A Flying Success
For an entire week in 1938, the country celebrated airmail.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, September 2008
Smithsonian National Postal Museum
(Page 2 of 2)
One New York town had just a bicycle at their disposal, but the Democrat and Chronicle still managed to make the prosaic means of transport exciting: “No hostile Indians, no desert wastes, no tortuous mountain trails beset the post rider yesterday...only modern traffic hazards, slippery street car rails and treacherous manhole covers slowed the expressman who defied historical accuracy by having a motorcycle escort for the entire trip.”
The Livingston, Montana, Chamber of Commerce decided to demonstrate the effectiveness of airmail by comparing it to the Pony Express, renting 12 horses from a dude ranch for the purpose. The run was from Livingston to Billings, a distance of 118 miles. It took the horses 11 hours and 50 minutes to make the trip; the airmail made the hop in 40 minutes.
Only one of the special flights crashed, and the Northern Star informed relieved readers that the New York pilot was unhurt, and that “after the crack-up at Lowville the airmail from the northern offices was taken to the post office...and continued on to Syracuse later.”
Paul Younts, postmaster of Charlotte, North Carolina, was appointed general chairman of Air Mail Week. In his official speech, he noted: “National Air Mail Week’s primary objective is to turn definitely the attention of the American people to this service, to given them a broader understanding of its value, to arouse in them a deserved appreciation of its already great and still increasing contribution to the national progress.... I am impelled to pay a tribute to the Wright brothers, whose genius and courage in their first flight on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, gave aviation to the Nation and the world. Air Mail Week will be a Nation-wide commemoration of that flight across the sandy shore from the Kitty Hawk dune, upon which now stands an impressive memorial of our Nation’s gratefulness.”
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum holds the James A. Farley collection, which includes more than 7,000 Air Mail Week cachets from every state in the Union. Click on the images at right to see seven selections from cities both large and small.