Featuring Research Volunteer Contributions

Airplane Mail

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Amelia Earhart signed cover

On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot onboard. While working on their plane, Wilbur and Orville Wright probably never imagined how aviation would transform worldwide communications, moving letters and freight farther and faster. Ignited by the possibilities, countries and airlines established new rates and routes, and soon a letter could travel around the world for a modest sum. Heavier-than-air craft includes not only biplanes and jumbo jets but also gliders, helicopters, seaplanes, catapults, and rockets to transport mail. Private pilots, postal pilots, commercial pilots, and military pilots flew mail, as did very famous pilots such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.

To learn more about airplane mail, visit:


Cheryl R. Ganz, National Postal Museum


The history of airmail dates to the first manned balloons of the...

Amelia Earhart transatlantic flight cover

US airmail's Developmental Period began on May 15, 1918, with the onset of...