Orville Wright (1871-1948) & Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) (PT165)



2015-06-26 12:05:10

Orville Wright (1871-1948) & Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) (PT165)

The very first company cheque signed by the Wright Brothers representing the birth of the US airforce

Orville Wright (1871-1948) co-invented the first successful airplane, along with his brother Wilbur (1867-1912). The brothers were passionate about flying, working tirelessly on their ideas. They were also the first to test manned powered flight.

Other flying machines had been created long before the Wright brothers first started, but they were to the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

Wright Brothers, signed cheque Wright Brothers, signed cheque

This cheque, bearing both Orville and Wilbur's signatures, is written out to James Allen, Chief Signal Officer in the amount of $2,500. Drawn on The Winters National Bank, the partially printed cheque, numbered 1, is dated 27 January 1908 at Dayton, Ohio.

Wright Brothers, signature detail, front Wright Brothers, signature detail, front

The autographs and other handwritten details are marked in fine ink, in crisp neat handwriting by the Wright brothers. Some light age wear, otherwise in very good condition.

Wright Brothers, inscription on reverse Wright Brothers, inscription on reverse

The item has been stamped on the back and hole-punched as part of official bank procedure. Wilbur's signature on the recto is touched at the cross bar of the letter 't' by this hole-punch, otherwise unaffected. Orville's inscription on the verso reads 'Returned by James Allen, Chief Signal Officer, Wright Brothers, O.W.'

Wright Brothers' cheque, reverse Wright Brothers' cheque, reverse

The Wright Brothers The Wright Brothers


The Wrights had promised to deliver an aircraft to the US Board of Ordnance and Fortification, at a cost of $25,000. The Board put the contract out to tender, requiring a deposit of 10% of the bid by certified cheque, which could be fortified in case of failure. The cheque was to be made payable to the Chief Signal Officer and only the Wrights were expected to bid.

In response to the call to tender, the Wright Bros restructured their company to bid for the contract in January 1908, changing the name from Wright Cycle Co. to Wright Brothers, this cheque being the first cheque issued. On 27 January 1908 they submitted their bid, including this cheque.

The deadline for tenders was 1st February 1908 and, surprisingly, some 41 bids were received, only three of which had certified cheques. By the end of the month, the funds were released to the only firm who could supply a working aircraft, the Wright Brothers. They were awarded two contracts and their cheque was returned, as Orville notes on the verso of the item.

The airplane was required to reach a speed of 40mph, fly at least 125 miles and carry a load of 350lb. The brothers were awarded a $5,000 bonus for exceeding the speed requirement.

The first aircraft trials took place at Fort Myer, Virginia, from 2 September 1908. A number of successful flights were followed by a fatal journey undertaken on 17 September 1908. Thomas Etholen Selfridge, a trained candidate, acted as observer while Orville flew the plane to 150ft. At this point, a propeller broke, severing a wire to the rudder, causing the craft to crash. Orville Wright was injured and Selfridge was killed on impact, the first military airplane casualty.

Despite this early tragedy, the final and official acceptance of the Wright Brother's aircraft was made on2 August 1909.


This item is historically important as it is the first company cheque signed by the Wright Brothers. The cheque fundamentally represents the birth of the US Airforce, this was a tender for the first plane delivered to the US Army.

Both brothers' signatures on a single document are exceptionally rare. Wilbur died in 1912 and, as such, few of his signatures are known.



All items are sold with:

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For further information please email info@paulfrasercollectibles.com or telephone +44 (0) 117 933 9500

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