For the first time, the public will soon see these stunning 1920s photos of the Bay Area

Stanley Henry Page had an unusual hobby for a gentleman in the 1910s.

The Bay Area engineer was enamored with flight. In 1909, he met the Wright Brothers in Italy where they were touring their flying machine around Europe. Inspired, he came home and enrolled in a flying school in Redwood City. And he started working on an airplane.

Page, who worked for an East Oakland company that manufactured engines for ships, designed an engine for use in a plane.

“In the late 1910s, he developed a lightweight engine, which the U.S. navy actually used on some of their airships,” SFO curator of aviation Samuel Scott said. “He had one and he had an aircraft, and had it essentially built around one of his own engines. It was a one-off design. But it was a flying boat, so he could take off and land on water.”

By the 1920s, he was taking to the skies with his camera, photographing the San Francisco Bay and the city. He shot the bay before both bridges, the emerging cityscape of downtown San Francisco and the old Cliff House.

“A lot of these images are legitimately beautifully composed and beautifully shot,” Scott said. “There’s one of Sausalito and Richardson Bay where he gets this wonderful reflected light effect off the water where he was flying. And it’s just a tremendous photograph.”

The photos have been kept in the Page family for nearly 100 years, but they’ll soon be on display for the public to admire. In 2010, SFO Museum was gifted a collection of Page’s photographs, glass plate negatives and personal artifacts by his nephew Charles. Some of those items will be displayed in the upcoming exhibit “Above the Bay: The Aerial Photography of Stanley Page.”

The exhibition opens on Sept. 27 and runs through July 12, 2020. The museum is located pre-security in SFO’s international terminal, so you don’t need a boarding pass to see the works. (You can get a sneak peek of a few images in the gallery above.)

“Some of the shots are going to be familiar and recognizable to people,” said Scott, “and some are lost San Francisco-type stuff.”

Above the Bay: The Aerial Photography of Stanley Page goes on display at the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum in SFO from Sept. 27 – July 12, 2020.

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