Everybody knows that the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer, the first aircraft to successfully fly, is one of the proudest exhibits at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.

What most people DON'T know, however, is that for nearly 40 years, the Smithsonian refused to take it.

The reason why is an epic tale of bruised egos, corporate intrigue and international scandal.

Let's talk about it! ( 🧵​ )

First, the part of the story that you probably already know.

Orville and Wilbur Wright were bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio. When they weren't working on bikes, they were working on a popular engineering problem of the early 1900s: trying to come up with a working flying machine.

On December 17, 1903, on the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, their work paid off. Their "Wright Flyer" took to the air. By day's end, they were able to keep it in the air for 59 seconds, over a distance of 852 feet.

The Air Age had begun.

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