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.

Glossary: Airmail

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Finding a New York – Chicago Route

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The Postal Airmail Service

On August 12, 1918 the Post Office Department took complete control of the nation’s young airmail service. The Department began operating the service on May 15, 1918, but spent the first three months using Army Air Corps pilots and aircraft. Those early Army flights used a relatively treeless field near the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. as their base of operations.

A Special Visit

Last month, while researching some obscure pieces of postal history in the museum’s library, I had a wonderful surprise. The granddaughter of Benjamin Lipsner (1887–1971), the nation’s first Superintendent of the Airmail Service, dropped by the museum for a visit.

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