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 Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c15 $2.60 Mint Nh Og Cv$975Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c13 65c Mint Nh Og Cv$275Us 1930 Zeppelin $2.60 Blue #c15 Mint Nh Cat Val $975Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c14 $1.30 Unused RegumNystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C11 Mint Og Nh $55 P#6Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C13 Mint Og H $200Us Stamps - #c18 - Used - 50 Cent 1933 Baby Zeppelin Issue - F-vf - Cv $47Ckstamps : Lovely Mint Most Nh Us Stamps & Airmail Collection ( Face Value $90Nystamps Us Block Air Mail Stamp # C10a Mint Og Nh $120[16] Usa 1930 Scott#c14 Mnh Cv:$650 Air Mail-zeppelinDec 31 1918 Airmail/advertising Cover Hotel Martinique Air Mail Service Sc #c11941 Fdc Philippines Registered Censored Clipper Air Mail To Switzerland Noblespirit No Reserve {4148/176} Us Bob Air Mail C1-c6 Mnh/f-vf =$700 CvScott#c14 $1.30 Air Mail Graf Zeppelin Mint No GumU S Stamp M N H #c15 Zeppelin Passing Globe Cv$700Noblespirit No Reserve {4148/177} Us Bob Air Mail C1-c6 Mnh-lh =$635 CvCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c2 16c Mint Nh Og Cv$130Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C6 Mint Og Nh $140Oct 28 1928 Graf Zeppelin 1st Flight Airmail Cover Lakehurst Nj To Germany1946 Denver,co Usa Registered Prexie Airmail Cover To Chengtu,china1944 Newark,nj Usa Prexie Airmail Cover To Chengtu,sechuen,china+censorUs 1930 Zeppelin $2.60 Blue #c15 Mint Nh Cat Val $975Nystamps G Many Mint Nh Us Bob Air Mail Stamp Plate Block Collection High FaceU S Stamp M N H #c13 Zeppelin 65c Cv$250U S Stamp M N H C14 Zeppelin Between Continents Cv$475Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C10 Mint Og Nh $130 P#6Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C12 Mint Og Nh $200 P#6Us Scott # C13 Unused / Vf / Nh Zeppelin; Scv $160.00Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c13 65c Unused NgCkstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c18 50c Mint Nh Og Cv$90Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c3 24c Mint H Og Cv$70Scott#c7, 10c Dark Blue Airmail Top Plate Blk Of 6. Vf & Nh.Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og H $48Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c15 $2.60 Unused Ng Lightly StainUs Air Mail Sheets Complete Mint Nh 5 X Sc #c71 Blue Jay Bird Face=$50Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c14 $1.30 Mint H Og Cv$400Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c10a 10c Mint Nh Og Cv$120Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C2 Mint Og Nh $130Block Of 4, Mnh. #c-5 Cv($450). F-vf 16 Cent Dark Blue Air Post, A Beauty!Philippines 1941 Clark Field Fort Stotsenburg Can Clipper Air Mail To UsaNy 34 Maco Alw? Airmail Label Germany Ship To Shore Bremen Yellowstone Park FfcUs Airmail Stamps: C4 Mint, Original Gum, Vf/ Never Hinged (cv$40.00)Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C46 Mint Og Nh $20 P#4Ckstamps: Us Air Mail Stamps Collection Scott#c3 24c Mint H Og Cv$701946 Denver,co Usa Registered Prexie Airmail Cover To Chengtu,china,$1.60 RateNystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og Nh 85Us Stamps # C6 Xf Og Nh Large Stamp Scott Value $140.00Noblespirit No Reserve (mgc) Fantastic Usa & Chile Airmail Covers 1920s-19402Us Stamps # C13 Superb Og Nh Huge Stamp Scott Value $275.00Ckstamps : Lovely Mint Most Nh Us Airmail Pb Stamps Collection ( Face Value $56C1 - C6 Used F-vf Complete U.s. Airmail First Issue 1918-1923 Cat Val $174.00 Ckstamps: Wonderful Mint Us Most Airmails Pb Stamps Collection ( Face Value $115Us Airmails #c46 Mnh Plate Blocks Matched Block Set Hawaii #24592 Cv $80 Hq88Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C18 Mint Og H $48Us Stamp:# Uss Macon Silver Zeppelin Cachet Cover 1934[06] Usa 1923 Scott#c4 Mnh Cv:$40 Air MailOct 7, 1933 Sc #c18 Fdc Airmail Cover Chicago To Hawaii United States C13 65ct Graf Zeppelin "very Fine" But Hinge Remnant & Small StainUs Stamps - #c5 - Mnh - 16 Cent 1923 Air Mail Issue - F-vf - Cv $130Nystamps Us Air Mail Stamp # C3 Mint Og Nh $140