• U.S.

People: Sweep in the Nation’s Attic

2 minute read

In the vast, quiet, faintly musty, gewgaw-cluttered chambers of the antique, red brick Smithsonian Institution, history is put to rest—there goes good news when it dies. But last week the Institution’s “new” secretary (he has been there only 14 years and is only 70), Dr. Charles Greeley Abbot, made live news. The gaunt, grave, full-mustached museum man had had on his mind the matter of Samuel P. Langley v. the Wright Brothers. The world regards Wilbur and Orville Wright as the country’s true airplane pioneers, but Langley, onetime Smithsonian secretary, has been the Institution’s choice as the A-1 ace. In the Institution Langley’s plane was labeled the first capable of making a sustained flight carrying a man. Finally Orville Wright got so mad about it that in 1928 he sent the original Kitty Hawk machine to a London museum. Kindly Dr. Abbot, naturally perturbed at the loss of a possible exhibit, began to turn the matter over in his mind. After 14 years of gentle revolving, he made his decision last week: the Wright brothers were indeed the first to make a sustained flight in a heavier-than-air-machine. And he wondered gently, aloud, whether somebody or other might or might not now see his way clear to bringing the original Kitty Hawk machine back to the U.S.

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