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William Preston Mayfield Photograph Collection-Egbert Donation (MS-348)

Identifier: MS-348

Scope and Content

The William Preston Mayfield Photos document the career of an innovative photographer whose career spanned over sixty years of photographs in Dayton and the Miami Valley. Through these photographs the researcher can gain a visual understanding of the early evolution of flight as well as the growth of Dayton and the Miami Valley.

Series I, Wright Brothers' Early Flights, contains photographs of flights, aircraft, air shows and the people who surround the first thirty years of flight. Photos of interest: first helicopter flight (subseries A). This series contains many photographs of planes built and flown before 1930 as well as several interesting photos of air shows and pilots. This series also contains several photographs taken by F. Hermes an early photographer of the Wright Brothers. A larger photograph and a drawling of early flyer are cross referenced and can be found: OS73. All of these photographs range in dates from 1914 to 1940s although many are unmarked.

Series II, Postcards and First Day of Issue Stamps, contains the most unique of the collection and consists of postcards and First Days from all over the world depicting mostly the Wright Brothers with many other early pilots as well. Of particular interest are the postcards from Europe of the Wright Brothers flights in France. Also interesting are the holiday postcards, advertisements, and artistic postcards which incorporate the Wright Flyer. These items range in date from 1910s to the 1960s most of these have dates on the back.

Series III, Columbus Aerials, is the largest series in the collection and consists of several hundred photographs of downtown Columbus and The Ohio State University. Many of these photographs are dated on the back under the Mayfield seal they range in date from 1949-1959.

Series IV, Dayton Businesses and Homes, contains photographs of Dayton's downtown, businesses and homes ranging in date from the 1910s to the late 1950s. Of particular interest are those photographs in the beginning of the series showing the aftermath of the 1913 flood as well as pictures of city life in the early 1900s. There are also many photographs of prestigious homes in the Dayton area. Most of these photos are unmarked and undated those that are dated are from 1920s and 1930s.

Series V: Subject Photos, contains a collection of many different types of photographs including photos taken of a race between a street car and airplane. Also in the collection are photos taken for advertising purposes of local car dealerships. At the end of this series are artistic and abstract photographs. Most of these photos are unmarked and undated they range in date from 1910s to the 1950s.

Series VI, Dayton Aerials, contains aerial photographs of the Dayton area. Many of these photographs are marked and dated on the back under the Mayfield seal they range in date from 1949-1959.

Series VII, Other Areas of the Miami Valley, contains aerial photographs of Dayton's suburbs as well as other areas in the Miami Valley including Wilmington, Springfield and Lima, Ohio.


  • Creation: 1910-1960


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of William Preston Mayfield

William Preston Mayfield, the first person to ever create an aerial photograph from a heavier-than-air flying machine, was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1896. At the age of fourteen he was a photographer for the Dayton Daily News. It was at this time that his love for photography first blossomed.

On a cold day in 1910 Mayfield was invited to go up with Orville Wright in the Wright flyer. While in the air Mayfield leaned out over the wing and took a photograph of the ground below. This photograph would become the first photograph ever to be taken from an aircraft. From this point on Mayfield would make a name for himself photographing early aviation "firsts" including the first historic flight of the helicopter, as well as one of the earliest fatal aircraft crashes.

Over the next sixty years Mayfield's photography would be in demand from air shows to the creation of photographs for newsreels and films. He photographed the rich and the famous of the time including (but not limited to) President Woodrow Wilson, Babe Ruth, and Henry Ford (these photographs are not part of the collection). In addition to these accomplishments Mayfield continued to be in demand as a commercial photographer, which accounts for the many photographs of Dayton area businesses and homes. Later in life he found a passion for high aerial shots as demonstrated by the wealth of aerials depicting the state capital and the Miami Valley.

William Preston Mayfield died at the age of 77 on January 17, 1974.


4.5 linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection consist of William Preston Mayfield Photographs of the Wright brothers' first flights; early pilots, early planes and helicopters; photos of Dayton area businesses, homes, churches, and monuments; as well as aerial shots of the Miami valley, downtown Columbus, and the Ohio State University. Also included are some photographs taken by F. Hermes. Postcards are of early flights, the Wright Flyer, The Wright Brothers Celebration, flights in Europe, other early pilots, European postcards, advertisements, museum exhibits, and Wright Brothers monuments. First Days are from all over the world. The collection also contains an oversized photograph of the Wright Flyer and a drawing of the flyer.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series:

  1. Series I. Wright Brothers' Early Flights, circa 1914-1940s
  2. Series II. Postcards and First Day of Issue Stamps, circa 1910s-1960s
  3. Series III. Columbus Aerials, circa 1910s-1950s
  4. Series IV. Dayton Businesses and Homes, 1910s-1950s
  5. Series V. Subject Photos, 1949-1959
  6. Series VI. Dayton Aerials, 1949-1959
  7. Series VII. Other Areas of the Miami Valley, undated

Acquisition Information

The Mayfield photo collection was given to Wright State Special Collections and Archives in five installments donated by Randle Egbert D.D.S. starting in December of 1997 with the final installment in December 2006.

Related Material

MS-269: William Preston Mayfield/Caporale Photograph Collection

MS-271: Peerless Mayfield Photograph Collection

Guide to the William Preston Mayfield Photograph Collection - Egbert Donation (MS-348)
Finding aid prepared by Alaina Carroll, March 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • November 2010: Jeremy Katz revised and updated format.
  • 2022 February: Discrepancies in series list across the finding aid fixed, along with corrections to inventory listing in Box 10-11.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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