Linda Stevens is the Field Notes Coordinator for Smithsonian Journeys. Combing the Institution for interesting projects happening around the world, she prepares these research notes especially for travelers. Click here to learn more about Linda.
The centerpiece of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) is the 1903 Wright Flyer. But its journey to Washington, D.C. from Kitty Hawk, NC was long and complicated.
The 1903 Wright Flyer began to acquire the status of a national treasure in the 1920s as a feud developed between Orville Wright and the Smithsonian. The dispute centered on the Institution’s public display of the aeronautical achievements of its former Secretary, Samuel Langley, and its reluctance to credit the Wright brothers as the true inventors of the airplane. Langley had tested his aircraft, the Aerodrome, in October 1903 and again two months later. Both times it failed to achieve sustained controlled powered flight.