WILBUR WRIGHT TO PAUL TISSANDIER.
"YOU WILL BE RECORDMAN OF THE WORLD!"
Autograph Letter Signed ("Wilbur Wright"), 4 pp recto and verso (conjoined leaves), 6 x 5 inches, Dayton, OH, June 6, 1909, to the brothers' first pupil, the Frenchman Paul Tissandier, on personal letterhead, with transmittal envelope.
AUTOGRAPH LETTERS BY WILBUR WRIGHT, WHO DIED OF TYPHOID FEVER IN 1912, ARE OF THE UTMOST RARITY. The present letter, to a key collaborator and with early date and lengthy aviation content, is highly important.
In the summer of 1908, while Orville was working on convincing the American authorities of the efficacy of their machine, Wilbur was focusing on the stipulations of the syndicate of European investors who demanded that Wright train three pilots. The students were Comte Charles de Lambert, Paul Tissandier [1881-1945], and Capitaine Lucas de Girardville.
Wilbur started training the three students in Auvours in October 1908, but, joined by Orville and their sister Katherine, he began in earnest in the spring of 1909 at Pau in the south of France.
On May 18, after the Wrights' return to America, Tissandier had written to Wilbur from Paris, in broken English, that "I am now French recordman. I have turn round during 1 hour and four minutes and have made sixty kilometers." Tissandier thereby became the first person after the Wright brothers to fly for over an hour. He explained that he was still using the "old flyer which is at this time a little wear out," that he had a new engine, that he was struggling with carrying a passenger and with piloting the Flyer from Wright's seat, and that nonetheless all the credit for the records should go to the Flyer and its creators. (Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress; General Correspondence; digital ID mwright-03235.)
Wilbur replies, noting that "you say that you are still using the old machine, though it is almost worn out. I was told that the machine which was erected at Paris under the direction of my brother, was sent to Pau and used there instead of the old one. Was not this done? If not, where was it sent? Who has it now?
"You ought to have a good machine for teaching purposes. Then you could stay in the air with your pupil about 20 minutes each time, and teach them in less than ten lessons." He explains the benefits of longer lessons, and warns, "Before you permit a pupil to fly alone be very sure to caution him to rise not higher than three or four meters from the ground. They should rise higher only after they have learned to land safely from any height with the motor stopped."
Wilbur relays newsthat Orville hopes to begin flying a new machine at Fort Myer before the end of the monthand reassures Tissandier "We have never had any doubts but that you would do good work on the flyer, and your long flights have not been surprising to us. No doubt, before the year ends, you will be recordman of the world!"
Not in Miracle at Kitty Hawk (1972), ed. Kelly, and apparently unpublished.