Missing Wright brothers patent found in cave


THE patent file for the Wright brothers’ ‘flying machine’ – missing since 1980 – has been discovered in a limestone cave.

A cold case team from the US National Archives recently ramped up its efforts to find the missing paperwork.

Record keepers realised the file was missing from the main Washington DC vault in 2000, and discovered that it had been potentially mislaid as far back as 1980.

But volunteer archivist Bob Beebe has now found it hidden among a 15ft-high stack of documents in a special records storage cave in Kansas.

The patent papers bear the names of Orville and Wilbur Wright and the words ‘flying machine’, the world’s first successful plane.

The pair made history on 17 December 1903 when they carried out the first controlled powered human flight.

They filed the patent – which covers the machine’s design and controls – nine months before their device even got off the ground, and it was granted in 1906.

It reads: “Be it known that we Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright, both citizens of the United States, residing in the city of Dayton and state of Ohio, have jointly invented a new and useful machine for navigating the air.”

The flight lasted just 12 seconds and covered 37 metres – but it was a huge step forward for mankind.

National Archives boss William J Bosanko said: “If somebody puts something back in the wrong place, it’s essentially lost.

“In this case, we didn’t know. We had to ask ourselves: ‘Is it something that could have been stolen?'”

The patent will go on display at the National Archives Museum in Washington DC later this month.

A number of key documents are missing from the National Archives – including the patent for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, photos from the Moon, and letters penned by Abraham Lincoln.

Some are presumed stolen, while others were likely mislaid. SkyNews

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