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Wilbur F. H. Bigelow, Sr., Dayton Wright Company Collection (SC-347)

Identifier: SC-347

Scope and Contents

Wilbur F. H. Bigelow, Sr., was a foreman in the Mill department of Dayton-Wright Airplane Company factory at Moraine (Plant 1), during World War I. The collection consists primarily of 28 photographs, most of which relate to Bigelow’s work at the factory, including DH-4 aircraft, employees and factory scenes, air demonstration shows, and aerial photographs captured during a test flight. Photos unrelated to Dayton-Wright Airplane include: one photo depicts the Wright Brothers’ Homecoming in June 1909, one depicting a crash at McCook Field in 1917, one of Hills and Dales Country Club, and five at an unidentified outdoor location. Individuals in the photographs include Wilbur's wife, Helen; his daughter, Janice Pahnke; mechanic Charles Irwin, and pilot Bernard Whelan. Also included are three documents related to Bigelow’s WWI draft status, a piece of wing fabric from an aircraft that crashed in Dayton in 1928, and a commemorative coin from the Dayton “Frontiers of Freedom” celebration in 1941.


  • Creation: 1909-1941
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-1919

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing 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 Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright.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.

Biographical / Historical

Wilbur Francis Hinman Bigelow, Sr., was born June 26, 1897, in Vernon County, Missouri. He moved to Dayton, Ohio, with his mother Anna and siblings in 1907. He attended Patterson School through the eighth grade but did not attend high school. He learned woodworking at the Ritchie-Wertz Company and also worked at National Cash Register Company for a while after leaving school.

During World War I, Wilbur was employed at the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, which had in three locations: Moraine, Miamisburg, and the two former buildings of The Wright Company off West Third Street in Dayton. Wilbur worked at the Moraine location (Plant 1), ultimately becoming the supervisor of the Mill department (wood shop). Because Dayton-Wright (and by extension Wilbur Bigelow) was engaged in vital war work, having contracts to produce 4,000 De Havilland 4 aircraft and 400 J-I trainers, Wilbur was exempted from the draft.

On April 20, 1918, Wilbur married Helen Irwin, whom he had first met in 1916. Her brother, Charles Irwin, also worked at Dayton-Wright, as a mechanic. Wilbur and Helen had 5 children, the first four of whom were born in Dayton.

After World War I, Wilbur worked at National Cash Register and later manufactured and sold dollhouses, as part of the firm Golter, Poock, and Bigelow. In the spring of 1928, Wilbur accepted a new job at RCA Victor in New Jersey, as production manager in the cabinetry department. The family later moved to Pennsylvania in 1933.

Wilbur F. H. Bigelow, Sr., died on June 19, 1968, in Danville, Pennsylvania. He is buried at Greenlawn Cemetery in Montgomery, Pennsylvania.

Charles Henry Irwin, the younger brother of Helen (Irwin) Bigelow, was born June 12, 1899, in Dayton, Ohio, to Otho Joseph Irwin and Mary Dorothea (Kirchner) Irwin. He attended a co-op high school for two years. When he was only about 18 years old, he went to work at the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company’s Moraine factory (Plant 1) as a mechanic, working on DH-4 aircraft. He also worked briefly at National Cash Register. Shortly after his marriage to Alvia Spivey Avery on February 14, 1920, he went to work for the Dayton Power and Light Company and worked there most of his life. After retiring at age 62, he and his wife moved to Florida but returned to the Dayton area later, where Charles died on June 21, 1970.


0.1 linear feet (33 items, including 28 photographs)

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged in roughly chronological order.

Other Finding Aids

The finding aid is available on the Special Collections & Archives, Wright State University Libraries web site at It is also available in the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository at

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to Special Collections, Wright State University Libraries, by Janis (Bigelow) Pahnke, daughter of Wilbur Bigelow, Sr., in September 2014. An addition was received in February 2016.

Existence and Location of Copies

All items in this collection are available online in Wright State University’s Campus Online Repository, CORE Scholar, at:

Related Materials

MS-152: Dayton-Wright Airplane Company Photographs. MS-192: Andrew S. Iddings Wright Brothers Homecoming Collection.

Guide to the Wilbur F. H. Bigelow, Sr., Dayton Wright Company Collection (SC-347)
Lisa Rickey
2019 Dec 19
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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