Airmail Service

Topical Reference Page
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From left to right: Pilots Jack Knight, Clarence Lange, Lawrence Garrison, “Wild” Bill Hopson and Andrew Dunphy, head of the Omaha-Salt Lake City Division posed in front of an airmail hangar in Omaha.

At the end of the First World War, aviation pioneer William Boeing was on the verge of abandoning his fledgling and failing aviation business to return full time to the more profitable furniture business. In 1927 Boeing won one of a handful of US Post Office Department airmail contracts. At a time when few were willing to risk their lives as passengers in the developing commercial aviation industry, airmail contracts provided companies like Boeing with the financial cushion that allowed them to develop stronger, more reliable aircraft.

Not only did America’s Post Office Department fund the nation’s commercial aviation industry, but from 1918-1927, the Department operated the nation’s airmail service. Postal officials hired pilots and mechanics, purchased airplanes and equipment, established aviation routes and led the nation into the commercial aviation age.

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Atrium

In 1921, army navigational beacons between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, guided pilots at night. The Post Office took over the system in 1922 and by the end of 1923, had constructed similar beacons between Chicago, Illinois and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

February 22, 2006 - Permanent
Exhibition

In the 1920s and 1930s, funds from airmail contracts breathed life into the nation's fledgling commercial aviation industry.

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Object Spotlight

On May 15, 1918, the Post Office Department began the nation's first regularly scheduled airmail service. The first three months of the service were directed by the Department using Army Air Corp pilots and borrowed airplanes. On August 12, the army pilots were replaced by post office pilots.

The transition from airmail to modern day airline companies can be viewed in the evolution of the 22 models of airplanes that were used in the years 1918 to 1936, as the airmail industry became the airline industry.
Amelia Earhart signed cover
Exhibition
On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became the first...
Exhibition

Though difficult to believe, the beginnings of the modern civil aviation industry lie within the Post Office. Indeed, it was airmail that started the United States on its way to the system of airports and airways that millions of Americans travel on a daily basis.

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Exhibition
On May 20-21, 1932, Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The feat ensured her not only worldwide acclaim but a place in the annals of...
Object Spotlight

Originally built for the Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) by British designer Geoffrey de Havilland, the de Havilland DH-4 was adopted by the United States Army in 1918 and dubbed the "Liberty Plane."

Object Spotlight
Exhibition

Learn how the U.S. Post Office Department created the framework for America's commercial aviation industry. From 1918-1926, a few daredevil pilots and some aging aircraft made history and bound the country together by air.

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2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights.

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2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights.

A Difficult December, Part I: Setting up a Route

2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights.

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