Whitehead's story has long been a widely known but buried fact of history, one studied at length by numerous aviation enthusiasts. Tom Crouch, who has written four books on the Wright brothers, is one of them. He remains unswayed.
"Gimme a break," Crouch told FoxNews.com. "I have not seen anything that convinced me that Whitehead got off the ground in a powered machine at all."
The problem is that the blurry original photo disappeared years ago, but numerous newspaper articles about the event are easy to track down -- many of them are linked from Brown's website. There's a copy of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald from Aug. 18, 1901, and the Washington Times from Aug. 23, 1901, for example. The site also has pictures from a German museum dedicated to Whitehead.
One image is of key interest: a 1906 photograph of an exhibit on Whitehead's flight, taken at an aviation exhibition. The 1906 photograph shows several other photographs of the man and his flying machine -- possibly including the lost blurry original of the historic flight in 1901. Brown said he asked Bavarian police to analyze the photos seen in the 1906 image.
"The photo has been enlarged 3,500 percent," Brown said. It validated the blurry picture, and the analysis confirms the numerous early press reports on Whitehead's flight as well, he claims.
"He had the only monoplane. It's a high-wing monoplane, and it has a big mast in the middle. It's obviously his plane."
"And it's in the air, so it's obviously flying," he told FoxNews.com.
Other experts remained skeptical of Brown's claims: Peter Jakab, associate director of curatorial affairs for the Smithsonian Museum, said the 1906 photograph was examined thoroughly long ago.
"I see a lot of blurriness. I don't see a lot of airplanes," he joked. He argues that the legacy of Orville and Wilbur's plane is more important anyway.
"It was able to evolve into something we have today. And that's its real powerful significance -- in addition to being the first to fly," Jakab told FoxNews.com. Crouch went so far as to call Whitehead a pretender, noting that people he worked with in later years didn't believe he had flown.
"Up until now, historians said he was a pretender, a fake and a fraud. The truth is quite the opposite," Brown told FoxNews.com.
The German Interior minister on Tuesday awarded €9.5 million for a new museum dedicated to Whitehead, Brown noted. But first or second, that investment might be taking things too far -- even for Brown.
"(Whitehead) applied for U.S. citizenship. This is something the Americans should be celebrating more than the Germans," he said.
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