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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Postal Service's effort to fire up stamp collectors with modern twist on its ...Omaha World-Herald, July 26th
Just 20 of the 100 mini-sheets (six stamps each) have been registered as sold, investigators found. The upright Jenny was one of the first stamps to commemorate the start of air mail. It was issued at 24 cents in 1918, commemorating the experimental...Read more
#NPRreads: Electric Dylan, Fracking And The Iran Deal DeconstructedGPB, July 24th
#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom share pieces that have kept them reading. They share tidbits using the #NPRreads hashtag and on ...Read more
Prison escapee David Sweat severely isolated, controlled in "The Box"Albany Times Union, July 23rd
That hour is the only time each day that Sweat will be able to get fresh air by stepping out onto a concrete balcony, caged in heavy wire, that measures 9 feet by 7 feet. It is within view of a guard tower, .... Letter writing is approved and mail is...Read more
Postal Service's reprinting of the most famous stamp error in history had no ...Santa Fe New Mexican, July 22nd
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service did something unprecedented when it tried to boost stamp sales and kick-start public excitement about collecting: It reprinted the most famous stamp error in history, known as the Inverted Jenny. Now the agency's...Read more
Unprecedented move by US Postal Service allegedly broke rulesTorrington Register Citizen, July 22nd
The upright Jenny was one of the first stamps to commemorate the start of air mail. It was issued at 24 cents in 1918 to commemorate the first mail carried on an experimental air service between Washington and New York. It showed a Curtiss JN-4 biplane...Read more
The Radio Broadcaster Who Fought the Cold War Abroad but Remained Unheard at HomeWall Street Journal, July 21st
Conover's New York Times obituary said, “In the long struggle between the forces of Communism and democracy, Mr. Conover, who went on the air in 1955 . . . proved more effective than a fleet of B-29's.” In his publication ... But the greatest...Read more
Postal Service's reprinting of famous stamp error broke agency rulesWashington Post (blog), July 21st
The U.S Postal Service did something unprecedented when it tried to boost stamp sales and kick-start public excitement about collecting: It reprinted the most famous stamp error in history, known as the Inverted Jenny. Now the agency's watchdog has...Read more
The joys of camping (or not!): Readers sound offSan Jose Mercury News, July 8th
One summer it was so hot that my postage stamps melted to each other, and I couldn't even send my "get me out of here" letters home. If it wasn't heat, it was floods. Large thunderstorms could seemingly appear out of nowhere, making the ground so soggy ...Read more