Smithsonian National Postal MuseumTitle: The Pichs CollectionSan Carlos Institute
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Smithsonian National Postal Museum The Pichs Collection, Exploring Cuba's History Through Postage Stamps
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Postal History
Aviation History

Cubana Develops International Routes

During the post-war era, Cuba established itself as an international and intercontinental airline, opening routes in North America and inaugurating trans-Atlantic service to Europe. At the same time, the fleet was constantly upgraded, and service was maintained to the highest international standards.

The first international service was Miami-Havana, started on 15 May 1946 with Douglas DC-3s. DC-3s and C-46s continued to be used on domestic routes. A significant event was the inauguration of trans-Atlantic service from Havana-Madrid, via Bermuda and the Azores, on 26 April 1948 with Douglas DC-4s, leased from Pan American (fig. 23). Other services were added in 1953: from Varadero Beach-Miami on 23 January, Havana-Mexico City on 17 September, and Havana-Port-au-Prince on 28 November.

Cubana’s own 300-mph Lockheed L-049 Constellations entered service on the trans-Atlantic route on 15 June 1953 (fig. 24) and this prestigious service was augmented on 22 Nov. 1954 with Lockheed L-1049E Super Constellations. Nonstop Havana-New York service started on 12 May 1956 with Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellations (fig. 25), and in August 1956 the new Vickers Viscount turbopropeller airliners entered service on the Havana-Miami route (fig. 26).

Cubana really showed the flag when, on 22 December 1958, it introduced the 400-mph Bristol Britannia 318 long-range turboprops on the route to Mexico City (fig. 27). This was followed, spectacularly, in March 1959 when the Britannias were placed on the New York route. Cubana was in the position of offering strong competition to the rival U.S. carrier, and on 17 January 1959 had beaten the Havana-New York record time, flying the 1,317 miles in 3hr 28m, at an average block speed of 380 mph. On 5 June 1959, the Britannias went on to the trans-Atlantic route.

Cuba celebrated the International Post Card Week in 1958 with a “hand back” souvenir postcard which is called a “philatelic souvenir.” (fig.28, fig.29) It bears two cachets, (1) one commemorating the International Postcard Week, Second Year, and (2) commemorating the International Week of the Airmail Postcard, Second Year.

Note that the card is not addressed but was handed over the postal counter. The clerk cancelled the stamp, which was placed on the card because the postal clerk would not apply the cachets without the customer buying a stamp first. The two cachets were applied as souvenirs, and then handed it back to the customer.

 

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fig. 23
fig. 23

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fig. 24

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fig. 26
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fig. 27
fig. 27

fig. 28
fig. 28

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fig. 29 (detail of fig. 28)

Aviation History

The Birth of Air Transport in Cuba

The Start of Pan American Airways

Pan American Dominates the Caribbean

A National Airline for Cuba

Cubana Develops International Routes

A New Regime

Maintaining International Links

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