Recently, an Australian researcher, John Brown, who lives in Germany, was hired by a German museum dedicated to “Gustave Whitehead” born (Gustav Abin Weisskopf) as the first man in flight. Brown claims both Wright Brothers and Smithsonian conspired to give the American brothers credit.
Over a century ago, a conspiracy theory is alive and well against the Smithsonian Institution; however, Brown feels very confident, claiming he found newly discovered proof in a very old photograph of Whitehead’s motor driven plane and spoke of The Wright-Smithsonian Contract.
Brown felt the Smithsonian not only was bias due to World War II; additionally, he accused the Smithsonian of rewriting the history of aviation during the cold war. His new website has made an extremely contentious claim of German-American immigrant, Gustave Whitehead, is the first in flight.
After the Wrights claimed to have developed a practical powered airplane between 1903 and 1905, they were widely doubted; however, the “Scientific American” offered one of the first definitive statements recognizing the magnitude of their achievement.
“In all the history of invention there is probably no parallel to the unostentatious manner in which the Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio, ushered into the world their epoch-making invention of the first successful aeroplane flying machine.
"Their success marked such an enormous stride forward in the art, was so completely unheralded , and was so brilliant that doubt as to the truth of the story was freely entertained….” Genesis of the First Successful Aeroplane,” Scientific American, December 15, 1906, pg. 1.
Following a thorough study of the Wright claims, the editors of the “Scientific American “…completely set to rest all doubts of what had been accomplished.” Unlike Gustave Whitehead, a flight demonstration proved that Wilbur and Orville Wright had accomplished all they claimed, and more.
Stanley Yale Beach, the grandson of the editor of Scientific American and Whitehead’s principle financial backer, was unequivocal on the following statement.
“I do not believe that any of his machines ever left the ground…in spite of the assertions of many people who think they saw them fly.
"I think I was in a better position during the nine years that I was giving Whitehead money to develop his ideas, to know what his machines could do than persons who were employed by him for a short period of time or those who remained silent for thirty-five years about what would have been an historic achievement in aviation.”
The entire Beach statement is included in C.H. Gibbs-Smith, “The Flight Claims of Gustave Whitehead,” an unpublished manuscript in the author’s collection, p. 66. (available in the NASM Archive).