Kiffin Rockwell Photo Collection Online

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the availability online for the first time the personal and military photograph collection Kiffin Yates Rockwell of Asheville, N.C., the famous American aviator who was a part of the American volunteer aviation unit in the French Aviation Service known as the “Lafayette Escadrille” (though called “Escadrille Americaine” when Rockwell was a member) during World War I. These photographs are part of a collection at the State Archives of North Carolina that consists of the majority of Kiffin Rockwell's personal letters to his mother Loula from 1914 to 1916.


After recently reorganizing and performing preservation work on Rockwell’s papers—most of which have been held by the State Archives since around 1920—the photographs in the collection were researched to identify or confirm captions on the photographs. Some of the captions were incorrect or incorrectly spelled, and these were corrected in the image descriptions in the collection’s inventory.


Rockwell’s photographs are composed of over 100 original photographs documenting the personal life and military service of Kiffin Yates Rockwell of Newport, TN, and Asheville, N.C., from 1893 to his death in 1916. The photographs were originals kept by his mother Loula, sister Agnes, and brother Paul Rockwell while he was serving in the French Foreign Legion and later in the Escadrille Americaine during World War I. The majority of the photographs are from a personal photo album kept by Kiffin’s mother Loula Ayres and sister Agnes, beginning apparently just before or after Kiffin Rockwell’s death in September 1916.


The majority of the photographs were taken by or printed by Kiffin’s brother and fellow Foreign Legion soldier Paul Ayres Rockwell. Most of the descriptions of the photographs were taken from original identifications by Paul and Loula Rockwell on the backs of the photographs, and from the photo album’s captions for the images. Although a number of these photographs have been mass-produced and seen by the public over the years, a large number of these photographs are one-of-a-kind prints--particularly those photographs of Kiffin Rockwell in his youth before the war.

The photographs were the personal copies of the Rockwell family. By 1920, the family had donated to the State Archives about 30 loose photographs and a photo album from Kiffin Rockwell’s life and military service, including the last-known photograph taken of him on September 22, 1916.

This is the largest collection of original photographs documenting Kiffin Rockwell and the Lafayette Escadrille available currently online. Other collections of Rockwell and Lafayette Escadrille photographs are available in the Rockwell brothers’ papers at Washington and Lee University, and in the Paul Ayres Rockwell Photograph Collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

You can view all of Kiffin Rockwell’s photographs online through the State Archives’ Flickr page in this album.

These photographs were posted as part of the effort by the North Carolina WWI Centennial Commemoration Committee’s efforts to expand online access to original WWI materials documenting the roles of all North Carolinians in WWI. Kiffin Rockwell’s photographs are also being put online in order to commemorate the upcoming 102nd anniversary of Kiffin Rockwell’s death during aerial combat on September 23, 1916.