Wright Brothers 'Documentation' Part of Mayfield Photo Collection at Dayton History

Apr 1, 2013

Last week we told you about a newly discovered photograph calling into question the Wright Brothers claim to the “first in flight” title.  The photograph in question was actually a photograph of a photograph, and the controversy brought out local aviation experts disputing the claim. They contended that if Gustave Whitehead – the man some were now giving the ‘first in flight’ claim to – had successfully flown a plane two years before the Wright Brothers, and there was photo documentation, why didn’t he continue to document subsequent flights?  Or, for that matter, why didn’t he claim any other successful flights? 

The aviation experts we spoke with said the Wright Brothers claim was unquestionable, as evidenced by the documentation they provided of their own pursuit of flight.  Much of that documentation can be seen clearly in iconic photographs, like that of their first 1903, and the first known aerial photograph – taken from a Wright Brothers plane while in flight in 1910. 

Marvin Christian (right) and Dayton History President, Brady Kress
Credit JerrKenney / WYSO

The latter photograph was taken by William Preston Mayfield, and is now a part of the historical collections located at Dayton History, Carillon Park.  The Mayfield Collection was donated to Dayton History last Fall by photographer Marvin Christian.

Christian says he has been a photographer since the 6th grade - he always had a camera in his pocket, and he got to know Mayfield by following him around town. Eventually he started working with Mayfield, then later, worked as a photographer in the Air Force, came back to work with Mayfield Again before moving on to have his own commercial studio. In this interview, recorded soon after he donated the collection, Marvin Christian tells us about his mentor.

Marvin Christian demonstrates use of early camera.
Credit Jerry Kenney / WYSO