Based on a video and two articles, one form May 1904, and the other from December 1951, both of them quoting people who personally knew the Wright brothers (see the explanations below), I have reached the conclusion that the oldest clear published photos of a Wright powered flying machine appeared in French newspapers on August 12, 1908, and the oldest unclear pictures in the Scientific American, on May 30, 1908. Another conclusion would be that the Wright brothers could not have taken any picture, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, of one of their airplanes in flight, before April-May 1908.

Question: Are there newspapers, magazines, etc., older than Aug, 12, 1908, that show a Wright airplane on the ground or flying? I am looking for them in archives but I can not find anything.

enter image description here

Video link: The Wright brothers and their imaginary 1903-1905 flights

The Wright brothers did not even finish the 1903 plane at Kitty Hawk, NC. Flyer 1 never flew as can be seen in the following 1904 article:

The Wilmington Messenger, Wilmington, North Carolina, May 26, 1904, col. 1, p. 6.

Elizabeth City Economist: A gentleman visiting this city whose home is in Kitty Hawk, is responsible for the assertion that the Wright brothers, of airship fame, will return to Kitty Hawk in the near future and resume work on their aerial monster. According to this gentleman the airship has never been removed from Kitty Hawk and nearly all the interviews published in the papers of Norfolk have been erroneous in this respect. This gentleman has assisted the Wrights in all their work and has a general supervision of their property during their absence. He says that they have not completed the ship and that they will return some time within the next month and resume their work. A story is current that they will complete the ship and make the trip from here to St. Louis sometime this fall.

The text says that, according to a man that worked for the Wrights and took care of their things left behind at Kitty Hawk, the two inventors hadn't finished Flyer I as of May 26, 1904. In conclusion, this machine did not fly on December 17, 1903!

The true date of the above picture is May 1908 not December 17, 1903

The true date of the above picture is May 1908 not December 17, 1903.

The fact that the photo was taken in May 1908 is also supported by the 1951 declaration of Alpheus W. Drinkwater, a man who knew the Wright brothers.

Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with making their first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine on Dec. 17, 1903. But Alpheus W. Drinkwater, 76 years old, who sent the telegraph message ushering in the air age, said the brothers only “glided” off Kill Devil Hill that day. Their first real flight came on May 6, 1908, he said. (Source: New York Times, Dec. 17, 1951.)

As a note: The Wrights left Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903 and only came back in April 1908.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the definition of "Resource location": " Where to buy a specific part, "Which headset is the best?", Where can I get a feed of flight-related data? " My question is about the history of aviation (an allowed subject) and has nothing to do with Resource location. Most questions in connection with the history of aviation can not be correctly and precisely answered without quoting old documents in archives. $\endgroup$
    – Argon
    Nov 6, 2020 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ I agree. It is a good question. I never knew there was any controversy. And the doubts seem credible... $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2020 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's promoting a hoax, a debunked "conspiracy theory" type of revisionist history. One link to one ridiculous video is far from "credible" - there are Flat Earth videos with as much credibility as that. Let's don't taint AV.SE with this garbage. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Nov 6, 2020 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Ron Beyer, I understand what you are saying and agree to a point, but the title question is really a simple yes or no question that could be put to bed forever easily enough for anybody stumbling on this site. i.e. "Yes, and here it is: __" would kill the controversy forever, right? Closing the question just adds fuel... $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2020 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ Re - "The true date of the above picture is May 1908 not December 17, 1903."-- that's ridiculous. Why has this question not been heavily dv'd? $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2020 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


I am not aware of any picture printed before August 1908 and showing a fully recognizable Wright plane, beyond any doubt.

As a remark, there exists a drawing, published in L'Auto, a French newspaper, on December 24, 1905, but it is just a rough sketch. However, this caricature is the closest drawing to what would become to be known as the Wright planes, much later, starting with August 1908.

As an explanation: Robert Coquelle, a French journalist, while in the United States for other purposes, visited the Wright brothers, did not see any plane and once back in France he made fun of them in L'Auto in an article titled: "The conquest of the air by two bicycle dealers". Coquelle does not clearly explain the origin of the drawing below that illustrates his article.

The true aeroplane of the Wright brothers

The true aeroplane of the Wright brothers.

Source: 1905-12-24, Robert Coquelle, “La Conquête de l’Air par deux Marchands de Cycles. Comment un ancien champion cycliste, Johanny S. Johnson, introduisit un rédacteur de « l’Auto » dans l’atelier des frères Wright.”, L’Auto, Paris, Saturday, December 24, 1905.


Are you seriously concluding that the Wright brothers did not fly until 1908 based on the absence of a published picture and a couple of outlier statements?

In the past, it has been all too easy for someone to pull a couple of articles out of the air and assert that our understanding of history is wrong. However, in the age of the internet, this is no longer true. If you go to Chronicling America a free newspaper database and search for "Wright brothers" for the period 1903 to 1908, you will get thousands of hits. If you search for the period 1903 to 1904, you will get hundreds of hits describing the 1903 flight.

For example, a 1907 article called "The Reality of the Airship" which appeared in the Sunday Star, Washington, DC (6/2/1907), part 4, p. 4, quotes at great length a speech given by Sir Alexander Graham Bell - a competitor to the Wright brothers. He states "Their machine has flown not once simply, but many times, and in the presence of witnesses, so that there can be no doubt that the first successful flying machine has at last appeared." He then describes the Dayton flights in great detail.

Given all those contemporary articles and eyewitness accounts, I believe that the burden of proof is on you to prove that all those statements were lies before you can seriously assert that the Wright brothers did not fly until 1908.

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    $\begingroup$ It’s worth bearing in mind that photography in 1903 was only a small step away from having a portrait painted and was ill-suited to a transient event with significant movement. It might be considered analogous to questioning whether a present day event took place because it wasn’t enshrined in a non-fungible asset. $\endgroup$
    – Frog
    Jun 10, 2021 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ After searching "Chronicling America" for a few months, I have reached the conclusion that there is nothing there of any value regarding the 1903-1905 powered flights of the Wright brothers. The most accurate and documented articles repeat again and again the stories launched by the Wright brothers themselves. Alexander Graham Bell just read "The statement of the Wrights to the Aero Club of America (dated March 12, 1906)" in which the two inventors claimed a number o long flights seen by 18 witnesses, all named. (see: transcription.si.edu/view/13664/…). $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ Phil Crowther, I am still waiting to see that "clear picture or drawing, of a Wright brothers' plane, published before August 12, 1908". I was unable to find it in the archive "Chronicling America". $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the the absence of a clear drawing, I am a bit confused because in your previous post, you showed the drawing published in 1906. While not a work of art, it does clearly show the basic shape of the airplane, the propellers, chains and track they used. Their reluctance to publish the 1903 picture in 1903 is understandable because they were attempting to patent their wing-warping mechanism and would not have wanted the public to see the mechanism until the patent was granted. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2021 at 19:03

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