subscribe: Posts | Comments

Historical Photographs

Historical Photographs

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress offers an incredible selection of online prints and photographs for those interested in a peek at the past. In addition to just having the images, they also offer a description of where and how. Here’s a description of “First Flight” photograph from the Wright Brothers collection as an example:

Wright Brothers

The most well known negative is, of course, that showing the “First Flight” at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The brothers had arranged to have John T. Daniels of the Kill Devil Life-Saving Station, who was among the spectators, snap their camera for them just at the moment the machine had reached the end of the take-off rail and had risen two feet into the air. Before attempting the flight, Orville had placed the camera on a tripod and had aimed it at a point he hoped the machine would attain when it left the track . The shot was successful and the negative was developed by Orville on his return to Dayton. (

The the Print and Photograph Division is also really helpful in that they let you download the image in either jpeg or tiff, in varying qualities. And if you’re really crazy about the image, you can buy a print of it, too.

Now, aside from all of that helpfulness, think about this: you are seeing an image of the first flight!

In the world!

I find it very interesting that there is almost nothing else in the picture– no trees, no buildings, no other planes (obviously), and nothing else. Granted, they picked Kitty Hawk for those features, but it really emphasizes the two men and what is really a pretty primitive– but brilliant– device.

Kinda makes me want to build something.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs