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.
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Recent News: Airmail Stamps
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Water complaints? In Veracruz, it's turned off all dayThe 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 weekendChampaign/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 ArlingtonFalls 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 topThe 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 stampsComox 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 extraordinaireUIC 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