One hundred years ago, Dayton was the cradle of American invention. While walking downtown you were likely to meet the creative minds behind the first practical airplane, the automobile self-starter, automatic cash registers, and the pop top — inventions that changed the world. Creativity abounded, not only in technology but in local government, literature, music, and dance. That innovative spirit lives and is visible in liquid crystal displays, aviation technology, medical innovations, and our dynamic arts community.
The spirit and history of these innovators and creative thinkers is captured in the Wright State University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives. Here you can discover the past through words and images that bring us closer to the minds of generations before. Feel Milton Wright’s anguish at the death of his son when you read the pages of his original diary. Watch the Wright Brothers take flight through photographs and films. Sympathize with a Civil War soldier by reading his letters describing the loneliness and hardships of camp. Experience the lives of generations of local families through documents, photographs, and memorabilia. Pore over the plans of the aircraft engine that powered Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic.
Along with diaries, letters, and oral histories documenting the human experience from the ordinary life of an Ohio farm wife to Dayton survivors of the Holocaust, our collections include:
- The largest Wright Brothers collection in the world and other major aviation history collections documenting the history of flight from kites to the space age, including aerospace medicine and human factors engineering.
- A Cold War aerospace technology archive with a strong oral history component.
- Papers of political figures, including the papers of James Cox, governor of Ohio and 1920 Democratic presidential candidate; Republican, Democratic, and Socialist political party records; and the papers of former Congressman and Ambassador Tony Hall and former Congressman David Hobson.
- The Dayton Daily News newspaper morgue, consisting of thousands of photographs and clippings documenting the history of Dayton in the 20th century.
- Local government records including regional county and city records, such as Dayton City Commission records; the papers of James H. McGee, the first African American mayor of Dayton; and Don Crawford, the first African American Dayton city commissioner.
- Records of major arts and cultural organizations, including the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Dayton Playhouse.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar, noted African American poet and novelist, materials including a collection of first editions as well as unpublished materials.
- Women’s history collections documenting the women’s suffrage and temperance movements as well as many of Dayton’s most influential women’s clubs.
- Letters, diaries, and photographs of the first families of Dayton, such as the Patterson and Kettering family papers.
Special Collections and Archives outreach has earned worldwide respect and recognition for its efforts to collect, preserve, and make available the history of aviation and the local and regional history of the Miami Valley of Ohio. The department is also a teaching archives, supporting the WSU Department of History’s Public History graduate program, one of the oldest and most respected programs in the country.
Thanks for dropping by our blog. Through here, we hope to be able to showcase and highlight some of our collections and outreach programs. We hope you’ll join us on that journey.