Candid Photographs in the Archives

As the 1800s came to a close, cameras, increasingly portable and affordable, enabled people to document their personal adventures.

Noah Elwood Weaver poses with several friends and a camera, circa 1908-1910.
(MS-503, Box 1, Page 44.)

Candid snapshots show how people interacted with their world–for example, through details of how they dressed for everyday activities. The archives are full of these types of photos. Here are highlights from three of our photographic collections.

First is MS-503, the Noah Elwood Weaver Photograph Albums. Elwood, a Montgomery County resident, documented his life through photographs. Many images from a 1908-1910 album show Elwood and his friends on outdoor adventures. At least by today’s standards, they were well-dressed on their jaunts.

In this image from the Miami River Flood Plain, the woman standing at right has clambered up to her perch wearing a long skirt, heel shoes, and a corset.

Elwood is seated at center front in this 1908 picture.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 5)

When the crew went wading in a creek, most of the women went barefoot. The woman farthest from the camera, though, is still wearing her black stockings.

(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 12)
Edna Eicher, Elwood’s future wife, is at far right in this picture.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 13)

Stylish, wide-brimmed, round hats, like the one the wading woman wears, are most commonly seen in the album. However, in this image, two of Elwood’s friends have opted for sunbonnets.

Elwood Weaver and Edna Eicher are at the far right of the group.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 9)

All three men at this campsite wear polished shoes, but the fellow in the middle is a bit more relaxed with his outfit. He has skipped a collar and tie…and has donned striped socks!

Circa 1908-1910
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 49)

The next two photographic collections are digitized and available on the University Libraries’ CORE Scholar, so you can view them from the comfort of your home.

The first of the digitized albums, SC-63, McCarthy Family Photo Album, includes images from a Dayton family’s trip to California in 1921.

During their travels, the McCarthys stopped at various sites throughout the Southwest, including the Grand Canyon and prehistoric cliffside dwellings. They travelled during the peak of summer. Throughout the album, the family comments about the temperature. In this image, Frances and Luella McCarthy are wearing lightweight dresses, probably made of linen, to keep cool.

“Frances and Luella on the rim of a section of the Grand Canyon – August 1921”
(SC-63, page 27)

By December 1921, the McCarthys were in California with friends and family. Below, they are at Manhattan Beach on December 4. While the summer heat called for lightweight dresses, coats proved useful against the chill of the ocean breeze!

“Photo Dec. 4, 1921 at Manhattan Beach”
(SC-63, page 43)

The second digitized album, SC-217, Dayton Family Photograph Album, was assembled by an unknown creator. Its images capture aspects of a family’s daily life from the late 1890s into the early 1900s.

Many of the photographs document women’s activities in the period. Images of sports like bicycling, gymnastics, and tennis demonstrate what activewear looked like more than a century ago.

(SC-217, page 7)
(SC-217, page 22)
(SC-217, page 65)

The album also documents the fun and games (and occasional mischief) of girls and young women.

Three girls standing near (and on) a fence.
(SC-217, page 4)
Sliding down the banister
(SC-217, page 87)

Given how lighthearted their photos can be, it appears that the family may have lived by a motto pasted beneath an image in the second half of their album:

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

(SC-217, page 69)

Post by Megan O’Connor, student worker

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WWII Charity Sewing with the Dayton Area Red Cross (MS-121)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many people, including members of our campus community, have banded together to sew much-needed face masks.

These collaborations reflect large-scale sewing efforts documented in the archives. During World War II, the Dayton Area Chapter of the American Red Cross (MS-121) did their bit by sewing, knitting, and crocheting. They created items for soldiers at war, as well as for civilians on the home front.

Three women sew on vintage sewing machines during the 1940s
Red Cross Productions Services Volunteers, circa 1940-1949.
(MS 121, Box 57, File 7)

Volunteers helped the Red Cross manufacture and distribute vast quantities of handmade goods. These ranged from bandages and baby clothes for local hospitals, to gloves and kit bags to send to the troops.

Four women place bundles of clothing into boxes
Red Cross Production Services volunteers pack goods.
(MS 121, Box 57, File 7)
Notes about various garments made by the Red Cross.
(MS 121, Box 75, File 1)
World War II-era instructions for knitted wrist warmers, in a Dayton Red Cross pattern book.
(MS 121, Box 75, File 3)

Volunteers documented their efforts in a “Time Book,” recording the number and types of garments they cut each day, as well as how many yards of fabric they used. Though the seamstresses were volunteers, they completed work on a seemingly industrial scale.

(MS 121, Box 75, File 1)

In June of 1944, the chapter set out on a mission to manufacture 28,800 kit bags.

Over the course of the summer of 1944, and into the month of September, volunteers manufactured hundreds of bags a day. Some days saw a total of more than a thousand bags made. They set their record on July 6, 1944, when they produced 1,700 bags.

All told, the project used over 14,000 yards (close to 8 miles) of fabric.

With the fabric scraps left over from the kit bags, the Red Cross workers manufactured “housewives,” or sewing kits, to match.

Instructions for a sewing kit appear in a collection of patterns created by the Red Cross.

(MS 121, Box 75, File 6)

The sewing kit would have looked very similar to the small pouch that appears in the upper left corner of this World War I-era Red Cross care package for soldiers.

(MS 121, Box 57, File 2)

Today, those leftover scraps would be great for masks!

Post by Megan O’Connor, student worker

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Celebrating the First Flight: The Early Years

First Flight photo (ms1_16_2_10)
December 17, 1903 (ms1_16_2_10)

The five year anniversary of the First Flight was a quiet affair for the Wright family. In December 1908, Wilbur was flying in France, while Orville was at home in Dayton recuperating from injuries sustained in September airplane accident at Fort Myer, Virginia. There was no mention of the anniversary in the local newspapers on December 17 or in the diary of their father Bishop Milton Wright.

It should be noted the next day, December 18, 1908, Wilbur established two new world records in the skies above Camp d’Auvours, Le Mans, France. He also won the Aero Club of Sarthe prize for altitude by reaching 115 meters. Wilbur’s flight covered 99 kilometers in 1 hour and 54 minutes. By comparison, the first flight 5 years earlier had lasted roughly 12 seconds.

Wilbur Flying Above the Altitude Balloons, December 18, 1913 ms1_36_105

5 years later, on December 17, 1913, Bishop Milton Wright wrote the following in his diary, “Mrs. J. Steven eats supper with Katharine. The Supper at Aero Club is in New York this evening. Orville is there. It is the tenth anniversary of their first flights at Kitty Hawk” (Sadly, Wilbur had died the previous year from typhoid fever on May 30, 1912). The New York Times published an extensive article “Aero Club Honors Orville Wright: Aviators Commemorate birth of Heavier-Than-Air Machine Ten Years Ago” (December 18, 1913, page 10). The article stated “it is several years since the Aero Club held such a distinguished crowd as that which assembled last night to do honor to Orville Wright” and said the event was “a splendid tribute to the man who has done so much to advance the science of aviation and place America in the forefront of advanced aeronautics.” The January 1914 issue of Flying (Vol. 11, No. 12) described the event in detail. Incidentally, the next day, December 18th, Orville met fellow inventor Thomas A. Edison and his family for the first time at Edison’s home in New Jersey (see picture below).

During the evening festivities, a resolution by the Aero Club commemorating the 1903 achievement was read and presented to Orville. Today the resolution is part of the Wright Brothers Collection (MS-1).

This year due to the Pandemic, organizations in both Dayton, Ohio, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, have joined together to create a virtual celebration of the 117th anniversary of the First Flight on Facebook Live. Tune in at 9:30am (EST) on December 17th to join the Wright Brothers Day festivities, which include guest speakers, wreath laying ceremony, and a flyover.

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