109 years ago, May 22, 1906: Patent to Wright Bros. for “flying machine”


In a drawer in a file box in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., is a study in black ink on white paper, lines that resemble those images most of us have of the first Wright Bros. flyer, usually dubbed “Kittyhawk” after the place it first took to the air.

Drawing 1 from patent granted to Orville Wright for a flying machine

Drawing 1 from patent granted to Orville Wright for a flying machine

The patent was issued on May 22, 1906, to Orville Wright, Patent No. 821393, for a “flying machine.”

It makes more sense if you turn the drawing on its side.

Wright Bros. flying machine, from patent drawing

Wright Bros. flying machine, from patent drawing

With the patent, the Wrights had legal means to protect their idea so they could commercially develop it.  Turns out, however, that the fight to get the patent, and subsequent fights to protect it, may have prevented them from fully realizing the commercial success they could have had.  Lawrence Goldstone, the author of that article, details the history at much greater length in his 2014 book, Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies. 

Why did it take three years to get the patent issued?

Below the fold, the rest of the patent.

Page 2 of drawings for Wright Bros patent of flying machine

Page 2 of drawings for Wright Bros patent of flying machine

Unlike most patents, these drawings were accompanied by seven pages of text describing how the machine works.  Most inventions of that era required much less text.  The Wrights were quite thorough, perhaps understanding better than many others the commercial value of the patent they were claiming.

Page 3 of drawings for Wright Brothers patent of a flying machine

Page 3 of drawings for Wright Brothers patent of a flying machine

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