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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Early Aviation Photograph Collection

 Record Group
Identifier: 2022-00-00-37
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.


  • 1907- circa 1960s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. The negatives may not be handled by researchers, but digitized versions are available and copies are stored with the prints. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


4 Cubic Feet (3 full-width letter size document boxes; 14 2-inch expandable folders)


The Early Aviation Photograph Collection is a collection of unknown origins consisting of 328 prints and 299 negatives, all black-and-white, primarily depicting aircraft from the first half of the 20th century. Some airships, airports, pilots, and other subjects are also represented in the images.


The original source of the collection is unknown, as is the identity of who originally organized the collection. The collection was found roughly organized into two series, aircraft and other subjects, with each series arranged somewhat alphabetically. The two series were further refined during processing, though some physical arrangement remained as it was found while the folders were listed alphabetically in the inventory.

Custodial History

The origins of this collection are unknown. It is possible that the materials were separated from the David D. Hatfield Aviation Research Collection as there is a lot of crossover in subject matter with the files in that collection.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Processing Information

Originally negatives and prints were interfiled. For preservation purposes the negatives were removed from the print files, sleeved in acid-free sleeves and placed in cold storage. Negatives were also scanned before being placed in cold storage and copies were placed with the prints.
Guide to the Early Aviation Photograph Collection
Completed - Level 3
Karen Bean, Nicole Davis
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st edition

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
Contact us with a research request