Today Wilbur and Orville Wright are part of the national cultural identity, and the Wright Flyer is an icon of ingenuity and technical creativity. The world's first airplane is not only the centerpiece of the National Air and Space Museum, but also one of the signature artifacts of the entire Smithsonian Institution. But, of course, when Wilbur and Orville built and flew the 1903 Flyer, it was not a national treasure. To them it was essentially a research tool in their path toward a practical airplane. Its transformation into a priceless piece of American heritage, displayed in the nation's capital, would take some interesting twists and turns.