Secrets Uncovered
During the four months of disassembling, cleaning, preserving, and studying the Wright Flyer, the Museum staff learned many things about the famous object. When the fabric covering was removed, details of the structure were better understood and some interesting markings revealed.

Inside one of the wingtips was stamped the name "Browns." It was discovered that S. N. Brown Co. was a carriage company in Dayton, Ohio, and that the wingtips were made from bows that formed a folding carriage roof.

S.N. Brown Co. stamp on wing tip.
A similar discovery was made on the wing spars. Written on them were "Wilbur Wright" and the shipping destination of the parts, "Elizabeth City, N.C.," among other hand-written notations.
Wilbur Wright's hand-written notations.
Comparison of the fabric covering Orville put on in late 1926, early 1927 with a sample of original flown 1903 fabric in the museum's collection showed that Orville had sewn it on slightly differently in the 1920s. New fabric put on by NASM in 1985 was stitched using the 1903 pattern, increasing the accuracy of the Flyer as it is now displayed.

The original Pride of the West fabric used by Orville in 1903, 1916, and 1927 was no longer available in 1985, but a muslin very similar in weight and thread count was applied.

New fabric being sewn on original framework.
Some discoveries led to further questions. The Wrights reported that when the Flyer was overturned and damaged by a gust of wind at Kitty Hawk following their last flight on December 17, 1903, all the wing ribs were broken. Upon removal of the fabric by NASM in 1984, metal strips connecting the back section of the ribs behind the rear spar to the rest of the rib structure were found.

This begged the question were these metal strips repairs added later or part of the original design? In their records from 1903, the Wrights described the construction of their ribs as continuous framework, with no metal strips connecting separate sections, suggesting the present construction was a later change. But with no specific reference from Orville about the origin of the strips, the matter remains open to debate.

Metal strips connecting ribs.