Airmail Service

Topical Reference Page
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From left to right: Pilots Jack Knight, Clarence Lange, Lawrence Garrison, “Wild” Bill Hopson and Andrew Dunphy, head of the Omaha-Salt Lake City Division posed in front of an airmail hangar in Omaha.

At the end of the First World War, aviation pioneer William Boeing was on the verge of abandoning his fledgling and failing aviation business to return full time to the more profitable furniture business. In 1927 Boeing won one of a handful of US Post Office Department airmail contracts. At a time when few were willing to risk their lives as passengers in the developing commercial aviation industry, airmail contracts provided companies like Boeing with the financial cushion that allowed them to develop stronger, more reliable aircraft.

Not only did America’s Post Office Department fund the nation’s commercial aviation industry, but from 1918-1927, the Department operated the nation’s airmail service. Postal officials hired pilots and mechanics, purchased airplanes and equipment, established aviation routes and led the nation into the commercial aviation age.

Related Blogs

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

This is the first part in a series of blog posts that will look at the lives and work of America’s first airmail pilots. What you may not know is that the Post Office Department laid the groundwork for America’s commercial aviation network.

Earle Ovington: Pilot of the First Official Airmail Flight in the United States

Earle Ovington was the Post Office Department’s “First Aeorplane Mail Carrier,” but he wasn’t the first person to get airborne with the mail. John Wise flew mail by balloon in 1859. Fred Wiseman “unofficially” carried mail in February 1911, coincidentally the same day as an airmail flight in India. In September 1911, Ovington was officially sworn in as an airmail carrier before climbing into his fixed-wing plane and flying from Garden City, New York to the nearby town of Mineola with a heavy sack of mail. As a person and a pilot, Ovington was a unique character and his September 23, 1911 flight has an interesting story.

Wiseman Cooke Airplane

In February 1911, Fred Wiseman took off in his airplane with a handful of letters and newspapers from Petaluma, California. Wiseman’s flight was the first heavier-than air flight sanctioned by a U.S. post office.

Crash of Airmail Plane 249

The Post Office Department was in charge of the nation’s first regular airmail service. The Department purchased the airplanes, hired the pilots, and determined the routes they would fly.