News-Antique.com - Oct 27,2010 - 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.
The cheque 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.
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 on 9 August 1909, designated 'Signal Corps No. 1'.
Items of this calibre are realy seen outside museums.
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