The 1903 Wright Flyer is one of the most popular exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, but for decades Orville refused to donate the aircraft to the national institution. In 1914, the Smithsonian attempted to restore the reputation of its former secretary Samuel Langley—whose experiments with his Langley Aerodrome ended in failure nine days before the Wright brothers first left the ground—by altering the aircraft and then concluding it was the first machine “capable” of manned flight. A furious Orville loaned the Wright Flyer overseas to the London Science Museum in 1925, believing it to be “the only way of correcting the history of the flying machine, which by false and misleading statements has been perverted by the Smithsonian Institution.” After the Smithsonian admitted in the 1940s to misrepresenting the Langley Aerodrome, Orville agreed to donate the aircraft to the institution. It finally arrived at the Smithsonian in 1948, nearly a year after Orville’s death.
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