella Randolph; New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1966

See also

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History by Contract, published in 1978, is a book written by Major William J. O'Dwyer, U.S. Air Force Reserve (ret.), of Fairfield, Conn. about the aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead.

After spending 30 years and a "small fortune" on detective work, O'Dwyer was convinced that historians who labeled Whitehead an empty dreamer or an outright charlatan were way off base. "It's strange," he said, "that those opinions evolved without extensive research, official inquiry or probe." In addition to presenting evidence that Whitehead made powered airplane flights more than two years before the Wright brothers, O'Dwyer's book says a 1948 agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and heirs of the Wright brothers unfairly hinders serious consideration of flight claims that precede the Wrights.

Contents

The title's meaning

The "contract" of the book title refers to the Wright-Smithsonian agreement. It prohibits the Smithsonian from officially recognizing any manned, powered, controlled airplane flight before that of the Wright brothers on Dec. 17, 1903. The agreement ended a bitter feud that existed between Orville Wright and the Smithsonian over credit for the first such flight. After short test flights of the heavily-modified Langley Aerodrome by Glenn Curtiss in 1914, the Smithsonian claimed that the Aerodrome, created by former Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Langley and unsuccessfully tested shortly before the 1903 Kitty Hawk flights, was the first winged machine to be "capable" of powered, controlled, manned flight. Orville believed that claim "perverted" the history of flying machines and refused to donate the 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer to the Smithsonian, loaning it instead to the London Science Museum. When the Smithsonian recanted its claim, Orville agreed to have the Flyer sent back, but died before it returned to the U.S.

Whitehead's work

Research showed that Whitehead's 1901 airplane, a high-wing monoplane with an enclosed fuselage and two propellers up front, was closer to today's lightplane configurations than any built by his contemporaries. His U.S. aviation "firsts" numbered more than 20. They included, to name but a few, aluminum in engines and propellers, wheels for takeoff and landing, ground-adjustable propeller pitch, individual control of propellers (to aid in directional control), folding wings for towing on roads (resulting in what was possibly the world's first roadable airplane), silk for wing covering, and concrete for a runway. He built more than 30 aircraft engines and sold them to customers as far west as California. An earlier student of Whitehead's life and career was the late Stella Randolph of Garrett Park, Md., author of two books, Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead (1937) and Before the Wrights Flew (1966). Despite details, documentation and photos of Whitehead's airplanes and engines on the ground, as well as in-flight photos of Whitehead gliders, the books were denounced by leading aeronautic agencies, including the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute of Aeronautics. They described Randolph as "unqualified" and her books as "unreliable."

External links

Books

  • History by Contract, by William J. O'Dwyer; Publisher: Fritz Majer & Sohn (West Germany), 1978; ISBN: 3922175007
  • Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead by Stella Randolph; Publisher: Places, Inc., 1937
  • The Story of Gustave Whitehead, Before the Wrights Flew, by Stella Randolph; New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1966

See also


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