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 Arnold's 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 Arnold's 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 envelopes and boxes. These envelopes had Arnold's original caption and negative number (when assigned). Most of the envelopes were intact but a few were missing or had been damaged by moisture. After capturing the information on these envelopes, the Archives Division has rehoused the collection and the individual items are now in Mylar enclosures in acid free envelopes and boxes.