The brave souls who first carried mail across the skies a century ago changed the world, postal leaders told attendees at this week’s United States Air Mail stamp dedication ceremony.
“The Wright brothers opened this country’s eyes as to what could be possible,” said USPS Supply Management Vice President Susan Brownell. “Fifteen years later, with the first airmail flights, the Post Office helped turn that possibility into reality.”
The May 1 ceremony celebrated the first of two 1-ounce domestic stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of airmail service.
The stamp, printed in blue, honors the inaugural airmail flights performed by Army Signal Corps pilots in May 1918. A second stamp, which will mark the Post Office Department’s takeover of the service later that year, will be printed in red and released Saturday, Aug. 11.
The stamps not only credit the department’s ability to innovate mail delivery, but also pay tribute to the courage of the pioneering airmail carriers and the foresight of those who fostered the new service and made it a success.
“Challenges would be great,” said Bill Harris, an Air Force historian. “But this didn’t dampen the spirits of the pilots who innovated and experimented daily with tactics and landing procedures. After all, what cargo could be more precious than letters to loved ones.”
The ceremony was held at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Following the event, the museum opened its “Postmen of the Skies” exhibit, which details the history of airmail in the United States.
Other speakers included Elliot Gruber, the museum’s director; Nancy Pope, its head curator; and Chris Karpenko, the Postal Service’s brand marketing executive director.
Both United States Air Mail stamps will be printed in intaglio — a design engraved into the stamp paper — and feature a drawing of a Curtiss JN-4H biplane, the type of aircraft typically used in the early days of airmail.