SP-4103 Model Research - Volume 1

 

2

War Business: A Laboratory and Licensing; Committees and Engines, 1915-1918

 

[27] If the men responsible for creating the NACA had a goal when they set out, the Committee's organic legislation failed to make clear just what that goal was or how they might achieve it. The legislation, in fact, contributed to the confusion surrounding American aviation and added yet another agency to the number of government and private institutions struggling to penetrate the chaos. More than a year after the NACA was created, Charles Walcott could still lament "that things are very uncertain about aeronautics .....; in fact, that we are almost ignorant of what aviation means."1

 

What To Do

 

This uncertainty and lack of direction was evident when the NACA met for the first time 23 April 1915 in the office of the secretary of war. Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, chief signal officer of the army and ex officio head of army aviation, was elected temporary chairman, apparently because the meeting place was an army office and Walcott happened to be absent. Also, Scriven had presented to the Committee* a long letter outlining a proposed system of organization and suggesting that the Committee use its influence to support requests by the military services for increased aviation budgets. As if to balance the services within the NACA, Naval Constructor Holden C. Richardson was elected secretary. With these officers installed, the Committee took its first official action: adding the word National to its name, filling out the acronym NACA by which it was thereafter known and distinguishing....

 


[
28]

Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, chief signal officer of the army and first chairman of the NACA. (LaRC)

Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, chief signal officer of the army and first chairman of the NACA. (LaRC)

 

.....itself from the British Advisory Committee for Aeronautics after which it was modeled and named.2

The first substantive business was to approve a set of operating rules, which had been called for in the organic legislation, drafted by Walcott, and circulated in his absence. The Committee readily agreed to meet twice a year, in October and April, and at such other special meetings as the chairman might call. The members also agreed that a seven-man Executive Committee elected by and from the membership of the Main Committee "shall control the administration of the affairs of the Committee, and shall have general supervision of all arrangements for research, and other matters undertaken or promoted by the Advisory Committee," acting, of course, "in accordance with the general instructions of the Advisory Committee." As Walcott put it some years later, the Executive Committee was to be "the working organization."3

All this was structural; nothing functional was accomplished at this first meeting. Rather, the NACA followed the path it would take throughout its history when faced with a problem: it formed a committee. It elected an Executive Committee, instructing the members "to [29] consider a program of investigation and procedure which shall be intended to carry into practical effect the purposes of the Act creating the Advisory Committee and to report the same with recommendations." The Executive Committee met the same afternoon, chose Walcott chairman in absentia, and adjourned until he could be present.4

 

 


The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics had its first meeting in the office of the secretary of war, 23 April 1915.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics had its first meeting in the office of the secretary of war, 23 April 1915. Seated, left to right: Professor William F. Durand, Stanford University; Dr. S. W. Stratton, director, National Bureau of Standards; Brig. Gen. George R Scriven, chief signal officer, War Department; Dr. Charles P. Marvin, chief, United States Weather Bureau; Professor Michael L Pupin, Columbia University. Standing: Naval Constructor Holden C. Richardson; Professor John F. Hayford, Northwestern University; Captain Mark L. Bristol, director of naval aeronautics; Lt. Col. Samuel Reber, Army Signal Corps, in charge of aviation section. Also present but not in the Picture were Professor Joseph S. Ames, Johns Hopkins University, and the Honorable Byron R. Newton, assistant secretary of the Treasury. Absent was Charles D. Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. (LaRC)

 

Even before Walcott chaired his first Executive Committee meeting, he began to make his presence felt. The Main Committee had deleted from the draft of rules and regulations sent to President Wilson the original suggestion by Walcott that the NACA should appoint subcommittees, chaired by members of the Main Committee but including outsiders as well. Scriven had been opposed to having any subcommittees at all, feeling that they were "apt to lead to confusion and lack of progress." He wanted to see the Main Committee subdivided into an administrative board of government members, a science board of private members, and an executive council of three members [30] to run the organization day-to-day. It was apparently at his urging that Walcott's provision for subcommittees was dropped from the rules and regulations. Learning of this action, Walcott appealed directly to President Wilson, at whose request the provision was restored.5 This alteration, of little immediate significance beyond demonstrating where the real power in the Committee lay, in later years would open the NACA to thousands of men from all walks of American aeronautics who would serve on NACA technical committees. Probably no provision in the original rules and regulations would be more important than this one.

When Walcott finally did take the chair of the Executive Committee, his personal influence was usually less pronounced. The Committee devoted most of the first year's budget to subsidizing research at private institutions, the reports of which came to be published as addenda to the Committee's annual report to Congress. The Committee sought headquarters more suitable than the temporary office provided by the army, beginning a long series of moves into a variety of public and private buildings around Washington, but never far from the army or the navy. At the Committee's direction, the secretary conducted a survey of aeronautical activity in the United States, confirming what was already suspected: there was precious little activity, and it was in a sorry state compared to the progress being made in Europe.6

The aeronautical survey entailed correspondence with 112 universities, 22 aero clubs, 10 manufacturers, and 8 government departments, a mailing that prompted the hiring of the first employee of the NACA: a clerk. John F. Victory - already secretary to Holden C. Richardson, officer in charge of the navy's aeronautical laboratory and now secretary of the NACA - was a natural choice for the new post when it appeared. Skilled at shorthand and typing and familiar with the operations of government agencies, Victory had galloping ambition, an enormous appetite for work, a need to succeed (to contribute to the support of his orphaned younger sisters), and a punctiliousness equal to the demands of the bureaucratic career on which he was embarking. Like the Committee he was joining, he was young and lean and looking for the main chance. He and the Committee grew together, mirrors of each other and inseparable from each other's history.7

The Committee's great work of 1915 was the promotion of a laboratory. Beginning with the Aero Club scheme of 1911, and through all its reincarnations in the locality of the Smithsonian Institution, the idea of a research laboratory had been at the heart of the enthusiasm for a national aeronautical research establishment. Neither the vague wording nor the lack of funding for such a laboratory in the NACA organic legislation was going to deter the true believers on the Com [31] mittee from achieving the goal that had always been foremost in their minds. Within six months of the Committee's creation, while the method and direction of the Committee's activities were still being debated, the issue of a laboratory was officially raised.

Curiously, it seems to have been interservice rivalry that first brought the issue into the open. In September 1915, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels had asked his newly appointed Naval Consulting Board for advice on setting Up "an experimental and research laboratory," which he had been told was "now considered an essential part of every great manufacturing establishment." General Scriven cited this letter in recommending to the NACA in October that the Committee "make an urgent appeal for money for the purpose of establishing an aerodynamical laboratory."8 It is not clear whether he was simply seconding the proposal of Daniels or was trying to keep the navy from establishing a monopoly of government sponsored aeronautical research. Certain aspects of subsequent jockeying over a laboratory site suggest the latter; whatever the motive, Scriven's letter brought the issue out of the shadows.

Within two weeks the question came before a special meeting of the NACA, where a budget request of $85,000 for fiscal 1917 was discussed and approved. It included $53,580 for a laboratory, close to the figure of $50,000 proposed by Scriven in April. There was some talk of hiring a director for the laboratory, but the budget contained no funds for such a salary. At this stage the Committee requested only two more clerks, two technical assistants, two draftsmen, two laborers, and three mechanics. This proposal was forwarded to Secretary of the Navy Daniels for inclusion in the navy's budget, of which the NACA's $5000-per-year allotment was still a part.9

Daniels would have none of it. As he explained to President Wilson in a letter the following month:

 

The Advisory Committee has sent over estimates for next year to the amount of $85,000.00, and requested me to include them this year in the Navy Bill. The increase in our estimates is so large that I hesitate to include them because this Advisory Committee was effected for the development of aviation generally, and not particularly for the Navy. It seems to me they are asking for a very large sum, and that in-as-much as I am asking money for the Naval Consulting Board I ought not to ask for this as well in the Naval Bill. They maintain that this is the only way their appropriation can be obtained. Undoubtedly this Advisory Board can do important work, but it seems to me that when they ask for buildings and equipment they are getting outside of their position as advisors merely, and are beginning a new establishment.10 [Italics added.]

 

[32] ".... Beginning a new establishment"' had been the very objection raised when Walcott tried to get $50,000 in 1914 to fund the Langley laboratory. Whether Daniels was looking to his own interests here, reserving aeronautical research to the navy, or merely concerned about an increase that might endanger his already substantial budget request, he was surely voicing a reservation not new in Washington. Wilson replied that he was in complete agreement. He said: "I think the committee would make a great mistake in extending its expenses as proposed and might imperil the success of the whole plan of advice."11

This was a job for Walcott. When the proposal came back from Daniels rejected, Walcott was appointed with Stratton, the influential head of the National Bureau of Standards, "to take the necessary actions." By the time the Executive Committee met again, Walcott was able to report that he had "had interviews" with the secretary of the navy and the president, testified before the same House Committee on Naval Affairs that had approved the NACA legislation the previous year, and submitted detailed estimates of the Committee's proposed expenditures for fiscal year 1917. Walcott's papers contain no record of any meeting at all with President Wilson during this period, nor do they reveal the substance of the conversation Walcott and Stratton had with Secretary Daniels when they called on him on 17 February. The result of these activities, however, was unmistakable. The full amount of $85,000 was appropriated by Congress on 29 August 1916 and quickly signed into law by President Wilson. Within two months the masterful Walcott was chairing a new subcommittee to select a site for the laboratory.12

The clarity of vision exhibited by the Committee in pursuit of a laboratory contrasted sharply with the lack of purpose and direction that marked its other activities in 1915 and 1916. Like the Smithsonian advisory committee before it, the NACA in 1916 took to covering every problem with a subcommittee, so that the list of subcommittees constitutes at once a catalog of the perceived problems in aeronautics and a guide to the NACA's territory. In the 1916 Annual Report, for example, the list of ten subcommittees corresponds readily to the "General Problems" outlined by the Committee on the very next page. Some of these subcommittees, like Motive Power, were to see long and important service; others, like Radiator Design, proved unnecessary and short-lived. Three of the subcommittees had only two members; the rest had no more than six, at least three of whom were members of the Main Committee.13

No doubt the NACA was using this mechanism to find its way in uncharted waters, and some of the silliness that went on in those early days reveals just how little was known about aeronautics at the time, and how many basic decisions and discoveries had to be made before [33] the Committee could shape a rational course.14 For instance, the subcommittees on Standardization and Investigation of Materials and Nomenclature for Aeronautics were both at a loss to define a right-hand engine. The NACA sought the counsel of the Society of Automotive Engineers, but even with that assistance it took 17 years and 6 technical reports to finally settle on a definition. No agreement could be reached on whether to use the term engine or motor in aeronautics, until General Squier observed that engines could be shipped at a lower freight rate ,than motors; engines it became. 15 A two-man committee was appointed to determine what kind of paper the annual report should be printed on. As chairman of the subcommittee on Governmental Relations, Walcott investigated whether a hangar should be constructed on the Mall below the Capitol to accommodate transient aviators. The Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds did not think highly of that idea, suggesting instead that the military services might be able to provide a landing field and hangar. So Walcott added a navy and an army representative to his subcommittee, and continued his inquiry.16

Meanwhile, however, some important work was also being accomplished. The survey of aeronautical activities, the hiring of Victory, and the funding of the laboratory are clear examples. There were others as well. John H. DeKlyn, an engineer with the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Corporation, was hired as a draftsman, the first technical employee of the NACA. The Office of Aeronautical Intelligence was formed to serve as the Committee's clearinghouse of aeronautical information, published and unpublished, from all over the world. As early as 1916, the Main Committee met with a representative of the Post Office Department and thereafter enthusiastically supported government subsidy and encouragement of airmail service. In another landmark action the Committee laid down a publication policy: All reports of the NACA would be published as addenda to the annual report, and there would be no prior publication. Work done or funded by the NACA would appear under the NACA banner before being published or copied elsewhere.17

Until its laboratory was constructed, the Committee continued to rely on contracts for aeronautical research. Most of the contracts were with academic institutions; by far the largest was with William F. Durand of Stanford, for experimentation with propellers. As Durand was a member of the Main Committee, contracts with him would today be called a clear conflict of interest. He participated actively in the process that selected him for the job, and the contracts were let to him personally, not just to his institution. Yet the Committee members seem to have harbored no notion of a conflict at the time, although they were keenly aware of the need to keep business representatives off the Committee lest they influence the NACA's work to their own [34] benefit and win for themselves what the Progressives would call "special privileges." Perhaps the Committee members simply felt that since Durand was the best man for the job - he probably was - there was no reason not to contract with him. That he happened also to be a member of the Committee was simply a natural consequence of his standing in the field. After all, the NACA wanted the best members they could get and the best contractors as well; small wonder if they turned out to be the same person. If the members thought this way about Durand, they were indulging the rationalization that would one day see representatives of business and industry win places at the NACA conference table even while their companies were seeking use of NACA facilities and performing contractual work for the federal government.18

Important as these early steps were, none was to have a greater impact on American aviation in World War I than the work the NACA did with engines. Engines drew the NACA into its first major association with industry, and that association put the NACA in a position to resolve the great patent dispute of 1916 and 1917.

 

ENGINES AND INDUSTRY

 

Industry representatives may have been excluded from NACA membership, but the NACA was not deaf to their needs. On the contrary, the members of the NACA believed to a man that the future of aviation in the United States depended on a healthy and prosperous aircraft-manufacturing industry, and that it was the NACA's duty to help where it could. From the outset, the NACA was an industry booster limited only by its need to be fair and impartial in disbursing favors and assistance. The first clear evidence of this boosterism was its handling of the aircraft-engine problem in 1916.

At the time, automobile manufacturers were the principal builders of aeronautical engines. Without the stimulus of war, which was precipitating such great advances in Europe, American manufacturers were falling increasingly behind the Europeans. As the possibility of U.S. entry into the war grew larger, this situation grew more perilous. Everyone was dissatisfied, but no one could provide the coordination necessary to get manufacturers and government officials together.

Into this breach stepped the NACA. The Committee called a public meeting of the Executive Committee for 8 June 1916, inviting representatives of all the major aeronautical-engine manufacturers and the heads of the military aviation procurement offices. The meeting was an overt attempt to bring together the consumers and the producers, to identify what was holding back engine production in the United States, and perhaps to decide on a remedy. Chairman Walcott stated the [35] problem bluntly in his opening remarks: "There is not a good American motor made." It was, he said, up to the people in that room of the Smithsonian building to correct the deficiency.19

Soon enough the need for such a meeting became evident. Howard E. Coffin, the most emphatic and critical industry spokesman, lamented the red tape and confusion in Washington that kept manufacturers from cooperating more fully with the government. An executive of the Hudson Motor Company and a member of the Naval Consulting Board, Coffin had seen the problem from both sides. To him, the solution was clear: rely on engineering instead of bureaucracy; imitate the cooperation that had been achieved between the automobile industry and the Society of Automotive Engineers. "There is no question whatever," he maintained, "but that the whole development of the motor car art, not only in an engineering line, but in a commercial way, is based absolutely on the work of the engineers." The same solution could work for the aviation industry, he said, for "the problems confronting the aircraft industry are wonderfully simple compared with those of the automobile industry." What was wanted, in fact, was a "merging of the gas engine interests in this country in one strong central organization" modeled on the SAE. Such an organization could create the cooperation and coordination within industry necessary to produce the aircraft engines wanted in Washington.20

Another problem, however, was less tractable. Attempts by Coffin to coordinate the work of the producer (the aircraft-engine industry) with that of the consumer (the military aviation branches) had collided with the same 1909 law that had scuttled President Taft's Woodward commission in 1912 and the Smithsonian's Langley Laboratory Advisory Committee in 1914. Efforts to bring together manufacturers and the military services had failed, said Coffin, because some government representatives claimed they were not at liberty to serve on boards and committees without congressional approval. Some of the NACA members tried to tell Coffin that he had "the wrong idea" about the limitations on cooperation, and the exchange got a little heated. When Coffin told Captain Mark L. Bristol that he [Bristol] could not attend a meeting of the Naval Consulting Board if invited, Bristol replied curtly "Oh, yes, I could." Samuel W. Stratton told Coffin that what he was reporting was absurd; Coffin was quick to agree, but insisted that all he was doing was quoting the law. He asked that the exchange be incorporated in the record of the meeting.21

Before the conversation could deteriorate further, Chairman Walcott intervened to review the NACA's sad experience with the law that had been thwarting Coffin, and to observe that the NACA enabling legislation was intended in part to get around just that bureaucratic obstacle. "One of the strong arguments for the organization of [36] this committee," Walcott noted, "was to bring together all the agencies of the Government, and any outside agencies we could get to cooperate. That was the fundamental thought in the organization of the committee."

To this, Coffin replied with all the pent up frustration of half a year:

 

That is one of the worst features of dealing with the Government down here. I have been dealing rather intimately now for six months with nearly every Department. It keeps one lying awake nights to determine the channels through which one should handle certain lines of work. Patriotism is all right, but when one has been bandied from one department to another for a while, patriotism ceases to be a very potent influence. This is exactly the condition that most civilian activities are up against when they try to cooperate with the Government. The Naval Consulting Board has gotten around it because we have refused to be insulted, but that situation does exist. Therefore, I think that any act that you gentlemen may take which will definitely and for all time establish the channel of contact between the aeronautical interests of the Government and the civilian aeronautic interests, will be a long step in the right direction.22

 

It was becoming increasingly clear why the United States had no satisfactory airplane engine, and why an organization like the NACA could be of real service.

Failure to get an engine, however, had not been due to lack of government interest, as Captain Mark Bristol took pains to make clear. Emerging as the most forceful and insistent government representative at the meeting, something of an official counterpart of Coffin, Bristol repeated over and over again: "We want a motor!" Replying to criticism from another industry representative that "the one cry" common to everyone in the industry who had tried to deal with Washington was "lack of interest and cooperation," Bristol said to the whole group: "I want to get one idea in the minds of you gentlemen - get a motor, no matter what it Costs!"23

The meeting was dissolving into a rite of blame-laying. The industry representatives felt they knew how to cooperate among themselves - witness the automobile industry from which most of them came - they lacked clear direction from Washington about what was wanted . The government officials professed a willingness to allow handsome profits to any company that would step into the breach and make the engines they needed. These veiled accusations were laced with appropriate niceties characterizing this meeting as a new and promising departure in government-industry relations, but a stiffness and rancor in the room boded ill for any real progress.

[37] To break the ice, Chairman Walcott had sent word to his wife to prepare one of her elegant lunches in the dining room at the Smithsonian. When everyone at the morning session had had his say, Walcott suggested that they resume discussion in the afternoon and recess for luncheon. By the time the), returned, the whole tenor of the meeting had changed.24 The byword now was cooperation, or (as Coffin came to call it) "a committee of co-operation,"25 a mechanism that would overcome the obstacles to the industry's designing and building the aircraft engine the government wanted. The mechanism was to be the NACA's Committee on Motive Power, a forum where representatives of industry and government could work out the specifications of the engine and the procedures for producing and marketing it.

Summarizing the philosophy behind the agreed plan of action, a consulting engineer to the War Department stated how all such engineering problems should be handled, and how the NACA might act:

 

We get together the producer, the consumer, and the neutral, if there be any neutrals. Those interests must take up any problem I don't care what it is, even if it is the establishment of a lock washer as standard. We must have all our fights in committee. What is the result? The combined knowledge of everybody concerned is brought out. All the gobbies are killed - evaporated - thrown overboard, and the result is a boiled down, engineering piece of construction that is beyond criticism at the moment of its adoption.26 [Italics added.]

 

He concluded on an optimistic note reflecting the tone taken on by the entire meeting as it drew to a close: "Cooperation as suggested here today will lead to a motor in a year, as good as can be produced in a short time by any method." That is a fair description of the Liberty engine which in fact resulted from the cooperation established at this meeting.

 

THE CROSS-LICENSING AGREEMENT

 

In view of the NACA's successful intervention in the aircraft-engine problem, it was natural for the services to turn to the Committee again when the next dispute with industry occurred. Within the same year a new and more serious problem appeared that threatened to shut down all aircraft manufacture in the United States just as involvement in World War I seemed imminent. The NACA's role in this second issue was its finest hour in the Great War; it was also a source of controversy and unpleasantness that would darken the Committee's history for many years to come.

The problem arose from the same issues that had sparked the Wright Smithsonian controversy of earlier years, a controversy that [38] had yet to run its course. In 1903 the Wright brothers had patented a "wing warping" technique of lateral control in which the wings were actually twisted in opposite directions to create a differential lifting force, the same result achieved later by ailerons.

In a series of patent lawsuits the courts had generally sided with the Wrights, agreeing that this creation of a differential lifting force was a unique contribution to flying. Glenn Curtiss, who became the Wrights' principal antagonist, disagreed, claiming the the aileron used on his many planes was fundamentally different from the Wright brothers' wing-warping technique and independent from it. Unable to win his case in court, Curtiss in 1914 refurbished the Langley aerodrome, for the Smithsonian Institution as a means of trying to prove "prior art," i.e., to show that manned heavier-than-air flight had been possible before the introduction of the Wright invention.27

After Wilbur's untimely death in 1912, Orville made few original contributions to aviation; but he continued to defend tenaciously what he considered to be the rights and the precedence he and his brother had earned. Even after selling his interest in the pivotal patent, Orville continued to defend his reputation and that of his brother.

The Wright-Martin Company that bought him out, however, was primarily interested in recovering the more than $1,000,000 it had paid for the rights to the patent. In December 1916, the company notified other aircraft manufacturers that they would have to pay a royalty of five percent on each aircraft sold, with a minimum annual royalty of $10,000 per manufacturer. Wright-Martin demanded this royalty on all aircraft, whether they achieved differential lifting by the wing-warping technique of the Wrights or the far more popular ailerons employed by Curtiss. This was the final straw. Lawsuits and threats of suits had already frightened many manufacturers out of the field. The patent royalties that Curtiss was demanding for his numerous inventions - partly, no doubt, in retaliation against the Wright patents - were already making aircraft prices prohibitive. And now came the Wright-Martin demand. Just when the services wanted more airplanes than ever before, when it looked as if the United States would inevitably be drawn into the war in Europe, the nascent American aircraft industry faced an impasse.

The armed services turned once again to the NACA. In January 1917, Acting Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt and Acting Secretary of War W.M. Ingraham asked for the good offices of the Committee in arriving at some equitable solution. The first response considered by the Committee was confiscation. As the minutes of the 11 January meeting of the Executive Committee recorded it:

 

[39] Professor Pupin suggested that the time is ripe and the concrete case exists in this instance to recommend to Congress a change in the patent law to effect compulsory license.28

 

That was tough talk, not the type of thing these sober and established men believers all in the system of free enterprise and minimum government intervention took lightly. But this was a tough case and the security of the nation seemed to hang in the balance. At the next meeting, on I February, the Executive Committee resolved to recommend to the president that the government buy the basic aeronautic patents. But, before sending the letter, the Executive Committee' met with representatives of the Wright Martin Aircraft Corporation. Wright-Martin was willing to sell the patent to the government but, in the course of the meeting, it was also suggested that a cross licensing agreement might be worked out.29

Everyone's model for such an agreement was the one used in the automobile industry and administered by the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce. It had been worked out after the noted patent attorney, W. Benton Crisp, broke the Selden patent for Henry Ford, a patent as basic for the automobile as the Wright patent for the airplane. Crisp had subsequently represented Howard E. Coffin in the Hudson crankshaft patent case, and: Coffin was soon to move from the Naval Consulting Board to the chairmanship of the new Aircraft Production Board. Crisp was now attorney for the Curtiss Burgess company in its suit to break the Wright patent. The ties between the automobile industry's cross licensing agreement and the patent problems of the aircraft industry were many and complex, and it was inevitable that the model that had worked so well in the earlier case would be introduced into the aircraft dispute.30

First, however, the NACA needed some leverage. Two days after meeting with the Wright-Martin representatives, Walcott wrote to President Wilson recommending an amendment to either the naval or the military appropriations bill to provide $1,000,000 for the purpose of acquiring "by purchase, condemnation, donation, or otherwise, such basic patent or patents" as the government might need.31 Although Walcott's letter mentioned only the Wright patent, the wording of the proposed law left the government free to secure to itself any patents it deemed necessary.

Within little more than a month, the desired legislation was enacted as a rider on the naval appropriations bill, giving the NACA the power it needed to negotiate with industry. On 8 March it appointed a Subcommittee on Patents consisting of two NACA members and one representative each from the army and the navy. On 22 March the entire Executive Committee of the NACA met with the principal [40] aircraft manufacturers, including the members of the Aircraft Manufacturers Association, a cooperative newly formed to resolve the industry's problems internally. So far it had been signally unsuccessful.32

Walcott opened the meeting by contrasting the rapid strides in European aircraft production with the sorry history of American manufacture. The industry was not entirely to blame; in the eight years before 1916, for example, the army had ordered only 59 airplanes, receiving only 54, of which only 22 were from the same manufacturer. Now, however, the threat of war had increased the demand. The army had ordered 366 planes in 1916 but had received only 64. Walcott estimated that the military services would need 4000 planes annually by 1919; if that figure was to be reached, the current deadlock in production would have to be broken.33

Walcott assured the meeting that the NACA viewed legal action against the existing patent only as a last resort. Preferable to the Committee, and no doubt to the manufacturers as well, would be a cross licensing agreement similar to the one used by the automobile industry. The agreement would require all aircraft manufacturers to join the Aircraft ' Manufacturers Association, effective 2 March 1917. Each member would pay into the Association $200 for each airplane manufactured. Of that amount, $135 would go to Wright-Martin, $40 to Curtiss, and $25 to the Association for operating expenses. Payments to Wright-Martin would cease on 22 May 1923 when the Wright patent expired. Payments to Curtiss would cease on 30 October 1933 when the last Curtiss patent expired, or whenever the total royalty paid to Curtiss equalled what had been paid to Wright-Martin. This plan tacitly recognized the Wright and Curtiss patent claims as being equally fundamental and valuable.34

On 24 March, Walcott reported these conclusions to the secretary of war, admitting the NACA's inability to calculate how much money the Wright-Martin and the Curtiss Burgess companies might realize from the agreement. He suggested that the government might prefer simply to buy the patent rights from each company for $1,000,000 apiece, a figure that the company representatives presumably had found acceptable in the course of the meeting.35

Before anything could be done, external events intervened. The United States declaration of war against Germany on 7 April 1917 instantly changed the outlook for airplane manufacture. Soon French and British missions were in the United States talking about a tenfold increase in the number of planes to be provided by the U.S. Aircraft in such numbers meant that the royalties accruing under the proposed agreement to the Wright Martin and Curtiss Burgess companies before their patents expired could reach entirely unanticipated levels. Negotiations [41] within the Aircraft Manufacturers Association over the exact terms of the cross-licensing agreement broke down.36

Once more the NACA had to step into the breach. The Subcommittee on Patents was expanded to include Crisp, the patent lawyer responsible for the automobile industry's cross licensing agreement. A lawyer representing the Wright-Martin company was added to counter-balance Crisp's ties to Curtiss, and William F. Durand was appointed acting chairman. On 14 June, the Executive Committee of the NACA resolved that the total royalties accruing to the Wright and Curtiss companies under any cross-licensing agreement should not exceed $2,000,000. Thereafter, the Patents Subcommittee took over to work out the details. In a series of meetings in June and July with representatives of the Aircraft Manufacturers Association, Crisp and the subcommittee were able to produce an agreement that was acceptable, if not entirely pleasing, to all parties.37

On 12 July 1917 the Subcommittee on Patents submitted to the Executive Committee a proposed cross-licensing agreement that differed in some respects from the one prepared by the NACA in March. Besides a ceiling of $2,000,000 on payments to Wright and Curtiss, the new agreement stipulated that it did not cover engines, that royalties for future inventions would be determined by the Aircraft Manufacturers Association on a case-by-case basis, and that the government could hand over designs of one company to another company for manufacture, provided that the latter paid a royalty of one percent of the purchase price of the aircraft. The settlement also established criteria for membership in the Aircraft Manufacturers Association. As finally enacted, in accordance with the views of all the parties, the agreement came to be administered by an entirely new organization: the Manufacturers Aircraft Association, Incorporated. Critical decisions affecting the industry were to be made by a three-man board of directors, one of whom was Joseph S. Ames - professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, a charter member of the NACA, its future chairman, and a man of unquestioned integrity and impartiality.38

In effect, the cross-licensing agreement of 1917 established that the American aviation industry would operate without major patents. Small royalties would be paid for certain contributions within the Manufacturers Aircraft Association, but in general the ideas and techniques of aircraft manufacturers were to be shared openly among the members.

Durand reported the accomplishment to the secretary of the navy in language expressing the genial optimism and self-satisfaction felt by the interested parties. "It is expected," concluded Durand, "that this agreement will bring about harmony and co-operation in the industry, and that it will aid materially in the progress of the art and the quantity production of aircraft." Daniels replied, thanking Durand and the [42] NACA for the "amicable settlement of the perplexing patent situation" and for saving the government in the process the $1,000,000 that had been appropriated to buy up the patents. Within a week the NACA discharged its Subcommittee on Patents with thanks for a job well done.39 The whole complex mess thrown in the Committee's lap in January could hardly have been resolved more quickly or satisfactorily.

Into that blissful atmosphere of self-congratulation the first cry of Foul! burst like a bombshell. The Aeronautical Society of America - successor to the group that had been campaigning for an aeronautical laboratory ever since that fateful banquet of 1911 at which President Taft was supposed to endorse the plan - wired President Wilson on 14 August that it was hard pressed to construe the agreement as anything less than an aircraft trust. The president had no idea what they were talking about. Soon enough the telegram came to Durand for a reply, but his efforts to appease the Aeronautical Society were unavailing. Society President F.W. Barker took little comfort in the precedent of "the vicious Selden patent trust," which he thought had been "deliberately created to 'keep out the small fellows.' " He felt that the aircraft cross-licensing agreement was a similar trust in restraint of trade whose effect would be to sacrifice "the interests of investors" to the profits of the large manufacturers, profits he considered unwarranted by any aeronautical patent granted so far. He was disturbed that the justice Department had not been consulted on the legality of the agreement, and he told Durand that the society believed the whole matter lay "entirely beyond the purpose of your training, and in fact, even beyond the powers granted by Congress to your organization."40

After a fruitless exchange of letters, Durand refused to carry on any further correspondence. Barker refused his invitation to come to Washington to discuss the matter in person, so communications broke down completely. On 4 September, Durand wrote to Walcott that "we are just now having a merry round with the Aeronautical Society of America," but there was little merriment in the outcome. A "virtual hymn of hate" poured from the small but vocal minority opposed to the cross-licensing agreement. It was little abated when in October 1917, at the NACA's request, the justice Department examined the agreement and pronounced it legal and proper. The opposition was even refueled the following year when the government amended the agreement by halving the royalty paid to Wright and Curtiss, a tacit admission that the original terms had been too generous.41

Time did nothing to lessen the acrimony of the debate over cross-licensing. Defenders of the agreement claimed its critics were paid by, and in the service of, enemies of the United States. The critics for their part used every possible occasion to roll out the cross-licensing agreement and rehash the old charges of "aircraft trust." These charges [43] were never substantiated, though even the most ardent defenders of the agreement could not deny that it worked to the advantage of large established companies at the expense of the small private inventor.42 Thus in its earliest days the NACA was drawn into a controversy over favoritism and special privilege, the very charges it had tried so hard to dispel both in its membership policies and in its all-encompassing boosterism. The image of being in bed with industry, while never very pronounced in the early years, was lurking in the background ready to come into focus whenever the cross licensing agreement came up for another public airing.

Reading through the internal papers on the negotiations leading up to the cross-licensing agreement, one sees in the NACA's words and actions signs of real patriotism and sincerity, a zealous concern for the national security, a selfless enthusiasm for the future of aviation, and a genuine desire to serve the public interest. But at times the public interest overlapped the interests of the members of the NACA and those with whom they dealt in a way that was perhaps inevitable but surely unfortunate. However pure their motives, however constrained they might be by necessity and circumstance, however successful their handiwork, the members of the NACA would live out their years amidst whispers and suspicions, under the shadow of the cross-licensing agreement, an agreement they had regarded at the time as their finest achievement.43

 

BUILDING A FUTURE

 

The part played by the NACA in the cross-licensing agreement was just a special case of the Committee's general wartime role as an inventions board for the War Department. Unsolicited inventions and suggestions relating to aeronautics were sent from outside sources to the Committee for screening and evaluation. Most proved worthless and were summarily rejected. Some, however, showed promise (or at least possibility) and were referred to the army or the navy for further test and evaluation.44

This function of the Committee was essentially advisory, as was most of its work during World War I. When Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels asked the Committee to consider how the United States might best develop and produce aircraft for the impending military crisis, the NACA recommended establishment of an Aircraft Production Board as an adjunct to the Council of National Defense. This board, duly established, went on to become the major mechanism for government procurement of aircraft. The NACA also recommended adoption of the metric system and government underwriting of insurance for aviators. To the secretary of agriculture, it recommended [44] extension of the Weather Bureau's aerological work in support of aviation.45

Two members of the NACA were sent to Europe on official missions. William F. Durand, who in 1917 had been elected chairman of the NACA when Walcott declined the nomination, was sent to Paris under joint orders from the secretaries of war and the navy to serve in the Research Information Service, recently created by the National Research Council to funnel technical information from the fighting front to the United States. Durand retained his NACA membership throughout his service in Europe, even though he could not participate actively in routine Committee business for the remainder of the war.46

Joseph S. Ames of Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore, who was one of the NACA's more active and promising members, led a scientific mission to Europe in the spring of 1917, also under the auspices of the National Research Council. The commission succeeded in its major goal - the rapid exchange of war-related scientific and technical information between the Allies and the United States - but it had an unfortunate consequence for Ames personally and for the NACA. It established Ames in the minds of some as an expert on the role of the U.S. in World War I and lent disproportionate weight to his pessimistic view of American aircraft manufacture, formed during an inspection tour the following November made in the company of three other NACA members. After that trip, Ames wrote to a friend of an acute "feeling of depression" about the shortage of airplanes, mechanics, and aviation instructors that persisted long after promises to the contrary had been made to him personally. He concluded:

 

It is very hard to place one's finger on the man or committee responsible for this condition. As far as I could see, the evil is a fundamental one. This country and its officials are possessed with the idea that everything must be labeled 'Made in America,' and the difficulties into which we are now running are those which any man might have foreseen. As a matter of fact, within three days after my return from Europe in June I made this whole matter the subject of my report to the Aircraft Production Committee. No one believed me, and although I had a good solution it was refused.47

 

This letter found its way into the pages of The Atlantic Monthly, and from there into an editorial in The Outlook revealingly entitled "Is All Well with Our Airplane Programme?" The Outlook editorialist used Ames' experience in Europe and his unquestioned "authority" to raise the spectre of "indolence and lassitude" in official circles, of "the paralysis of official red tape hidden under the plea of military secrecy."48

[45] Among those officials who were incensed by Ames's remarks and the use to which they had been put were several members of the NACA. The Committee sent a formal letter to Ames, asking him to substantiate his charges. Ames replied that the comments were personal and not intended for publication; in hindsight, he realized they were ill-advised, if not incorrect. He apologized, agreed to sign a retraction, and offered to resign from the Committee. Although it did not require him to resign, the Executive Committee did resolve that in the future no member should "express comment for publication without having copy of such matter as it is intended to publish submitted and approved before publication."49 Thereafter - with one glaring exception - the Committee spoke with one voice or not at all.

Other advisory duties of the NACA during World War I were less controversial as well as less substantial. The Committee contracted for a number of reports, none of which was of particular use in the war. As Alice Quinlan has demonstrated in her paper, "World War I Aeronautical Research," the NACA spent its early years looking out for its own long-term survival and made little effort to be of immediate service.50

One reason for the NACA's failure to play a greater role in the war effort was the welter of government agencies with which the Committee had to compete for position. During World War I, more than 5000 agencies were created in Washington, some of which took on roles and missions that the NACA might otherwise have adopted or had forced upon it. The NACA even had to fight absorption by a proposed Department of Aeronautics, an arrangement that would have robbed the Committee of its independence and autonomy and handed over to others the decision about its wartime role.51

The agency that came closest to duplicating the role of the NACA was the National Research Council.52 Created in 1916 by the National Academy of Sciences to provide a means whereby the nation's scientific talent scattered in academic, industrial, and government research establishments could be pooled in the interests of national defense, the NRC soon became the research arm of the Council on National Defense. This development raised the possibility of conflict with the NACA in the field of aeronautical research. To prevent such a conflict, members of the NACA Executive Committee were made the "Aeronautics Committee" of the NRC, a polite fiction that allowed both bodies to act as they pleased without seeming to duplicate each other's work..

In practice, the NRC pursued one course in aeronautical research, the NACA another. The NRC, which aggressively sought out war-related aeronautical research tasks, soon established itself as the agency to which the army turned. In fact, so successful was the NRC in making this field its own during the months leading up to American participation in World War I that, upon the declaration of war, Army Chief [46] Signal Officer Squier turned for aeronautical research to the NRC instead of to the NACA even though (or perhaps because) Squier was himself a member of the NACA. By the end of the war, the NRC had come almost entirely under military control; instead of becoming the nucleus of a permanent research organization within the Academy of Sciences as its early sponsors had hoped, it became (at least in the field of aeronautics) the nucleus of a military research structure that would come into its own between the world wars.

Not so the NACA, which looked to its future throughout the war. While the NRC was devoting most of its effort to war-related projects, the NACA was using more than half its total budget for the years 1915-1919 in construction of a laboratory at Langley Field, a laboratory that did not begin operating until after the end of the war. Creation of a national aeronautical laboratory had been the dream and the motive of the enthusiasts who created the NACA in the first place, and not even World War I was going to stand in the way of realizing that dream. The Committee spent only 11 percent of its wartime funds on reports and only 12 percent on subcommittee work. Almost all the latter expenditure went to the Subcommittee on Power Plants, which in turn contracted its work out to the National Bureau of Standards. Of the money spent on reports before mid-1918, half went into the propeller studies being made by Committee member William F. Durand and an aeronautical bibliography; more than half the reports issued under the NACA heading were volunteered from outside sources. As Quinlan has concluded, "the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics made virtually no technical contribution to the war effort."53

Although this conclusion is based on evidence appearing in the Committee's annual reports for the war years, it hardly springs from the pages. In fact a superficial reading of those reports leaves exactly the opposite impression. The emphasis throughout the reports is on "the manifold miscellaneous activities resulting from the existing state of war," everything from defining and standardizing technical terms to continual mediation of disputes between industry and the military services. But the Committee never really tried to conceal its principal interest. Its Annual Report for 1917 concluded that "the preceding years of the committee's activities must .... be viewed in some degree as preparatory for the more effective service which the committee hopes to render through its laboratory facilities at Langley Field and through the enlarged technical and scientific staff contemplated in connection therewith."54

This is not to say that everything except the laboratory was transient or unimportant. Some significant institutional steps were taken as well, steps that were to mold the Committee and its activities in future years. The NACA twice amended its rules and regulations: once in [47] 1917 to extend membership on the Executive Committee to any Committee member resident in or near Washington and giving his primary attention to the business of the Committee, and again in 1918 to make John F. Victory assistant secretary to both the Main Committee and the Executive Committee.55 Establishment of the Office of Aeronautical Intelligence as a war expedient proved to be the first step toward making the NACA the central clearinghouse for aeronautical information in the United States.56 The Committee hired the first of its technical assistants, and though none of the wartime hires stayed with the Committee very long they played an important part in setting the NACA's course in the formative postwar years.57 And, finally, the Committee adopted the stuffy formalism of prewar America and made it a long-lived NACA tradition. When Samuel Stratton recommended to a meeting of the Executive Committee the hiring of four new people at the Langley laboratory, "these recommendations were referred to the Personnel Committee and were immediately reported back approved by the Chairman, Dr. Ames." (Ames and Stratton were the only two members of the Personnel Committee present, meaning that Ames went into hasty consultation with himself and then notified the other members of the Executive Committee that it sounded good to him.) At a meeting early in 1918, the Executive Committee resolved in closed session to hire a technical director for the NACA. John Victory recorded the climax of this dramatic resolve in the minutes of the meeting: "On expiration of the executive session, the doors were opened and the above resolution was spread upon the records of the meeting."58 This kind of pompous formality clogged the records of the NACA throughout its history and set the tone for the Committee's actions as well.

 

DEFINING THE FUTURE

 

When peace came in November 1918 the NACA faced an uncertain future. As one historian has observed, "the NACA spent most of its war years in finding itself."59 And it still had a way to go. It had served commendably as an advisory and consultative board, but had been eclipsed entirely by the National Research Council in sponsoring research of immediate use to the military services. Its greatest contribution, no doubt, was the cross-licensing agreement; but fairly or unfairly, that settlement had been the object of considerable criticism, and there was more to come. When the American aeronautical effort came under severe scrutiny after the war, the cross-licensing agreement was again cited as an example of foul play and mismanagement, charges that tarred the Committee as well as the industry.

[48] And it was not only among the cranks, outsiders, and naysayers that the NACA was in bad odor at war's end. The acting director of the Bureau of Aircraft Production reportedly regarded "the Advisory Committee as a body which is necessarily altogether ineffective." E.B. Wilson, a distinguished MIT engineer and a frequent adviser to the Committee, confided to the president of the National Academy of Sciences that "the second Annual Report of the National Advisory Committee was pretty poor stuff....." "It is my opinion," he continued, "that the board contains mostly executive persons and eminent scientists more or less unfamiliar with aeronautical problems, except on the administrative side, or in a very general way."60 Wilson may have been the first to hold this opinion of the NACA, but he was by no means the last.

Nor was the criticism all from outsiders. Joseph S. Ames, the outspoken Committee member whose comments on the aircraft industry had raised a furor earlier in 1918, spoke out again in August in a letter to Chairman Durand. Complaining that "the lack of an established program" was precluding any serious work by the subcommittees on which he served, Ames said: "I think the most important thing of all is for the Executive Committee to form a policy ..... so that every one connected with the committee may know what its real purpose is .....At the present time our work is 99% clerical and there is no vision as to what the future should offer US."61

Others connected with the Committee voiced similar opinions. Even the normally reticent and deferential John Victory was emboldened to suggest to Durand that the Executive Committee should prepare a "comprehensive statement of policy" for "the information and guidance" of the employees of the Committee and those outsiders who had to deal with the NACA.62 The most comprehensive critique was that of Senior Staff Engineer Leigh M. Griffith, one of the Committee's earliest technical employees. Coming from industry, Griffith found the methods of the NACA "loose and disorganized." He expressed the same sentiments stated by Ames and suggested by Victory:

 

I, together with other members of the personnel, have very hazy ideas regarding the nature of the services that this Committee is endeavoring to render, or is capable of :rendering ..... Until it is known what we are trying to do, it is impossible to formulate any system or build any organization for the doing of that thing.63

 

If the NACA was to survive and become the national aeronautical research organization envisioned by its founders, it would have to [49] resolve in the immediate postwar years the two questions implied in these criticisms: What was the place and the role of the NACA in American aeronautics and aviation, and how was it to execute that role? The NACA spent the next eight years answering those questions.

 


* The proliferation of committees and subcommittees within the NACA, itself a committee, creates some problems of terminology. The capitalized term "Committee" will be used synonymously with the NACA as an agency throughout this study, and "committee" will refer to whatever committee is being discussed. The "Main Committee" (i.e., the NACA) and "Executive Committee" will be so identified where necessary.

 


[
326-331] Notes

1. Chairman's opening remarks, "Public Session Executive Committee of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Held at Smithsonian Institution, June 8, 1916," typescript, p. 1. Walcott's solution was "that we should learn from Europe."

2. "Minutes of Meeting of National Advisory Committee or Aeronautics held in the War Department at Washington, D.C., April 23, 1915"; Scriven to The Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 16 Apr. 1915.

3. Minutes, 23 Apr. 1915; the quoted sections are from the "Rules and Regulations for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics" sent to Wilson for his approval on 23 Apr. (see appendix A, p. 405); the draft prepared by Walcott is enclosed in Walcott to Richardson, 8 Apr. 1915; the Walcott quote is from a letter to L F. Durand, 30 Oct. 1918.

4. Minutes, 23 Apr. 1915.

5. Like much else in the early NACA, the concept of subcommittees had appeared earlier in the Smithsonian's Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Scriven's objection was stated in his letter to Walcott of 17 Apr. 1915, National Archives a d Records Service, Washington National Records Center, Record Group 255, Records o the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Accession 57 A 415, box 1, folder I (hereafter such citations will be abbreviated 57 A 415 (1), 1-1); Walcott to Wilson, 28 Lpr. 1915; Wilson to Scriven, 7 June 1915. (See appendix A, pp. 406-407.)

6. First Annual Report of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 1915 (Washington, 1916), pp. 18 and 19 (hereafter such citations will be given as AR 1915). On the survey of aeronautical activities, see the correspondence in 57 A 415 (18), 20-1, 1915.

7. Biographical information on Victory is derived from a set of note cards on "Important Facts" that he prepared when being considered for the Wright Brothers trophy, from his nomination for the Career Civil Service Award of the National Civil Service League, dated 30. Aug. 1955, and from an interview with Victory' Widow, Marie F. Victory, Tucson, Arizona, 21 Mar. 1977. Victory was born on 23 Jan. 18 , and described himself as standing 5 feet 9 1/2 inches tall when he married in 1917, two yea s after joining the NACA. He himself was no doubt the source of the following information in his Career Service Award nomination:

He has worked continuously since age 11. At age 16, orphaned and homeless, he studied stenography at a night school. Promoted to stenographer at age 18 he was assigned to record proceedings of Navy courts martial, courts of inquiry, etc. Seeking highest proficiency at shorthand reporting he developed speed of 230 words per minute bought the Success Shorthand School and made it a night school for training of shorthand reporters. While working at the Navy Yard he took annual leave to record Congressional Committee hearings during rush periods, Army courts martial and, while still running the school, became a convention reporter, substitute court reporter, and temporary night secretary to a U.S. Senator.

8. A copy of Daniels's letter of 17 Sept. 1915 accompanied Scriven's to secy., NACA, 2 Oct.1915.

9. Scriven's proposal for a laboratory was endorsed by the Executive Committee on 14 Oct. 1915 and by the Main Committee at a special meeting the following day. Minutes, 14 and 15 Oct. 1915. At the latter meeting the $85,000 figure was approved. The figure $53,580 was provided for the record by Walcott to the House Committee on Naval Affairs after he testified before that body on 21 Feb. 1916. House Committee oil Naval Affairs, Hearings on Estimates Submitted by the Secretary of the Navy, 1916, 64/1, 1916, 3 vols., 2: 1799-1813.

After the start of fiscal year 1918 on I July 1917, the comptroller of the treasury had ruled that NACA's organic legislation would be interpreted to mean that the funding of $5000 a year for five years would apply to the fiscal years 1915 through 1919: i.e., the Committee could spend its first $5000 during the first four months of its existence and begin the second $5000 with the start of the new fiscal year. John Victory considered this one of his first and most cherished bureaucratic victories. George E. Downey, comptroller, to chairman, NACA, 5 Aug. 1916.

10. Daniels to the president, 30 Nov. 1915 (retyped copy incorrectly subscribed George P. Scriven).

11. Wilson to Daniels, 2 Dec. 1915.

12. Minutes, 10 Feb. and 9 Mar. 1916; diary of Walcott, 1916 box 16, Charles D. Walcott Collection, Manuscript Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Public Law 241, 64/1, 29 Aug. 1916; minutes, 9 Oct. 1916.

13. AR 1916, pp. 12 15; "Subcommittees of Executive Committee of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," 23 Nov. 1916, typescript. See Appendix B.

14. For an illustration of the "silliness" that went on, see NACA minutes, p, 3, for 9 Sept. 1915, when the members of the Executive Committee listened as Dr. O.W. Owen of Detroit "described at length his idea of how an aeroplane could be sustained in the air by the principle of sympathetic vibration set up by seven bells of various sizes, which received sound waves from large musical tops rotated by a thirty-horsepower engine"

15. Minutes, 13 July 1916, p. 1. J.J.K., "Definition of a Right-Hand Engine," typescript, 23 July 1943, cites the following NACA Technical Reports as giving definitions: #15 (1917), #25 (1918), #91 (1920), #157 (1922), #240 (1926), and #474 (1933). The complete file is in 57 A 415 (63), 49-7. Victory interview, Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 1962, by Alfred F. Hurley, pp. 3 6.

16. Minutes, 2 Feb. 1916, p. 3. Walcott to J.H. Towers, 10 Feb. 1917.

17. On DeKlyn, see minutes, 23 Nov. 1916. Otto Praeger, second assistant postmaster general and the public official most closely linked to the development of the U.S. air mail, attended the annual meeting of the full Committee on 5 Oct. 1916. 11 succeeding years the Committee worked closely with Praeger and publicly supported the establishment of all aerial mail service. See, for example, AR 1921, pp. 23-24.

At the Executive Committee meeting on 11 Nov. 1915, "it was recorded as the sense of the meeting that commercial publishers should not be allowed to print scientific reports which are the property of the committee, until after their official publication by the committee". Minutes, p. 3.

18. Major contracts for 1916 and 1917 were:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$800

Columbia

1500

Cornell

1000

Smithsonian Institution

3000

Stanford

4000

Durand's contract, the one listed under Stanford, was renewed in subsequent years.

In striking contrast to NACA behavior in this case, Josephus Daniels refused to fund much work by Naval Consulting Board members for just this reason. David K. Allison to author, 7 Aug. 1980. Durand's work under this contract is brilliantly described and analyzed in Walter G. Vincenti, "The Air-Propeller Tests of W.F. Durand and E.P. Lesley: A Case Study in Technological Methodology," Technology and Culture 20 (Oct. 1979): 712 51.

19. Unless otherwise indicated, the discussion on pp. 34-37 is based on the transcript of the "Public Session of Executive Committee of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Held at Smithsonian Institution, June 8, 1916," typescript, 58 pp. Walcott's remarks are on P. 1.

20. Ibid., pp. 14 16. Coffin gave some examples of the end of expertise that the automobile industry had fostered. "No magneto should carry anger directly on its shaft," he reported. "We learned that in racing cars in 1906". He was e en more emphatic on wiring. "The wiring in the average aeroplane is a joke," he told the "You would not think of building a five hundred dollar garage without the underwriters passing on the wiring installation, yet you will spend ten thousand dollars on an aeroplane, and risk your life in it, and not give a damn as to the wiring". That last observation evoked the only laughter noted in the transcript of the meeting (p. 16).

21. Ibid., pp. 16 28.

22. Ibid., pp. 30 32.

23. Ibid., pp. 10 11, 24 26, 34, 38, 50.

24. John F. Victory, "A Half Century of Aeronautical Research," address delivered at Norwich University, Northfield, Vt., 30 Apr. 1956.

25. Transcript of public session, 8 June 1916, p. 47.

26. Ibid., p. 52. Henry Souther, the speaker, went on to say:

Incorporated in that committee should be three lasses of men, or four, perhaps: Manufacturers of planes, as such; manufacturers f the improvements that go into those planes; the users of the combination, this, the entire airship, meaning principally the Army and the Navy fliers; and any other neutrals that we could find.

27. The application for the basic Wright patent was filed 23 Mar. 1903, granted 22 May 1906.

Marvin W. McFarland, ed., The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright (2 vols., McGraw-Hill, 1953), 2: 1228. On the patent dispute in general, see Fred C. Kelly, The Wright Brothers: A Biography Authorized by Orville Wright (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943), chaps. 17 and 18; Howard Mingos, "Birth of an Industry". The History of the American Aircraft Industry: An Anthology, ed. by G.R. Simonson (Cambridge MIT Press, 1968), pp. 23 69; and the "Memorandum Regarding Patent Situation in the Early Months of 1917," incorporated in the minutes of the special meeting of the NACA Executive Committee, 27 Sept. 1917. For a detailed treatment see John F. Victory and Howard Mingos, "Patents and Problems," a 104 page typescript dated 1949, located in National Archives, record group 255, Records of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, entry, box 1, unlabeled folder. (Hereafter NARS, RG 255, 2(l), unlabeled folder.)

28. Minutes of meeting of Executive Committee, 11 Jan. 917, quoted in "Important Events in Early History of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," typescript prepared for Victory, 5 Dec. 1929. The letters from Roosevelt and Ingraham are cited in "A Brief Historical to Review Outlining the Origin and Operations; Manufacturers Aircraft Association, Inc. Following its Organization at Instigation of the Government, 1917," typescript, 11 pp., 24 Sept. 1935.

29. "Important Events in Early History"; minutes of special meeting of the Executive Committee, 3 Feb. 1917. Outsiders at the meeting were Howard E. Coffin of the Naval Consulting Board; E.F. Hagar, president of Wright-Martin; and Frederick P. Fish, counsel of Wright Martin. In defense of their policies, Hagar and Fish maintained that "the required license fee of ten thousand dollars a year is equitable, an a any manufacturer who can not afford to pay it is not in a position to help in the development f the industry along scientific lines; in other words, that a manufacturer with a limited amount of capital invested in his business can not possibly make airplanes successfully in the present advancing state of the art". It was just this philosophy that was to anger critics of the cross-licensing agreement that resulted from these negotiations.

30. The automobile industry cross licensing agreement was brought up at the 3 Feb. meeting, probably by Howard Coffin. John Victory later recalled that Coffin proposed this as a model at the June 1916 meeting with engine manufacturers, but I Find no mention of it in the transcript of that meeting. Minutes of meeting of the Executive Committee, 3 Feb. 1917; Victory interview, Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 1962, by Alfred F. Hurley, p. 3-11. See also, "Patent Solution Manufacturers Aircraft Association, Incorporated," Aviation, 1 Aug. 1917, p. 43.

31. Walcott to the president, 5 Feb. 1917.

32. Naval Act, 1918, Public Law 391, 64/2, 4 Mar. 1917. The members of the Subcommittee on Patents were Walcott (chairman), Samuel W. Stratton, John H. Towers, and S.D. Waldon of the Signal Corps.

33. Minutes of "Joint Meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and Aircraft Manufacturers Association," 22 Mar. 1917. Walcott also discussed other problems facing the industry, but, as he had said in his 5 Feb. letter to the president, all of these could be resolved once the patent impasse was broken.

Walcott explained why so many planes were needed for training: "European experience shows that it takes at least nine months to produce a properly trained advanced military aviator and that it costs approximately one and a half machines in wear and tear and breakage for each finished aviator. The breakages are most often de by the men who fall to qualify".

34. The outline of the plan is derived from the "Report of Subcommittee on Patents of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics on the Present Aeronautic Patent Situation with a Suggested Plan for Its Solution," 23 Mar. 1917. This report explains how the Curtiss company came to be included in the settlement:

In reviewing the records of the Army and Navy Departments as to planes purchased during the eight years prior to our recent headquarters appropriations for Aerial Defense it was brought out that four men in four different factories supplied all of those planes and apparently contributed most in tie development and reduction to practice of the aviation art. These named in the order of their appearance on the records are Wright, Curtiss, [W. Starling] Burgess and [Glenn L.] Martin. By a strange coincidence Curtiss and Burgess joined hands and later the Wright and Martin interests came together. While there are other aircraft patents, it was found that these two combinations owned and controlled what might be considered the two dominating groups of patents.

The members concluded that "it is not within the province of this Committee to attempt to determine the value of one patent against another or the validity of any patent" and that "the relative contributions to the establishment of the air raft industry as between Wright and Martin on the one hand and Curtiss and Burgess or, the other hand may be said to offset each other, and that the recognition of each should be in the same total amount". The NACA might help with a settlement, but it was not going to) invite trouble by comparing the merits of one patent against another.

35. Walcott to secretary of war, 24 Mar. 1917. At the 2 Feb. 917 meeting, the Wright-Martin representatives had asked for $2,000,000 in return for selling the patent outright, but they had agreed to accept $1,000,000 "for the use of the Wright patent." Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 2 Feb. 1917.

36. Mingos, "Birth of an Industry," pp. 27-29'.

37. See minutes of the meetings of the Subcommittee on Patents, 18 June, 10 July, 12 July 19 17; minutes of meetings of the Executive Committee, 14 June and 12 July 1917; "Report of Subcommittee on Patents of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," 18 June 1917; and W.F. Durand, "Memorandum Regarding Proposed Arrangements between Members of the Aircraft Manufacturers Association in Cases Where a Design Originated by One Manufacturer Is Placed by the Government with Another Manufacturer for Production," 23 June 1917. The need for the NACA's aid in resolving the controversy was manifested in a letter of S.D. Waldon to Walcott, 9 June 1917. Said Waldon:

It is becoming clear to me that unless the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics takes hold there will be no cross-licensing agreement or settlement of the patent situation. I know that most of the manufacturers, who were continually raising the question of right litigation at the time I as doing some special work for you and for General Squier and who repeatedly stated that settlement of the patent question was the most important thing that could be accomplished to help the industry, are now the ones most strongly inclined toward inaction instead of action
I would ... recommend that the matter of getting the thing done be withdrawn from the Aircraft Manufacturers Association and undertaken by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. [57 15 (67), 51-7, June 19171

38. The most thorough discussion of the cross-licensing agreement appears in the minutes of the meeting of the Subcommittee on Patents on 10 July 1917. Minor revisions were made the following day, after the plan was presented to a meeting of the Aircraft Manufacturers Association, and on the 12th, when it was presented the NACA Executive Committee. A good summary of how the agreement was finally reached appears in "Patent Solution," Aviation, 1 Aug. 1917, p. 43.

39. Durand to secretary of the navy, 27 July 1917; Josephus Daniels to Durand, 2 Aug. 1917; minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 7 Aug. 11917 ; the 2,006 Of course the NACA had not really saved that $1,000,000 for the government; the $2,00,000 in royalties that would go to Wright-Martin and Curtiss-Burgess would come fro higher selling prices for all aircraft. Since the government was to be the principal customer it would bear the lion's share of this increased cost.

40. Frederick W. Barker to the president, 14 Aug. 1917; Rudolph Forster, executive clerk, the White House, to Newton D. Baker, 17 Aug. 1917; F. D. Keppel, secretary's office, War Department, to Gen. Squier, 17 Aug. 1917; S.S. Hanks, Capt., Signal Corps, Ofc. of the Chief Signal Officer, to NACA, 22 Aug. 1917; Durand to Barker, 17 Aug. 1917; Barker to Durand, 20 Aug. and 22 Aug. 1917; Durand to Barker, 25 Aug. 1917; Barker to Durand, 29 Aug. 1917.

41. Durand to Barker, 30 Aug. 1917; and Thomas A. H , t Durand, 31 Aug. 1917. Hill advised Durand that the Aeronautical Society of America did not want to examine the NACA's records on the cross-licensing negotiations unless it could "secure a transcript and submit it to the advice of proper counsel." Durand to John H. Towers ,1 Sept. 1917, in 57 A 415 (67), 51-7, 9/17; Durand to Walcott, 4 Sept. 1917, 9 A 2112 (10), 17-3 Durand, July-December 1917; minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 13 Sept. 1917; "A Brief Historical Review Outlining the Origin and Operations of the manufacturers Aircraft Association," p. 3, citing 31 Opinions Attorney General 166. The term "hymn of hate" is Howard Mingos's description of the criticism in ñ"Birth of Industry p. 34,

42. "A Brief Historical Review Outlining the Origin and operations of the Manufacturers Aircraft Association"; Mingos, "Birth of an Industry."

43. Years later George W. Lewis, the NACA's director o aeronautical research, revealed how sensitive this issue still was within the Committee hen he advised the new chairman, Vannevar Bush: "the Committee tries to keep away from the 'patent problem' as much as possible." Lewis to Bush, 9 Jan. 1939, 57 A 415 (67), 1-7 1935. This last file is the major collection of NACA material on the cross-licensing agreement.

44. "Functions of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and Its Co-operation with the War Department," undated typescript under cover letter, R.P. Day to chief clerk, Ofc. Of Chief Signal Officer, War Dept., 27 Oct. 1917; L.C. Stearns, report "On Inventions Handled by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics"13 Apr. 1918; AR 1918, pp. 29-30. The NACA, which had begun as an aeronautical inventions board for the War Dept., was soon performing the same service for other government agencies.

45. Minutes of special meeting of the Executive Committee 4 Apr. 1917. The minutes of the Executive Committee meeting of 11 Feb. 1927 state t at the recommendation of an Aircraft Production Board flowed directly from a survey of the U.S. aeronautical industry initiated by Walcott, but the minutes of the 10 Apr. 1917 meeting contain no mention of such a survey. Perhaps this recommendation was confused with those generated by the tour of aircraft manufacturing facilities initiated by Walcott in Nov. 1917. (See note 47.) See also "Functions of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and Cooperation with the War Department" and the annual reports for 1917 and 1918 for further examples of the NACA's wartime advisory work.

46. On Durand's trip, see "American Airplanes in World I: Recollections of W.F. Durand," signed typescript, 19 Sept. 1941.

47. Quoted in The Outlook, 16 Jan. 1918, p. 87. In declaring Ames to be "unquestionably expert" in aeronautical matters, The Outlook editors repeated the credentials cited in the Atlantic Monthly, that Ames had led a scientific delegation to Europe the previous summer. On Ames's European trip, see Joseph S. Ames, "The American Scientific Mission to France and England," The Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine 6 (Nov. 1917 June 1918): 1 10. The trips to Dayton, Detroit, and Buffalo that prompted these remarks by Ames were initiated by Walcott and took place in Nov. 1917. AR 1917, p. 23.

48. The Outlook, 16 Jan. 1918, p. 87.

49. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings, I Jan. and 24 Jan. 1918; Ames to Durand, 31 Jan. 1918, 57 A 415 (9), 2-11, 1918.

50. Alice M. Quinlan, "World War I Aeronautical Research: A Comparison of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the National Research Council," NASA History Office HHN 135, 1974.

51. On American organization for aeronautical research in World War I, see ibid.; also Robert G. Hilldale, "History of Development of Aircraft Production during the War of 1917," part V, "Organization," chap. 4, "Advisory and Co operative Agencies," Air Services Historical Monograph, 1919, in National Archives, Record Group 18, Records of the Army Air Forces, entry 107, box 1; I.B. Holley, Jr., Ideas and Weapons: Exploitation of the Aerial Weapon by the United States during World War I; A Study in the Relationship Of Technological Advance, Military Doctrine, and the Development of Weapons (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953; Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1971), esp. chap. 6; and A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government. A History of Policies and Activities to 1940 (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), chap. 16. On the movement to create a cabinet level department of aeronautics, see minutes of the Executive Committee meeting, 26 May 1917, and Victory to Walcott, 5 Aug. 1918. Prophetic of what was to follow the World War, Victory advised Walcott that, though the present movement seemed bound to fail, "Dr. Ames and Dr. Stratton think that either a department of aeronautics or an air ministry, to accomplish the same result, is reasonably sure to come in time".

52. The following comparison of the National Research Council and the NACA is based almost entirely on Quinlan, "World War I Aeronautical Research."

53. Ibid., p. 23.

54. AR 1917, pp. 31 52.

55. AR 1917, p. 12; AR 1918, p. 10. The 1917 amendment had other provisions as well; see app. A for the full text.

56. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings 10 Jan. 1918, 23 Feb. 1918, and 8 Aug. 1918; A R 1918, pp. 24 25. The main source of information at this time was the Research Information Committee of the National Research Council. The chairman of that committee was also a member of the NACA, as was the head of the Department of Technical Information of the Bureau of Aircraft Production. The overlapping of memberships in the wartime aeronautical agencies was positively incestuous.

57. Among those hired during the war were John H. DeKlyn, technical assistant, and Leigh H. Griffith, staff engineer. The Committee also employed George de Bothezat for a while before relinquishing him to the army. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings I I Jan. 1917, 24 Jan., 25 May, 8 June, and 27 June 1918. For more on de Bothezat, see chap. 4.

58. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings, 27 June 1918 and 23 Feb. 1918.

59. Holley, Ideas and Weapons, p. 111.

60. Robert A. Millikan to George Ellery Hale, 31 July 1918, and E.B. Wilson to Hale, 25 Apr. 1917, both quoted in Quinlan, "World War I Aeronautical Research," pp. 27, 10.

61. Ames to Durand, 10 Aug. 1918.

62. Victory to Durand, 31 Aug. 1918.

63. Griffith to Executive Committee, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 4 Sept. 1918. This letter was marked SECRET.

 
previousindexnext