Capable of Flight: The Feud Between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian

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Crouch discusses the long-running feud between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian Institution over whether the 1903 "Aerodrome" designed by Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley was capable of flight, prior to the Wright Brother's flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on 17 December 1903. After Langley's death, Smithsonian partisans claimed, in an exhibit label for the Aerodrome, that it was capable of flight, based on tests by aviation engineers who were in a patent dispute with Wilbur and Orville Wright. After a retraction from the Smithsonian, the Wright Flyer was finally donated to the United States National Museum in 1948.


  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Wright, Orville 1871-1948
  • Wright, Wilbur 1867-1912


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

Invention and Technology Vol. 2 (Journal)

Contact information

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


Spring 1987


  • Langley-Wright Controversy
  • Artifacts
  • Langley Aerodrome
  • Langley Aerodrome Tests
  • Controversies
  • Secretaries
  • Aeronautics
  • Wright Flyer (Airplane)

Physical description

pp. 34-46

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