Ohio Archives Month Spotlights: University of Dayton’s Hidden Aviation Gems
The Society of Ohio Archivists Advocacy and Outreach Committee is happy to announce that we will be spotlighting archives around the state again this year to celebrate archives month throughout October 2023. Each of our archives spotlights will feature places that house materials related to the theme of the poster, Land, Water, & Air: Transportation in Ohio.
By Jim McKinnon, CA, Associate University Archivist
This week we will be spotlighting the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections. The University of Dayton’s history is one of perseverance, tenacity, ingenuity and transformation. The school began with an act of faith more than 170 years ago. On July 1, 1850, St. Mary’s School for Boys opened its doors to 14 primary students from Dayton. Known at various times as St. Mary’s School, St. Mary’s Institute and St. Mary’s College, the school assumed its present identity in 1920. Today, the University of Dayton is recognized as a top-tier national research university rooted in the Catholic tradition.
The University Archives and Special Collections documents the history of the University as well as being the home to many special collections of prominent alumni such as Congressman Charles Whalen and the humorist Erma Bombeck. In addition, University Archives is home to approximately 12,000 rare books, some dating to the mid-15th century. The archives are located on the second floor of Albert Emanuel Hall, which was built in 1927 as the new library.
When thinking about aviation collections, UD usually isn’t the place that pops into someone’s head, however, UD’s University Archives and Special Collections is home to two aviation collections filled with fascinating images and information. One is the WRIGHT BROTHERS – CHARLES F. KETTERING ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, which is transcripts and tapes of interviews with relatives, friends, associates, and employees of Orville and Wilbur Wright and Charles F. Kettering. Interviews cover the early development of the airplane and flight as well as the Wright Brothers’ personal lives.
The Bernard L. Whelan Collection, includes Personal papers, photographs and books of early aviator Bernard L. Whelan. The collection also includes a typed manuscript of Whelan’s diary titled “My Life is in Your Hands”. A Dayton resident and employee of NCR, Whelan worked with Charles F. Kettering and attended UD when it was St. Mary’s College. Whelan took flight training from Simms Station Flying School in 1913 with Oscar Brindley and obtained his pilot license on July 26, 1913 on a Wright Model “B”.
The Kettering legacy lives on at the University of Dayton. The School of Engineering is located in the Kettering Laboratory building named for Charles F. Kettering’s son, Eugene. And the Virginia W. Kettering Residence Hall is a suite-style dormitory for sophomore students.
The University of Dayton’s University Archives and Special Collections is open to the public, Monday through Friday 8:30-4:30. If you’re interested in viewing their collections, you can contact the archives for an appointment.
Interview with Kristina Schulz, University Archivist
A&O: What do you like most about working at UD Archives and Special Collections?
Kristina: I like being able to help people use our resources – students, staff, faculty and community members.
A&O: How does your current job compare to other archives positions you have held in the past?
Kristina: This position is more fast-paced and is the first position I’ve held that has instruction responsibilities. UD has other special collections within university libraries. So, I have the opportunity to work with other archivists, where in my former position I was a lone arranger.
A&O: What is the most interesting research question you have received recently?
Kristina: I have been getting a lot of genealogy questions lately, but my favorite one happened a few months ago. A patron wanted to verify that her great uncle had attended UD when it was known as St. Mary’s Institute. We looked through records and did not find him, even though she had a photo of his diploma. We later found out that he had been a Marianist seminarian and did graduate although he did not take his final vows. He never spoke to his family about having been a Marianist. There are so many interesting stories within our holdings.
A&O: What is your favorite collection that deals with transportation?
Kristina: My favorite is the Bernard Whelan Collection. Whelan was a graduate of SMI, class of 1908. I’m fascinated by early aviation. Whelan was working for NCR when he decided to take flying lessons and obtained his pilot’s license. His hobby turned into a long career and he wrote about this in his autobiography.
A&O: Favorite image
Kristina: any one from the Whelan collection
A&O: What is the most interesting story that the UD archives hold that does not relate to transportation?
Kristina: There are too many to narrow it down to just one. I will mention that there is a collection of interviews of Marianists in the 1950’s, some who attended and worked at St. Mary’s Institute prior to the 20th century. I’ve looked through the transcripts and they vividly describe the campus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their stories of the early days of UD are very interesting.
Learn more about the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections at https://udayton.edu/libraries/research/collections.php.
All images courtesy of the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections.
Last Updated on October 24, 2023 by Emily Gainer