John Brown responds to Wall Street Journal

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Dear Ms. Mitchell,

In today’s Wall Street Journal,  you’re quoted as stating that the Smithsonian Institution, “has extensively researched Mr. Whitehead’s claims over several decades.” “None of the material Mr. Brown has presented is new—it has all been thoroughly researched by members of our staff and other aviation historians.” (I’m the “Mr. Brown” you’re referring to. It’s unfortunate we didn’t meet when
I was conducting my research there for Smithsonian Channel last year.)

I have two questions in regard to your statement:

1). In several emails to me, your Chief Aviation Historian, Tom Crouch, confirmed that many of my research-findings about Mr. Whitehead were indeed new to him (attached). Was this taken into consideration when you made your statement to the Wall Street Journal about me having presented ‘nothing new’? (Tom even posted an 1897 lithograph which I found – showing Whitehead’s triplane – on the Smithsonian blog.) You may want to check back with him about this.


2). I’m unaware of any “thorough research” The Smithsonian has conducted into the flight claims of Gustave Whitehead. Would you please be so kind as to direct me to any such ‘research’ (i.e., not just ‘circumstantial opinions’ based on Mr. Whitehead’s activities 5 years before and 5 years after the events of 1901-1902)?

When Harvard University’s Prof. John Crane, and the Library of Congress’ Chief Aviation historian, Prof. Albert Zahm, both examined Mr. Whitehead’s claim in the 1930s, they independently concluded, Mr. Whitehead had flown in the period 1901-1902. When Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft recently examined the case, they too determined that Mr. Whitehead had flown.
However, to the best of my knowledge,
– the Smithsonian declined invitations to investigate the case in the 1930s,
– merely negotiated transfer of recognition from its own Director, Langley, to the Wrights in 1942-1948 (without conducting any investigation)
– and again, in the 1960s, when The Smithsonian was invited to participate in yet another investigation, it once again declined to become fully involved.

Is this information incorrect? If yes, would you please direct me to any such
documentation I may have overlooked.

Best regards,

John Brown

Updated: June 11, 2013 — 10:09 AM
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