By Nick Eustis

Photos courtesy of Photo Antiquities

The Photo Antiquities Museum of Photographic History in Deutschtown is unveiling a new photography exhibit this August, featuring images of some of Pittsburgh’s first aviators and airfields.

“The focus of the exhibit is early aviation, with emphasis on the airfields in Pittsburgh,” said Frank Waters, executive
director of the museum.

The exhibit focuses primarily on three airfields: Rogers Field
in Fox Chapel, founded around 1923, Bettis Field in West Mifflin, founded in 1924, and Allegheny County Airport also in West Mifflin, founded in 1931.

Images show a number of early Pittsburgh aviators taking off from these airstrips and performing death-defying acrobatic stunts.

Several female aviators are featured, each of them pioneers in their time. Two of them are Teresa James and Helen Richey.

James was born in Pittsburgh in 1914, and first took flying lessons on a whim to surprise her brother. By age 19, she flew her first solo flight, and in 1941, became the first female flight instructor to graduate from Buffalo Aeronautical Institute. She went on to be the first female pilot to fly a  military plane across the United States. Richey was born in McKeesport in 1909, and graduated from McKeesport High School. She learned to fly at age 20, and by 35, was hired by United Airlines, becoming the first woman to fly for a commercial airline. Two years later, she broke the record for altitude in a light aircraft, reaching 18,448 feet.

From these early moments in aviation, the exhibit moves on to, according to Waters, the “golden age of aviation.” Primary features are images of air races in the mid-1930s, in cities like Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

One floor above the aviation exhibit is the museum’s  permanent collection with over 500,000 pictures from all over the world. It includes 1840s daguerreotypes, one of the earliest forms of photography, and 19th century mugshots. The museum also maintains an extensive camera collection, with over 2,000 on display in the “Camera Room.”

The Photo Antiquities Museum is located at 531 East Ohio Street. It’s open Wednesday through Saturday, and Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.