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Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engine Drawing Collection

Identifier: MS-356

Scope and Content

The Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engine Drawing Collection is a very large collection containing not only drawings of aircraft engine parts, but drawings of electrical power generators the company produced during the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers should be aware that to effectively use the collection, the researcher must know the engine part number. The collection contains a limited number of parts catalogs and manuals, but the collection does not contain all of the engines produced by the company.

Series I, Administrative Records, contains records concerning microfilming of the engine drawings. The records are sorted according to type of engine – reciprocating, turbine, ram jet, after burner, test equipment – and according to part number. With a part number, the researcher can locate when the drawing was microfilmed, the microfilm roll where the drawing is located, and the page number on the microfilm roll. Once the drawing was microfilmed, the drawing was destroyed. Curtiss-Wright microfilmed drawings up until the mid-1960s. Copies of the microfilmed were sent to Air Force bases with Curtiss-Wright engines for use by aircraft mechanics and technicians. This series also contains information on microfilming contracts.

Series II, Manuals, contains a limited number of overhaul manuals, service and maintenance manuals, engine specification manuals, and parts catalogs for a small number of engines. The manuals were removed from their binders and placed in folders.

Series III, Microfilm, consists of approximately 1324 rolls of microfilm located in 26 microfilm cabinet drawers in the Special Collections and Archives off-site storage facility. To use the microfilm, researchers must know the exact roll and page where a part drawing is located. To obtain that information, see Series I. This series does not include all of the microfilm produced by Curtiss-Wright; a few reels were lost due to vinegar syndrome infestation.

Series IV, Engine Drawings, contains over a thousand engine part drawings. The drawings are stored in two Hollinger boxes, three Record Center boxes, 55 map case drawers, and 990 2”x2”x48” drawing tubes, which are located in the Special Collections and Archives off-site storage facility. The drawings are organized according to size beginning with Size A (8 ½ x 11) sheets through Size E (up to 96 inches long). Again, to effectively use this series the researcher needs to know the part number. The drawings are generally of parts not microfilmed, or the latest revision of a part that was previously microfilmed. As noted in the Processing Notes above, some of the drawings were lost due to mold damage prior to receipt of the records.


  • Creation: 1920-1969


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection. However, researchers should note that the collection does not contain lists of parts used to build specific aircraft engines. On the other hand, because part numbers generally correspond with drawing numbers, drawings of specific parts can generally be located. Researchers should also note that part of this collection is stored off site. Therefore, please provide a minimum of three days advance notice to research this collection. Call 937-775-2092 or e-mail Special Collections and Archives at Researchers should provide specific information concerning the engine part, or parts, being researched.

Restrictions on Use

There are significant legal restrictions on the use of the drawings imposed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The drawings may be used solely for non-commercial use such as historical research, exhibition, model-making, or for non-profit restoration purposes. Models or restored aircraft must remain inoperable and incapable of flight. Drawings may not be used to restore operable aircraft, engines, propellers, or appliances to an airworthy status or building flyable or operable reproductions or restorations. Researchers are required to sign a use agreement prior to release of any drawings.

History of Curtiss-Wright Corporation

On June 26, 1929, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. After this merger, the former Wright organization took over all of the engine and propeller manufacturing, while Curtiss concentrated on airplanes. This merger was completed by organizing two major divisions under their original names, but under the direction of a corporate headquarters located in New York City. However, the election of former Wright personnel to key corporate positions soon led to Wright becoming the dominant division. At the height of the 1920s to 1930s airplane boom, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation was made up of the following organizations: The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company; the Curtiss Caproni Corporation; the Curtiss-Robertson Airplane Manufacturing Company; the Keystone Aircraft Corporation; the Moth Aircraft Corporation; the Travel Air Manufacturing Company; the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Curtiss-Wright Flying Service; the Curtiss-Wright Sales Corporation; and the Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation. Curtiss-Wright was quickly becoming the 'General Motors of the Air' until the great depression in October 1929. Sales dropped and Curtiss-Wright was forced to close certain satellite plants and transfer some of their product lines to the St. Louis facility. It appeared that that even the Buffalo plants would also have to close when Curtiss-Wright received an order from Columbia, South America for Curtiss Hawks and Falcons. This order saved the company keeping production lines open until new military and civil markets began to open up as the depression waned and the build-up for World War II began. During the U.S. military build-up prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, all existing Curtiss-Wright plants were expanded and new aircraft factories were built at Columbus, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky.

After the war, all major U.S. airplane builders, including Curtiss-Wright, were hit by massive contract cancellations. In 1946, Curtiss-Wright had only two experimental military models at hand for postwar delivery and no assurance of production orders. Curtiss-Wright also failed to make the transition from reciprocating engines to the design and production of jet engines and aircraft. During the war the company did not invest as much of its resources in research and development as other companies, having to spend much of its resources on keeping up with wartime production orders. After the war, aviation technology advanced rapidly. The final blow to the airplane division of the company came when the Northrop F-89 Scorpion was chosen over the Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk. After the F-87 was cancelled in October 1948, Curtiss-Wright shut down the entire Aeroplane Division and sold the assets to North American Aviation. A second blow came when the Government gave the development of the Whittle jet engine to General Electric Corporation. From then on the company concentrated on reciprocating engines and propeller production for military transport and civilian airliners. However, the shift of civilian and military aircraft to jets left the company with little of the old business. As a result, during the 1960s the company shifted production to components for aircraft and other types of equipment, such as nuclear submarines. The company still exists today as Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems, Inc.


375 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engine Drawing Collection is a collection of over 50,000 aircraft engine part and power system drawings produced by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The collection consists of approximately 1324 rolls of microfilm containing thousands of engine part drawings, more than a thousand engine drawings, an index to the engine parts that were microfilmed, cards documenting tools used to make the engine parts, and a number of aircraft engine manuals. The collection does not contain a list of parts used to build specific aircraft engines. There are significant legal restrictions on the use of the drawings imposed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and researchers are required to sign a use agreement prior to release of any drawings

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into four series:

  1. Series I: Administrative Records
  2. Series II: Manuals
  3. Series III: Microfilm
  4. Series IV: Engine Drawings

Technical Requirements

The collection includes approximately 1324 rolls of microfilm containing engine drawings. A microfilm reader is required, and available, in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.

Custodial History

The majority of the microfilm reels (1300) were donated directly to Wright State University in 2002. Another 25 microfilm reels were originally donated by Curtiss-Wright to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in 2002; however, in 2020, NASM transferred the 25 rolls to Wright State University to join the 1300. Due to their deteriorated condition, a grant funded duplicating the 25 rolls of microfilm to masters and use copies. One roll was too brittle to salvage, resulting in 24 rolls added to the collection.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to Wright State University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives by Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems, Inc., on April 26, 2002.

Existence and Location of Originals

The collection contains approximately 1324 rolls of microfilm. During the 1950s, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation microfilmed most of their engine drawings. Once the drawings were microfilmed, the drawings were destroyed.

Preservation masters for 24 rolls of microfilm received from NASM in 2020 and duplicated due to severe deterioration, exist in 415-MFM-DRW-79. The reference use copies are integrated in the microfilm series in alphabetic order.

Related Material

Curtiss-Wright Corporation Records, Collection ID # NASM.XXXX.0067, National Air and Space Museum Archives, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Separated Materials

The engine drawings and microfilm are located in the Special Collections and Archives off-site storage facility located on the campus of Wright State University.


The Wright State University Libraries' Friends of the Libraries generously funded the preservation of thousands of Curtiss-Wright aeronautical engine drawings on 24 rolls of microfilm, through a 2022 staff grant.

Processing Information

Upon receipt from Curtiss-Wright, it was discovered that the microfilm was infested with vinegar syndrome. As a result, the microfilm was copied on to new rolls of microfilm. During the process, a number of rolls were found to be too far gone for recovery and were destroyed. Also, some of the paper drawings were found to be mold damaged due to sitting in water for an extensive period of time. (Note: Apparently there was a leak in the storage facility housing the drawings that allowed water to seep into the metal storage files thereby damaging drawings in a number of drawers.) As much as possible, the mold-infested drawings were copied, but again, a number of the drawings could not be recovered.

Guide to the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engine Drawing Collection
Finding aid prepared by John Armstrong, 2010.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2022 August 31: Finding aid revised to include processed addition of microfilm from National Air and Space Museum.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA