Wright Flyer Placed on Display at the Smithsonian

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On December 17, 1948, on the forty-fifth anniversary of the first flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the original Wright Flyer was transferred to the United States National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. It is placed on display in the Arts and Industries Building at a ceremony attended by over 1000 distinguished guests. The twelve-second flight by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903, was the first flight carrying a man under its own power and was a landmark event in the history of aviation. When Orville Wright died on January 30, 1948, he left instructions that the plane, which had been on display at the Science Museum in London, should be given to the National Museum. The formal presentation ceremony was attended by a variety of dignitaries, and the aircraft was accepted by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents.


  • Wright, Orville 1871-1948
  • Wright, Wilbur 1867-1912
  • Vinson, Frederick Moore
  • Science Museum (London, Great Britain)
  • United States National Museum
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Chancellor of the Smithsonian Board of Regents
  • Board of Regents
  • Arts and Industries Building


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • For information on the dispute between the Smithsonian and the Wright Brothers that delayed donation of the aircraft to the National Museum, see Tom Crouch, "Capable of Flight: The Feud between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian," Invention and Technology 2 (Spring 1987): 34-46.
  • Oehser, Paul H. The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 57.
  • Garber, Paul E. The National Aeronautical Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1956, p. 38.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the Year 1949. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, pp. 3, 20, 114, and 117-118.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


December 17, 1948


  • Airplanes
  • Antiquities
  • Aeronautics
  • Inventions
  • Famous Artifacts
  • Controversies
  • Exhibitions
  • Exhibit openings
  • Judges
  • Dignitaries
  • Gifts
  • National Collections
  • Special events
  • Wright Flyer (Airplane)

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