Inaugurated in the early 20th Century, airmail was a premium service which required paying special postal rates. U.S. airmail stamps document the early history of aviation commerce - from biplanes to Zeppelins to flying boats.

The first airmail stamp - a 24-cent stamp that covered postage from New York to Washington - was issued in May 1918. The stamp pictured the plane that carried the mail – the Curtiss Jenny – and is widely recognized today because a pane of 100 was accidentally printed with the plane upside-down.

On July 1, 1924, regular airmail service across the country was established. Airmail was divided into three zones: New York to Chicago, Chicago to Cheyenne, and Cheyenne to San Francisco. Mailing a letter cost eight cents per zone, so stamps were made in denominations of 8, 16, and 24.

In February of 1926, the Post Office contracted private air companies to distribute airmail. Three stamps were issued for use on these contract airmail routes (or CAMs), each depicting the U.S. map.

Charles Lindbergh’s historical flight in May of 1927 inspired one of the most popular airmail stamps issued, which featured his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. The cost of airmail was reduced in 1928, and two new stamps were issued: Beacon on Rocky Mountains and the Winged Globe.

Airmail service across the Pacific was taken over by the Post Office Department in November 1935 as the threat of war with Japan increased, and Pan Am was chosen as the carrier. A stamp was issued for the three trans-Pacific zones: San Francisco to Hawaii, Hawaii to Guam, and Guam to the Philippine Islands. It originally cost 25 cents per zone, but in 1937, a 20 cent stamp was issued and the cost of mailing a letter from the mainland U.S. to the Philippine Islands was reduced to 50 cents and airmail was extended to Hong Kong.

Cross-Atlantic airmail began on May 20, 1939 as Pan Am delivered mail from New York to Marseilles, France, traveling through Portugal on the way. Although this service didn't las...

During World War II, seven stamps known as Transports were issued, each with a different denomination and depicting a different twin-motored transport plane.

After World War II, many commemorative stamps were released, such as a stamp to honor the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union in 1949 and another to honor the 50th anniversary of airmail service in 1968. Many commemoratives featuring aviators (such as Amelia Earhart, Robert Goddard, and the Wright brothers) were also released.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

Don Schilling's long-running, in-depth blog on stamp collecting and postal operations. Schilling stays up on all th… [read review or visit site]

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

If you're into postal history or collectibles, check out the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. This extensive s… [read review or visit site]

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

This auction house site offers an extensive online database of US stamp information. Includes PDF catalogs of past … [read review or visit site]

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise showcases Hawaiian postal history from the years before Hawaii became a part of the United … [read review or visit site]

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Bob Hohertz's impressive database of U.S. Private Die Proprietary stamps from the Civil War and Spanish American Wa… [read review or visit site]

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Ckstamps: Us Stamps Scott #c15 $2.6 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint Hr Og Cv$575Ckstamps: Us Stamps Scott #c14 $1.3 Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint Lh/og Cv$400Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C14 Mint Og H $400Nystamps G Many Mint Us Bob Air Mail Sd Official Stamp Collection Scott AlbumCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott #c13 65c Airmail Graf Zeppelin 1930 Mint H/og Cv$180Us, Airmails, Postage Dues & Other Bob, Excellent Stamps Hinged/mounted On OverlU.s. C15 Mint Original Gum $2.60 Zeppelin Stamp Cat. Value $575.00Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C13 Mint Og H $180United States Stamps Incl Pl# Blks, Spec Deliv, Air, Line Pairs +other G794U.s. C14 Mint Original Gum $1.30 Cent Zeppelin Stamp Cat. Value $400.00Us, Graf Zeppelin Flight, C18, 3 Stamps On CoverGraf Zeppelin Scott C13 Europe Pan-america Round Flight PostcardNoblespirit No Reserve (951c) Desirable Roessler Zeppelin Hindenberg!#c3 Us 24 Cent Carmine Rose & Blue Curtiss Jenny-mint-n/g-fine1933 Graf Zeppelin Century Of Progress Cover Lake Forest Il Via Miami & New York1918 24c Bi-color Airmail, Scott C3 – Large Multiple – Block Of 12 – P.o. FreshNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og Nh $140 W/certU.s. C13 Mint Original Gum .65 Cent Zeppelin Stamp Cat. Value $180.00Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Mint Nh OgUnited States Back Of Book Stamps Including Many Pl # Blocks In 63 Pages G786Us Stamp 1933 Air 50c Century Of Progress Flight Green Scott C18 Mint Hinged1930 Graf Zepplin Air Mail Stamp Scotts #c-15 Us May 31 1930 Graf Zeppelin First Flight Us-europe Pan Am Round Flight EnvelopeUs, Airmails, Incl C18(mint), Wonderful Mint Stamps Hinged/mounted On Scott PgsU.s. Wm. Piper Airmail Sheet #c132, Cat. $ 208.00+Stamps Scott U.s #c11 Used,fancy Apple Cancel,vf, On Piece (a7882)Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og H $70Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C2 Mint Og Nh $130Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og H $48Us, Airmails, W/f, Columbians, Csa &, Excellent Stamps In StockcardsUs 1936 Hindenburg Return Flight Franked With C13 65c Zeppelin IssueNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C1-c3 Used $100Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c3 Mint Lh OgAir Mail Stamp Scott C150c Zeppelin Air Mail Scott C181959 - Ryukyu Islands Airmail Registered Cover - Mailed To Usa - Front Only -Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C4 Mint Og Nh $40Nystamps G Many Mint Old Us & Bob Air Mail Stamp Collection Stock PageDr Jim Stamps Us Kansas City Precancel First Flight Air Mail Cover 1926Us Sc # C46 Diamond Head, Hawaii 80c Airmail (3x) Plate Blocks Mnh (dd325)Nystamps E Old Us Bob Air Mail Due Parcel Stamp Collection Stock BookUs, Airmails, Excellent Stamps Hinged/mounted On Scott PagesUs, Airmails, Incl C18(mint Nh) Excellent Stamps Hinged/mounted On Scott PagesGraf Zeppelin U.s. Sea Post Lakehurst Friedrichshafen Postage Due 1928 CoverCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c1 Mint Nh OgNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C6 Mint Og Nh $140Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C7 Mint Og H W/cert Block Of 6U.s. #c18 Mint - 1933 50c Zeppelin ($50)C18 Mint Ognh Vf-xf No ReserveCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c2 Mint H OgSix Beautiful 1930s Airmail Cacheted First Day Covers - Two Special DeliveryNoblespirit No Reserve Fantastic Us Airmail & First Flights Collection!Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og H $70Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C7-c9 Mint Og H/ Nh $21U's' # C4 - No Gum - Mint StampUs, Airmails, Incl C18(mint) Excellent Stamps Hinged/mounted On 3 Scott PagesCanal Zone Air Mail Scott C6-14Dr Jim Stamps Us Unclaimed Kansas City Missouri C7 First Flight Air Mail CoverUsa Sc 205//j39 Mint U.s. Postage Washington Franklins Perf 11 Stamps Cv $465.Us Stamps Special Delivery 5 Plate Blocks Mnh No Reserve

Recent News: Airmail Stamps

Source: Google News

Neil Kinnock invokes Adolf Hitler to smear the Conservatives
Daily Mail, March 28th

Neil Kinnock is facing a political furore after comparing David Cameron's Election tactics to Hitler's infamous 'big lie' about the Jews. In an incendiary speech, the former Opposition leader, one of Ed Miliband's closest allies, accused the Prime...Read more

5 reasons your kids should collect stamps
The Columbian, March 28th

Child development experts say the benefits are many; the challenge is to get kids started. Cool stamps aren't arriving in the mailbox much now that ground mail is less common. And few kids know others who are already collecting stamps. So parents and ...Read more

Hold the post: there's no such thing as a dead letter
The Conversation AU, March 25th

The force of this letter, and of other missives exhibited around the country to mark a century since the first world war, stands in stark relief against our diminishing reliance on snail mail in Australia today. Last month, Australia Post announced...Read more

The Early Days of Caribbean Aviation
Caribbean Journal, March 20th

the study of stamps. First Flight and Commemorative envelopes issued by Post Offices, known as “covers,” were used to promote new routes and created a market for collectors. International airmail lanes were called FAM- (XX) designating the contract...Read more

Hollywood Regency and the Woolf Pack
Advocate.com, March 19th

The Palos Verdes Art Center is mounting the first-ever exhibition of Woolf's collection of drawings, schematics, and renderings, which have been housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The exhibit opens Friday and runs through May 29...Read more

Poem of the Week: World Trade Center/Mail Runner/'73 by Peter Balakian
The Guardian, March 9th

Later, in the collection's central sequence, A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy, Balakian summons Ovid: “Omens … are wont to wait upon beginnings”. The events and images of 9/11 are inextricably present in World Trade Center/Mail Runner/'73. Even for readers...Read more

Grammar School | Long words for lovers of learning
The Virginian-Pilot, March 8th

I nearly always believe that shorter words are better for making a point. But I found a few unusual long words that can be fun for both philonoists and non-philonoists. Yes, "philonoist" is one. A philonoist loves learning. I might have made up that...Read more

You never know what people will love
The Virginian-Pilot, March 5th

I had heard of philately, or stamp collecting. But a specialty in the hobby is “aerophilately,” the collecting of airmail stamps. Those are the guys with their heads in the clouds. Some of the words threw me because I was unfamiliar with the roots of...Read more