Rudy Arnold (1902-1966) was introduced to photography in 1918. After studying at the New York School of Photography, he worked at the New York Journal-American and the New York Graphic. During his stint at the latter he started to focus on aviation photography. In 1928, Arnold started his own aviation photography business and worked out of the following New York air fields and airports during his career: Roosevelt Field, the old Curtiss Airport, Floyd Bennett Field, and LaGuardia Airport His coverage of a wrecked airliner in upstate New York was the first photograph sent by wire to newspapers across the country. Arnold's work appeared in every aviation magazine, house organs (Douglas, Grumman), and mass circulation magazines as well as many newspapers. He also did motion-picture camera work for Universal and Paramount.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of Rudy Arnold's collection of negatives, glass plates and color transparencies, spanning his career as an aviation photographer. The following subjects are included in this collection: civilian and military aircraft; experimental aircraft; seaplanes; airliners; aerial images; helicopters; aviation events and personalities.
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 Arnold's 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.
Biographical / Historical:
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.
This series contains 3,058 4 x 5 inch color transparencies (positive images). Of the 3,058 images in this section, 2,751 have water damage. This damage is visible in the transparencies as areas of color variation, but in general the damage does not obscure the image of the aircraft. The majority of the transparencies in this series depict aircraft (grouped by aircraft type) with folder titles corrected to NASM Aircraft Authority standards. The remaining subject groupings are those believed to have been used by Arnold. Arrangement presents one folder of "Groups of Aircraft" followed by individual aircraft types (alphabetical by manufacturer then model) and ends with subject groups (alphabetical by title).
Digital slideshows are available for the aircraft, aircraft spotters, and airlines subject groupings of this series; each image of a color transparency in the folder appears immediately followed by an image of its NASM-produced transparency envelope. The number prefixed "XRA" appearing in pencil in the upper right corner of each envelope is the NASM image reference number for that color transparency. The digital images in these slideshows were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product and may show irregular cropping, orientation, and color balance. Irregular color variations within an image are generally the result of damage to and deterioration of the original color transparencies.
No restrictions on access
Rudy Arnold Photo Collection, Acc. NASM.XXXX.0356, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.