On the beat

He loves to write books about Dayton

 By Jim Bucher

Photo: Author Curt Dalton helps to keep Dayton history alive

Truth in disclosure here. It’s time to come clean.

A few articles back, I proclaimed myself – with my vast knowledge on the subject – an amateur Dayton historian.

Well, part of that is true.

I do know a lot – if I say so myself – about Dayton and the Miami Valley. However, for things that stump even me, I turn to a gentleman who has made it his passion to write and document all things Dayton: Curt Dalton.

You see, Dalton has written and/or edited more than 30 books on subjects ranging from Dayton’s breweries to drive-ins to cash registers and beyond.

But what drives this man to put pen to paper?

“I always wanted to write since I was little,” Dalton said. “The reason I wanted to write about the history of Dayton was because of researching the genealogy of my wife’s family. They have been here since the 1860s, and while doing the research, I found out just how amazing Dayton’s history is.”

Curt’s first book, though, was out of necessity.

“It was called ‘Thoughts of a Teenager’ and it is as bad as it sounds,” Dalton said. “The poems and insights I had were pretty bad. I sold the book at Dixie High School my senior year to raise money to go to Brazil as an exchange student in 1976.”

And the reviews?

“I was overjoyed that something I had written was finally being seen by people I knew,” Dalton said with a laugh. “The teachers, bless them, bought copies and told me I was great. Some students bought them and said they were OK for a start. Since then, I have tried to find every copy so I can burn them.”

The so-so reception didn’t stop Dalton, and before long, he was off and running … or, rather, writing.

“As for the first real book I wrote about Dayton, [that was] ‘Breweries of Dayton,” said Dalton. “I was ecstatic to find that the subject was extremely popular. I sold over 2,000 copies in about a year. Not bad for something that was self-published.”

From there, he never looked back and has written some 30 books to date.

Here are some – but not all – of Curt’s books and year published. Yes, he’s been busy.

“Trotwood-Madison Community Cookbook,” 1984

“Portraits of Dayton, Volumes 1-5,” 1993 – 1994

“Dayton Canoe Club: An illustrated history,” 1996

“Keeping the secret: The WAVES and NCR,” 1997

“Greater Dayton Drive-In Theaters: An illustrated history,” 1998

“When Dayton Went to the Movies: A history of motion picture theaters in Dayton,” 1999

“Through Flood, Through Fire: Personal stories from survivors of the Dayton flood of 1913,” 2001

“Dayton Inventions: Fact and fiction,” 2003

“A Taste of Frigidaire,” 2006

“Miami Valley’s Marvelous Motor Cars: From the Apple-Eight to the Xenia Cycle car 1886-1960,” 2007

“The Dayton Arcade: Crown jewel of the Gem City,” 2008

“Curt Dalton’s Gem City Jewels,” 2009

“Curt Dalton’s Gem City Jewels II,” 2010

“The Mother Home: A history of the Dayton Soldiers’ Home in 3-D,” 2012

And his latest, “With Malice Toward All: The Lethal Life of Dr. Oliver C. Haugh,” which was just published this year.

“In 1893, Dr. Haugh of Dayton boasted that he was on the verge of discovering a way to improve mankind; Instead, his use of cocaine and morphine turned Dr. Haugh into a monster who became a danger to nearly everyone who ever loved him,” Dalton explained. “From the period of 1891 to 1905 it was thought that he had committed at least 16 murders, with victims in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. His crimes eventually led to his execution at the Ohio Penitentiary in 1907.”

Wow, sounds like a book for the entire family. I kid.

Curt does have a “real job” – writing is just for fun. He’s the Visual Resource Manager for Dayton History at Carillon Park and takes care of the organization’s 1.5 million photographs, negatives and motion picture films.

However, being an author and writing about the city and region he loves is his true passion.

“What’s amazing is what I learned researching these books,” Dalton said. “The man who listened to his shortwave radio hours upon hours every day so that he could listen to reports from Germany about prisoners of war, which he passed on to the families. The dogs that went overseas during that war who fought for their country. The brewer who was so thrifty that he took off his shoes when he walked up from Cincinnati to start a brewery in order to save wear and tear on them. And The Belmont Drive-In, being one of the few theaters in the world to have two speakers per car so that the movie could be listened to in stereo. Frankly, if I hadn’t done the search myself, I wouldn’t believe half of what I have found.”

And just think, these historical tidbits that add even more to the wonderful stories of our region will be around a lot longer than we will.

“I hope I’m remembered as a person who tried to keep the history of Dayton alive and well and interesting.” Dalton said.

If you’d like a piece of that history you can purchase Dalton’s books by going to daytonhistorybooks.citymax.com/books-by-curt-dalton.html, on Amazon or at Carillon Park.



For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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