National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Rudy Arnold Photo Collection

Accession No. XXXX-0356

SI neg no. 2002-29485

National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

Kristine Kaske

© Smithsonian Institution, 2003

Scope and Content Note

Rudy Arnold (1902-1966) was a commercial aviation photographer. He began his career by studying at the New York School of Photography in New York City, New York. Arnold worked for both The New York Journal-American and The New York Graphic as a photographer. By 1928 he had developed an interest in aviation photography and started his photography business. He primarily worked out of Floyd Bennett Field, Roosevelt Field and LaGuardia Airport in New York for aviation magazines and newspapers and aviation industry house organs. Arnold photographed both civil and military aircraft, including airplanes, airships, and helicopters. While Arnold took images on the ground, he used air-to-air photography extensively. Rudy ArnoldŐs photography was and still is considered to be artistic as well as a great documentary source. His photography was widely published during his career and still is today. Rudy ArnoldŐs aviation photography career is documented in the book Images of Flight: The Aviation Photography of Rudy Arnold by E.T. Woodridge (Smithsonian Institution, 1986).

The bulk of the images were taken between circa 1920 through 1940 on Long Island, New York. The majority of these images are of American aircraft. Some of the represented manufacturers are Grumman, Douglas, Lockheed and Curtiss. In addition, the collection contains images Arnold took of aviation personalities including Douglas Corrigan, Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post and Howard Hughes. There are also images of United States military personal, armaments and vehicles, Atlantic coastal defense, as well as aircraft models and civilian vehicles, among other topics.

The collection was held by the Arnold family for many years. It suffered water damage prior to being accessioned by the Archives Division. The damage is more noticeable in the color material where there are color variations. However, in most cases the aircraft in the image is not disfigured. This collection was housed in the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum for several years before being transferred the Archives Division. Prior to the Archives Division rehousing the collection, the materials were in acidic paper jackets and housed in shoes boxes. These jackets had ArnoldŐs original caption and negative number. Most of the jackets were intact but a few were missing or has been damaged by moisture. After capturing the information on these jackets, the Archives Division has rehoused the collection and the individual items are now in mylar enclosers in acid free jackets and boxes.

The Rudy Arnold Photo Collection consists of 25.37 linear feet (10.91 cubic feet) of original photographic material. It contains 9,579 original photographic items: Series I contains 5,303 black and white negatives, Series II contains 3,058 color transparencies, Series III contains 447 black and white glass plate negatives and Series IV contains 769 120 mm format negatives and two 8 x 10 inch color transparencies. Each series is organized alphabetically starting with the aircraft company name and designation followed by personalities and various other subjects. The last item is a 3-ring binder with 369 35mm copy slides of a variety of ArnoldŐs images. While these copy slides are part this collection, they are not counted in the total number of items because they are copies of the Arnold originals.

The Rudy Arnold Photo Collection was a gift to the National Air and Space Museum. The copyright to the images in the Rudy Arnold Collection has been transferred to the National Air and Space Museum.

All of the 9,579 original photographic items in this collection are cataloged in the NASM photographic database. Researchers need to contact the Archives Division for access to the information contained in this database. Limited access to the database can be provided to researchers. Please note that 30 of the glass plate images are broken; only digital scans of these are available from the NASM Archives Division for research. Each Rudy Arnold database entry contains a section title, subject, original Rudy Arnold negative number when available, format and condition information, ArnoldŐs original description when available, and the NASM caption. Original Rudy Arnold negative numbers and descriptions are provided when they are known. Following the box listing is a Rudy Arnold database print-out for the format types in the collection: 4 x 5 inch black and white negatives, 4 x 5 inch color transparencies, glass plates, 120 mm black and white negatives, 120 color transparencies and 8 x 10 inch color transparencies.

Series I: Black and White

This series contains 5,303 4 x 5 inch black and white negatives. The majority of the images in this section are of aircraft. Following is a list of some of the other subject groupings and numbers of items in them: Biographical 401, Groups of Aircraft 104, Armaments 190, Coat Guard 161, Ships 180, Parachuting 53, Models 153 and the Panama Canal 59. The condition of this section is over all good with some images showing deterioration and turning to a yellow hue.


1 Groups of Aircraft - Boeing XB-15

2 Boeing Y1B-17 - Curtiss A-25

3 Curtiss AT-9 - Douglas A-20A

4 Douglas A-26B - Fairchild PT-23

5 Fairchild UC-61A - Grumman XG-44 Widgeon

6 Grumman G-44 - Lockheed 10 Electra

7 Lockheed 10-A - North American P-82 Twin Mustang

8 North American P-82B Twin Mustang - Seversky X-BT

9 Short Empire Boat (S.23) - Vought XF4U-1

10 Vought F4U-1 Corsair - White Aircraft Corp. and Biographical A - C

11 Biographical D - Biographical Group Shots 0-5224

12 Biographical Group Shots 5225-12554 - Armaments: Army 16 inch Coastal Defense Gun

13 Armaments: Army 16 inch Coastal Defense Gun - Coast Guard

14 Coast Guard - Mitchell Mobile Hangar

15 Models - Panama Canal

16 Parachuting - Ships: S.S. Brazil

17 Ships: S.S. Brazil - Weather Flight

Series II: Color

This series contains 3.058 4 x 5 inch color transparencies. The majority of the images in this section are of aircraft. Following is a list of some of the other subject groupings and numbers of items in them: Groups of Aircraft 28, Aircraft Spotters 27, Army 797, Marines 210, and Army 235. Of the 3,058 images in this section 2,751 have water damage. This damage can be seen on the transparencies, but does not obscure the image of the aircraft.


18 Groups of Aircraft - Curtiss P-36 Hawk

19 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk - Douglas SBD Dauntless

20 Douglas TBD Devastator - Grumman TBF Avenger

21 Hall PH-2 - Republic F-12 Rainbow

22 Republic P-84 Thunderjet - Waco W Aristocraft

23 Aircraft Spotters - Army Observation

24 Army Paratroopers - Army, Weapons

25 Army, Weapons

26 Army, Weapons - Paratroopers

27 Marines: Weapons - Navy Ships

28 Navy Personnel - Miscellaneous

Series III: Glass Plate Negatives

This series contains 447 black and white glass plate negatives. The images in this section are of aircraft and biographical subjects. Of the 447 images in this section 30 are broken. The broken images have been scanned and are available for research via our database in digital form only.


29 Aristocrat 102-A - Consolidated Model 17 Fleetstar

30 Curtiss Condor T-32 - Ford 4-AT

31 Ford 4-AT - Martin YB-12A

32 Martin YB-12A - Wedell-Williams

33 Wedell-Williams - Wedell-Williams and Biographical: Adamowicz Brothers - Hawks, Frank

34 Hawks, Frank - Turner, Roscoe

35 Turner, Roscoe - S.S. Jacob Ruppert

36 Broken Plates

37 Broken Plates

Series IV: 120 Film and 8 x 10 inch Color Transparencies

This series contains 769 black and white and color 120 mm images. The images in this section are of aircraft, the Panama Canal, models and balloons. The black and white 120 mm film is in good condition with some yellowing and the color film is in good condition with some color shifting. The 8 x 10 inch color transparencies are in good condition.


38 Aereon III - U.S. Navy Training Balloons, Magazine Cover 8x10 color transparencies