Early Aviation Photograph Collection


Early Aviation Photograph Collection


The Early Aviation Photograph Collection is a collection of unknown origins consisting of 328 black-and-white photographic prints and 299 negatives primarily depicting aircraft from the first half of the 20th century. Some airships, airports, pilots, and other subjects are also depicted in the photographs. The collection is arranged into two series: Airplane photographs and Non-airplane photographs.

The first series, Airplane Photographs, makes up the bulk of the collection with 156 prints and 281 negatives. The images depict aircraft from a variety of American and European manufacturers including Blackburn, Bleriot, Boeing, Caproni, Curtiss, De Havilland, Dornier, Douglas, Fokker, Hawker, Lockheed, Loening, North American, Northrop, Vickers and Waco, among others. The photographs predominantly depict planes on the ground with front, side or three-quarters views. However, some images are of planes inflight or with people. The folders of images of the Douglas O-38 include several photographs depicting planes from the California National Guard. Among the images of Lockheed aircraft are folders with nearly 80 images depicting production of their aircraft, including images with factory workers and details of aircraft.

The second series, Non-Airplane Photographs, is smaller with 172 prints and 18 negatives. This series consists of a mix of subjects, including people, places, and other types of aircraft. Lighter-than-air aircraft, balloons, and dirigibles are well represented with 26 images total, including photographic reproductions of older illustrations. The first air show in Paris in 1909 is represented with 11 images, probably copied from a book or clippings. A few locations in California are depicted including the Alhambra airport; Pasadena, with aerial views; balloons at Ross Field; as well as Chaplin Airlines, which provided service to Santa Catalina Island. There are more than 120 photographs of assorted people, male pilots, and female pilots, including formal portraits, group portraits and casual snapshots. However, aside from one image of Florence "Pancho" Barnes with other women pilots, the people in these images are all unidentified. Identified people were separated into folders by name. Some of the photographs of people do also include airplanes.

The majority of negatives are 8x10 inches, although some are 5x7 inches. The prints vary in size but are all 8x10" or smaller. All images are black-and-white. There is some duplication between prints and negatives, though not all prints have negatives or vice versa. Many folders also include clippings or copies of articles related to the images.

Digitized Materials: A representative selection of images has been digitized from this collection.


1907-circa 1960s


All materials are in English

Rights Holder

The Museum of Flight Archives


Permission to publish material from the Early Aviation Photograph Collection must be obtained from The Museum of Flight Archives.

Bibliographic Citation

The Early Aviation Photograph Collection/The Museum of Flight



Collection Organization

Collection Items

[Letter to Menasco Manufacturing Company from Ted Brown, May 11, 1937]
Letter (photographic reproduction) to the Menasco Manufacturing Company from Ted Brown, President of Ted Brown Aeronautics, May 11, 1937. Discusses the fuel consumption of Menasco engines. One typed page on Ted Brown & Bud Ernst Aeronautics…

[Letter to A. S. Menasco from from Ben Howard, April 20, 1937]
Letter (photographic reproduction) to A. S. Menasco, President of the Menasco Manufacturing Company, from Ben Howard, President of the Howard Aircraft Corporation, April 20, 1937. Discusses the reliability and performance of the Model B6 engines. One…

[Harry Cordy with his Mobilopter]
Photograph of Harry Cordy with his Mobilopter, circa 1920s-1930s.

[Navy blimp in flight above crowd]
Photograph of a U.S. Navy blimp (C-5) in flight above a crowd, circa 1918-1919.

[Balloon in flight above crowd and hangar]
Photograph of a balloon in flight above a crowd and hangar, circa 1910s. "1914" is painted on the balloon.Stamped on verso: "R. R. Martin / [address in Hollywood, California]."

[Balloon in hangar]
Photograph of a balloon in a hangar, circa 1900-1920s.Stamped on verso: "R. R. Martin / [address in Hollywood, California]."

[Parachutist Katharina Paulus and unidentified man in balloon]
Composite photograph of parachutist Katharina Paulus and an unidentified man, possibly her husband Hermann Lattemann, in a balloon, circa 1890s.

[Illustration of Albert Tissandier and Gaston Tissandier in gondola of airship]
Illustration (photographic reproduction) of Albert Tissandier and Gaston Tissandier in the gondola of their airship, circa 1883.

[Illustration of airship]
Illustration (photographic reproduction) of an airship, circa 1834.

[Illustration of hypothetical invasion by land, air, and sea of England by French forces
Illustration (photographic reproduction) of a hypothetical invasion by land, air, and sea of England by French forces, circa early 1800s. The scene depicts balloons in flight, warships, and troops passing through a tunnel under the English Channel.
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