Typed working manuscript draft of an article by Wilbur Wright entitled “L. P. Mouillard—What he did—by Wilbur Wright,” six pages, 8.5 x 11, no date (circa 1912), hand-corrected in graphite and colored pencil in an editorial hand, which includes formatting notes, edits to grammar, and underlining, with the first page in particular containing several prominent fingerprint marks.
The manuscript, which is signed at the conclusion in fountain pen by Wilbur Wright, concerns the legacy of French artist and innovator Louis Pierre Mouillard, whose research on bird flight in Algeria and Cairo proved influential to the evolution of human mechanical flight. Wright heaps great praise on the impact Mouillard had on he and his brother, while conversely refuting claims that Octave Chanute had dishonestly transferred to the Wright Brothers information on ‘wing warping’ gleaned from his earlier correspondence with Mouillard. The article reads, in part:
“The erection at Cairo, Egypt, of a monument to L. P. Mouillard, recalls attention to one of the greatest missionaries of the flying cause which the 19th century produced. Mouilard was a Frenchman who passed a large part of his life in Algeria and Egypt, where his attention was attracted by the wonderful soaring of vultures on fixed wings. His imagination was greatly excited by what he saw, and during the remainder of his life he was like a prophet crying in the wilderness, exhorting the world to repent of its unbelief in the possibility of human flight. In 1881 he published a book called ‘The Empire of the Air,’ which is one of the most remarkable pieces of aeronautical literature that has ever been published…
“His observations upon the habits of vultures led him to the conclusion that flight without motors was possible to man. and this idea he presented to his renders with an enthusiasm so inspiring and convincing that his book produced results of the greatest importance in the history of flight… There is no doubt that the reading of this book was one of the main factors in inducing Mr. Chanute to undertake his experiments, and I know that it was one of the inspiring causes of the efforts of the Wright brothers. Compared with this book, which is devoted almost entirely to observations relating to birds, the ordinary books on ornithology are childish. With the possible exception of Lilienthal, none of the men who wrote on aviation in the 19th century possessed such power to draw recruits to a belief in the possibility of motorless human flight…
"The position of Lilienthal as the founder of gliding experiments is too fully established to make it necessary to defend it here... The facts are well known. The fact that the Wright brothers had been using wing warping several years before Mr. Chanute became acquainted with them, effectually disposes of the part of the story accusing Mr. Chanute of transmitting any of Mouillard's secret to them. The fact that Mouillard never had the idea of warping the wings to control lateral balance, and never communicated such an idea to Mr. Chanute, is also sufficient of itself to refute the charge... It is most unfortunate that the project of erecting a monument to a man well worthy of the thanks and the remembrance of the world should have become entangled with an unworthy attempt to seek to add to the glory of France by filching the credit justly due to Lilienthal, and by falsely accusing Mr. Chanute, the benefactor of Mouillard, of having stolen the latter's secrets and transmitted them to the Wright brothers .... There is in France a little group of misguided individuals who bring disgrace upon their country by their too zealous attempts to add to its glory. Fortunately they do not represent the real France, which has shown by numerous manifestations of various kinds its high appreciation of the work of foreigners, including even Lilienthal, a native of a country greatly disliked by French people...
"The Mouillard patent was cited by the defendants in the case of The Wright Company vs. Louis Paulhan, and Judge Hand in his decision refers specifically to it and says, 'In no one of the nineteen claims is there anything which in any way even foreshadows the patent [of the Wright brothers] in suit.' Mr. Chanute's book and the patent clearly show that he made every effort to spread the fame and improve the finances of Mouillard. The memory of Mouillard is well deserving of perpetuation by a monument, but it is a pity that it should have been used by a self-constituted group of pretended champions of French glory, in a disgraceful Chauvinistic campaign of slander and detraction not approved by the mass of the French people."
In fine condition, with smudging to some of the pencil notations. Published in the Aero Club of America Bulletin just one month before Wilbur Wright's death from typhoid fever, this is one of only seven articles released during his lifetime. This incredible essay clarifies the Wright brothers' view on Mouillard's place in history, whilst simultaneously pouring scorn on a French group of individuals that sought to spread misinformation and falsely convince the world that their nation was the birthplace of human flight.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.