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]



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 $2.60 Airmail Graf Zeppelin Mint Lh Og Cv$575Scott #c14 Mint 1930 $1.30 Graf Zeppelin Between ContinentsCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott #c14 $1.30 Airmail Graf Zeppelin Mint H/og Cv$400U.s. Air Mail Stamp, Scott # C 14, UnusedU.s. Air Mail Stamp, Scott # C 15, UnusedCkstamps : Us Stamps Scott #c13 65c Airmail Graf Zeppelin Mint Lh/og Cv$180Noblespirit No Reserve (jw)/177 Enormous Us Cover, Fdc, & Airmail CollectionScott #c15 Mint 1930 $2.60 Blue Graf Zeppelin Passing GlobeUs Stamp:#c13 65c Green 1930 Graf Zeppelin Air Mail Mh/og StampCkstamps: Lovely Mint Most Nh Us Airmails Pb Stamps Collection ( Face Value $105Us Grad Zeppelin 1930, Pan America Round Trip Flight, Sc# C13 , Cat $200 _cjimUs Grad Zeppelin 1930, Pan America Round Trip Flight, Sc# C13 X 2, Cat$335_cjimUs Grad Zeppelin 1930, Pan America Round Trip Flight, Sc# C14 , Cat $400 _cjimCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#64b Used On Cover With Weiss CertScott #c13 Mint 1930 65c. Graf Zeppelin Over The Atlantic OceanDrbobstamps Us Scott #c15 Mint Og Hhr Well Centered Zeppelin StampNystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C10 Mint Og Nh $130 P#6Ckstamps : Impressive Mint Most Nh Us Airmails Stamps & Blocks Collection PagesScott #c1-c3 Mint 1918 Classic Airmail Set Cv $195.001928 Graf Zeppelin Flight Cover Detroit Mi To GermanyCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Mint H OgNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og H $65Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c5 Mint Glazed GumBuffalo Stamps, Scott #c7-c24 Airmail Collection, Mnh / Og & Vf-xf, Good CvUs Sc#c14 Vf+ Og Lh Fresh&brite $1.30 Zeppelin High Catalog 1930 Fresh StampNystamps S Many Mint Nh Us Bob Air Mail Stamp & Block CollectionCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Three Used On Cover$1 Airlift # 1341 On Registered Air Mail Cover Brooklyn Ny To GermanyU.s. #c18 Mint Nh Beauty - 1933 50c Zeppelin ($90)Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Used On CoverNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og Nh $85U.s. #c9 Choice Mint Xf Nh W/cert - 1927 20c MapScott C18 50 Cent Green 1933 Graf Zeppelin Airmail Stamp Value $50.00Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Used On CoverNystamps Us Canal Zone Air Mail Stamp # C1-c5 Mint Og H $95Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C2 Mint Og Nh $130Nystamps Us Block Air Mail Stamp # C10a Mint Og Nh $120Us Stamp:#c90 31c Us Air Mail 1976 Mnh Stamp + Dark Color StampUs Airmail Stamp Scott C14 Zeppelin Unused Nh Og Pse Certified Genuine ! JshUnited States 5c-25c Airmail 28 Full Mint Sheets $158.50 Face LotUs Airpost 1989-90 Sc C1-c11 Nh Cat Value $725U.s. Airmail Stamp Collection, C18 " Baby Zeppelin" Mnh Og VfZeppelin Flight & Berlin Olympic Stamp Fdc Flown Registered Cover, 1936U.s. #c1-3 Mint Set - 1918 Airmails ($195)Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og H $48Us - 1941 Cacheted 1st Flight Cover W/airmail Set Mailed To The Belgian CongoCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c4 (2) Mint H OgCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c3 Mint Lh Og SpotU.s. #c18 Mint Beauty - 1933 50c Zeppelin ($50)Us Stamp:#c1 6c Orange Brown 1918 Air Mail Mh/og StampCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamp Collection Scott#c18 Used On CoverU.s. Airmail Stamp Collection, C5 Mh Og Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C22 Mint Og Nh $90 P#6Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og H $70U.s. Stamp, S.c.# C-18 ; Mh ; Airmail (1933)Nystamps Us Canal Zone Air Mail Stamp # Co14 Mint Og Nh $13Nystamps Us Canal Zone Air Mail Stamp # C20 Used $28Us Airmail Stamps Scott C7,8,9 Mnh Scv 62.50 Y929Us C-1 1918 Us Curtiss Jenny 6c Sc Og Light H Vivid 4 Margins Orange Cat $701930 Us Zeppelin $2.60 Sc C15 Nh Cat $975

Recent News: Airmail Stamps

Source: Google News

Water complaints? In Veracruz, it's turned off all day
The San Luis Obispo Tribune, October 7th

All I wanted were a few stamps and a place to mail my postcards. Nada, zip, invisible at least. “I know there is a post office in ... After my first gasp for air off the airplane, my loving but high-strung family kicked into gear. Technical things went...Read more

42nd annual C-U Stamp Club show set for next weekend
Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette, October 5th

Also part of the show: The American Topical Association, which promotes topical and thematic stamp collecting by publishing reference works and checklists and organizing the National Topical Stamp Show. The association members will meet at 1:30 p.m...Read more

Our Man in Arlington
Falls Church News Press, October 1st

Attention, collectors! I'm assembling a fresh slice of Arlington history—as told through postage stamps. Our county boasts many assets worthy of commemoration on a stamp—the Custis-Lee Mansion, the Iwo Jima and Air Force memorials, the Tomb of the ...Read more

Sylvia Plath's suicide note – did it name a final lover?
The Guardian, October 1st

She asked him for some airmail stamps a few hours before her suicide. If she needed stamps, there must have been a last letter. The story at the party in New York was that it was a suicide note addressed to her mother, Aurelia; that at some point it...Read more

A race to the top
The Real Deal Magazine, October 1st

The ever-shrinking amount of development space in Manhattan has prompted developers to piece together postage-stamp-sized sites and then pack on air rights that allow them to build higher. From an engineering standpoint, a building is considered...Read more

Collector has a passion for stamps
Comox Valley Record, September 30th

Tatton, who resides in the Comox Valley, is a master philatelist whose collection spans decades, and is now looking to give back to the community with whom he shared his love of stamp collecting. Beginning in Hamilton, where he worked for an insurance...Read more

Patti Smith: 'It's not so easy writing about nothing'
The Guardian, September 26th

Time to face up to the last mail of the year – bills, petitions, invitations for gala events past, imminent jury duty. I swiftly set aside one item of particular interest – a plain brown envelope stamped and sealed with wax with the raised letters CDC...Read more

Smithsonian museum's stamp collector extraordinaire
UIC News, September 25th

To develop new stamp exhibits, “the trick was for everybody to start thinking big,” says Cheryl Ganz, chief curator of philately at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. By Jamie Malanowski — UIC Alumni ... “I was a natural collector,” she says. “My...Read more