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Missing Wright brothers' patent file foundMissing Wright brothers' patent file found

Document to be displayed at the National Archives MuseumDocument to be displayed at the National Archives Museum

Click to enlarge the Wright brothers' patent drawing.

A long-lost file containing the patent application filed by the Wright brothers in March 1903 for a “flying machine” and the patent issued three years later has been found and will go on display at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., on May 20.

Displaying the document—last seen 37 years ago—will mark the 110th anniversary of the awarding of the patent to Orville and Wilbur Wright on May 22, 1906, the National Archives Museum announced in a news release.

The most recent display of portions of the file was at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight. “However, after the loaned pages were returned to the National Archives the patent file went missing,” the announcement said.

The document was found “in the wrong box” last month through a special program launched in 2006 to recover “alienated and stolen archival materials.”

The patent file “was discovered to have been misfiled among more than 269 million pages of patent records held by the National Archives,” said the announcement.

News organizations reported that the patent file was found March 22 “in a limestone cave outside Kansas City” where the National Archives stores some historic records.

“The discovery of this misfiled record highlights our unwavering commitment to the recovery of alienated and stolen historical records as part of our immense responsibility as stewards of the records we hold in trust for the American people,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.

How much of the file will be on display in the National Archives Museum’s West Rotunda Gallery will be determined after a preservation assessment.

The National Archives holds more than 107,600 cubic feet of patent files.

Wright Brothers' patent application
Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Aviation Industry

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