U.S. stamps have long celebrated America’s leading role in aviation history with stamps commemorating both pilots and pioneering designers. The two most common subjects for stamps of this type are the Wright Brothers, whose first flight in December 1903 began the era of heavier-than-air aviation, and Charles Lindbergh, whose first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 inspired a generation. Other U.S. stamps have highlighted a variety of record-breaking pilots as well as pioneers in aviation design, military aviation, and exploration.
Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, ushered in the era of controlled, manned, powered flight by a heavier-than-air machine on December 17, 1903. The brothers flew their experimental gliders and airplanes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, because of its steady wind pattern and wide-open spaces. On December 17, with Orville at the controls, the Wright Flyer flew successfully for 12 seconds, traveling 120 feet—and changing the world. To date, the Wright brothers and their first flight have been the subjects of seven U.S. postage stamps.
In 1927, an unknown American aviator named Charles Lindbergh burst onto the world scene by flying his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, alone across the Atlantic. In so doing, Lindbergh won a major prize long offered by hotelier Raymond Orteig to the first pilot to fly nonstop either from New York to Paris, or Paris to New York.
The dangerous solo crossing was even more remarkable because Lindbergh went against the accepted wisdom of the day by choosing a single-engine plane instead of a multiple engine design, in order to save weight.
Within months of his flight, Lindbergh was honored with a U.S. airmail stamp; he and his flight have since been the subject of two other U.S. postage stamps as well.
Other Pilots and Aviation Pioneers
Though many U.S. postage stamps have honored the Wright Brothers and Charles Lindbergh, there are also a wealth of U.S. stamps celebrating other designers, pilots, and explorers. Among the figures on these other stamps are Amelia Earhart, the well-known pilot who disappeared during a round-the-world flight in July 1937; World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker; and Antarctic explorer Richard Byrd. To see them and many other aviation pioneers, look through the stamps below.