Tuesday, May 15, 2018

U.S. Mail by Air Route Proves Great Success -- May 15, 2018

100 years ago today, on 15-May-1918, the first scheduled airmail service flown by the United States Postal Service began.  This article from the 15-May-1918 The Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat, from Keokuk Iowa, describes the auction of the first airmail stamp and the start of the service. Gazelle, California is way up north in Siskiyou County. Kennedy, California is in San Joaquin Country.  Major RH Fleet was Reuben Fleet, who organized the mail flight and later found the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation.  

New York - Philadelphia - Washington Service Begins Today With Quick Delivery of Sacks.
Army Biplanes Carry Letters Through Air Between Big Cities of the East.

[United Press Leased Wire Service.]
WASHINGTON, May l5.—Cheered by a great throng including President and Mrs. Wilson, Postmaster General Burleson and K. Kambara, postmaster general of Japan, America's first official aeropost service was inaugurated at 11:47 o'clock today.

Plane Leaves New York.

NEW YORK, May 16.—-An army biplane carrying mail for Philadelphia and Washington got away from Belmont park shortly after 11:30 a. m. today on the first flight o£ the New York-Philadelphia-Washington airplane service.

The plane, carrying 182 places of mail for Philadelphia and 460 pieces tor Washington, weighing in all 144 pounds, was driven by Flight Lieutenant Lorry H. Webb, aged 25, of Gazelle, Calif.

Webb, son of Louis Webb, manager of the LaGrange Hydraulic company of Kennedy, Calif., is a graduate of Columbia university and joined the aviation corps at the declaration of war.

The big biplane was out of sight ten minutes after leaving the ground. The flight started at the place where the first international aviation meet opened eight years ago.

A crowd of invited guests gathered at Belmont park to witness the historical event. Among those who spoke were Postmaster Patten, of New York, Byron Newton, collector of the port, and Allan Hawley, president of the Aero club of America.

The entire proceedings were in charge of the signal corps of the army. When the airplane left the ground, climbed for altitude and then turned southward, there was enthusiastic cheering and handshaking among the spectators.

Most of the crowd remained on the scene to welcome the mail which started for here from Washington by airplane.

On Time at Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA. Pa., May 15 -- Lieutenant Webb landed at Bustleton, near here with the first aerial mail delivery from New York at exactly one o'clock this afternoon. This was one hour and a half alter leaving Belmont park L. I., with the mail for this city and Washington.

Lieutenant Webb was received by a committee representing the city, state and the nation and was presented with a wrist watch.

Second Lieutenant J. C. Edgerton relieved Lieutenant Webb at the wheel to pilot the machine on the 140 miles to Washington.

Favorable Weather Conditions.

WASHINGTON, May 15—Arrival of Major R. H. Fleet in an airplane from Philadelphia this morning together with favorable weather conditions made it almost certain that the first Washington-New York mail flight would start on schedule.

President Wilson left his work long enough to witness the history-making event.

Used To Take Over a Day.

Eighty-six years has cut the mail delivery between New York and Washington from thirty-two to three hours.

In 1832 by a special combination of stage coach, railroad and steamboat, the 250 mile route was traversed in the then remarkable time of thirty two hours. This feat was the subject of congratulatory speeches in the senate.

Through establishment of relays of fresh horses every five miles, the pony express attained great speed, delivering New York mail in Washington in fifteen hours. The horses would be run top speed for their five mile stretch, than be replaced by fresh animals.

$1,000 for Stamp.

NEW YORK, May 15.-- Clear weather today made opening of the New York-Philadelphia-Washington aerial mail line practically assured. Army biplanes were tuned up at Belmont park, the New York terminus of the air mail route ready for the start. The first "mail plane," carrying 300 pounds of postal matter, was scheduled to get away from Belmont park at 11:30 a.m. The first plane from Washington is due here at 2:30 p.m.

In the Washington-New York pouch was one letter addressed to Noah Taussig, 1ll Wall street. The stamp, the first purchased in the Washington office for the aerial mail, was bought by Postmaster General Burleson.

President Wilson's autograph, written across the stamp, is the cancellation mark. The envelope and stamp will be presented to the Red Cross to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Already an offer of $1,000 has been made.

In the New York-Washington pouch were letters from Postmaster T. G. Patton to President Wilson and Postmaster General Burleson.

Another frown Governor Whitman to the president was the first cancelled in the local postoffice. This letter will also be given to the Red Cross.

Souvenir seekers, desirous of sending mail on the first trip, swamped the New York postoffice with letters. Only the first 300 pounds received was carried, however. The rest was sent to Washington by a special courier, on a train.


nick kibre said...

I guess that stamp's the normal version of the famous "inverted airplane":


Interesting tidbit about the stamp generally from that Wikipedia page:

"The stamp's designer, Clair Aubrey Houston, apparently troubled to procure a photograph of that modified model (produced by removing the second pilot seat from the JN-4HT to create space for mailbags, and by increasing the fuel capacity). As only six such aircraft existed, there was a 1-in-6 chance that the very plane engraved on the stamp by Marcus Baldwin—Jenny #38262—would be chosen to launch the inaugural three-city airmail run; the plane on the stamp was indeed the first to depart on May 15, taking off from Washington at 11:47 A. M"

Joe Thompson said...

Hi Nick. That's a good item. I wonder how long till someone mentions the inverted Jenny.