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PART 3: PHOTOGRAPHS, 1855-1949

 Record Group

Scope and Contents

This series includes many original photographic prints made by the Wrights from their own negatives shortly after the images were taken. The Wrights exposed at least 303 gelatin dry plate negatives in the course of documenting their process of invention. All of their glass plate negatives were given to the Library of Congress in 1949, but many of their original prints remained with the Estate of Orville Wright. Many of the Wright Brothers’ original negatives were damaged in Dayton’s great flood of 1913, when they were submerged for up to four days. The Wright State University collection includes some images for which no negatives exist at the Library of Congress and so many of these prints are unique. In addition, this collection includes hundreds of prints collected by the Wrights through their association with other aviation pioneers such as Octave Chanute, and a great variety of aeronautical prints either collected by them, or sent to them by well-wishers through the years. While the major prints exist in both collections, both the Wright State University collection and the Wright collection in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress contain many images that are unique to each collection.

Wilbur and Orville Wright began photographing their experiences on the Outer Banks using a 4 x 5 inch dry plate camera. In 1902 they purchased a Korona view camera which used 5 x 7 inch dry plates. They developed their negatives and made prints in the darkroom they set up at their home in Dayton. The sizes of the early prints tend to follow the original negative size suggesting that they were created as contact prints.

The fact that the Wrights’ glass negatives were damaged in 1913 provides a means to attribute a date range for those prints showing activities at Kitty Hawk and Huffman Prairie between 1900 and 1905. In this listing, prints made from the Wright negatives before the 1913 flood, which show no damage, are described as early. Those older prints showing the extensive post flood emulsion damage characteristic of the negatives in their present condition, are described as later. There are also a number of much later copy prints made on photographic papers in use between the 1930’s and the 1970’s. These are generally described as recent or modern.

The Wright Brothers personal photographic record of their process of invention, and the great achievement represented by their early Flyers, is contained here in boxes 15 and 16. The images in boxes 17 through 31 are, with exceptions, those that were collected (rather than made) by Wright Family members over the courses of their lives.

This collection is a premier resource for archival images of the pioneering years of flight.


  • Creation: 1855-1949


Language of Materials

From the Collection:

The records are in English, French, German and Italian

Restrictions on Access

Due to preservation concerns, original audio and video recordings in the collection cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to reference copies. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call (937) 775-2092 or e-mail us at Use of digitized content is subject to conditions governing use.

To reduce stress on the original photographs, photo albums, newspapers, Wright Family School Items, and Milton Wright Diaries, patrons are asked to first use digital copies, in place of the originals. The digitized items are available online in CORE SCHOLAR at


From the Collection: 38.75 linear feet (and 203 volumes)

Existence and Location of Copies

Many of the photographs in this series are available online in CORE Scholar at

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA