The Great Race
When the Air Mail Service decided to establish a route between New York City and Chicago, two pilots competed to fly it first.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, September 18, 2008
Smithsonian National Postal Museum
(Page 2 of 2)
After waiting two hours for yet another radiator repair, Miller made it to the outskirts of Cleveland at 8:25 p.m. His cranky radiator kept him there until 2:15 the next day—allowing Gardner to catch up at last.
Miller stopped to refuel at Bryan, Ohio, taking off at 4:55, just missing Gardner, who landed at 5:01. Thirty-six hours after leaving New York, Miller approached Chicago’s Grant Park, where thousands of people “cheered the arrival of Pilot Miller with the first sack of aerial mail,” reported the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Although the New York to Chicago trip didn’t quite go as planned, the Air Mail Service was still eager to prove that the mail could get from Chicago to New York in one day, and the two pilots were sent on the second leg of the race, staggering their West-to-East departure by a day.
“Thousands of persons…thronged into the Federal Building this afternoon and almost mobbed the clerks at the air-post window in an effort to purchase the new stamps of the 16-cent variety,” reported the New York Times. “If each of those stamps represents a letter,” Lipsner told reporters, “we shall have to have a whole fleet of airplanes to take care of the mails.”
Miller, still plagued with radiator problems, had to stop in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, where it took four hours and 20 minutes to solder the leaks. He made 600 miles before it became too dark to fly. Gardner, however, made it to New York in 9 hours and 18 minutes (and somewhat dinged up after somersaulting his airplane upon landing), proving once and for all that the Chicago to New York route was viable.