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International Context Across the Atlantic... A Different Adventure - Part I

The end of the First World War left the United States with a surplus of planes and pilots. Convinced that aviation had potential for mail transportation, the Post Office Department managed to persuade Congress to grant it $100,000, arguing that transporting mail would be an excellent way to train military pilots.

The Post Office Department and the army jointly directed the new service, the Post Office financing the first landing-strips, fuel, and administrative personnel needed, and the army supplying the first pilots.

1918 - Inauguration of the Air Mail Service

On May 15, 1918, the Washington Post wrote: "On this day, the air space is officially open to the American airmail."

The New York-Washington line was divided in four sections. Lieutenant George Boyle was one of the pilots who took part in the inaugural flight from Washington.

Special Guests
Special Guests
From left to right: Assistant Deputy Postal Secretary Otto Praeger, who set up the postal service, Washington Postmaster Merritt L. Chance, Postal Secretary Burleson and President Wilson.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries


After some delays, Boyle's plane finally took off... but in the wrong direction! He telephoned from Maryland to confirm his mistake. Fortunately, the other flights were more successful. On the same day, Torrey Webb took off from New York to Philadelphia, and Lieutenant James Edgerton took off, with mail on board, for Washington. The last of the inaugural flights, from Philadelphia to New York, was completed by Lieutenant Culver.

First Postal Flight
First Postal Flight
Major Reuben Fleet and Lieutenant Boyle preparing for the inaugural flight between Washington and New York via Philadelphia, May 15, 1918. On the same day, four pilots were scheduled to fly on the four sections: Lieutenant Boyle on the Washington-Philadelphia section, Lieutenant Culver on the Philadelphia-New York section, Lieutenant Webb on the New York-Philadelphia section, and Lieutenant Edgerton on the Philadelphia-Washington section.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries


Following the success of these first flights, the Post Office Department was given responsibility for the aerial postal service.

Take-Off
Take-Off
The plane being prepared for take-off. Potomac Park fields, previously used for polo games, were made into a runway. Several thousand people were on hand for the event.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries




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The Beginnings
 The UPU
The Adventure
The Chronology
Canadian Context
The Beginnings
The Semi-official Flights
The Road
The Bush
Follow the Guide
Game

Credits
Canadian Postal Museum