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June 5, 2017

Early Pictures of U.S Airmail Service, Which Began With Army Air Service Pilots

The development of airmail began long before the invention of the airplane, the dirigible or even the balloon. It began with the pigeon post, which was used by armies many years before the birth of Christ to send messages long distances. Since then, all the man-made vehicles of the air have been used to carry letters from one place to another. Lighter-than-air craft carried mail. Then came the airplane. In the Space Age, experiments have been conducted with missile mail, and messages have been carried on spacecraft and deposited on the planets and the moon for future explorers to discover.

On May 15, 1918, the United States officially established airmail service between New York and Washington, D.C., using Army aircraft and pilots. In earlier years, when the Post Office Department began to use new transportation systems such as railroads or steamboats, it contracted with the owners of the lines to carry the mail. But there were no commercial airlines to contract with. Army Major Reuben H. Fleet was charged with setting up the first U.S. airmail service, scheduled to operate beginning May 15, 1918 between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York City. The army pilots chosen to fly that day were Lieutenants Howard Culver, Torrey Webb, Walter Miller and Stephen Bonsal, all chosen by Major Fleet, and Lieutenants James Edgerton and George Boyle, both chosen by postal officials. Edgerton and Boyle had only recently graduated from the flight school at Ellington Field, Texas and neither had more than 60 hours of piloting time.

First day of the U.S airmail service, May 15, 1918.

Airmail pilot Eddie Gardner, 1918.

Airmail pilot Edward Killgore, 1918.

JR-1B mail airplane designed by the Standard Aircraft Corporation, 31 Dec. 1918.

Curtis JN-4H airmail plane taking off, 1918.

JR-1B mail airplane, 1918.

New York City postmaster Thomas G. Patten and airmail pilot Lt. Torrey Webb, 1918.

Pilot Eddie Gardner posing in front of an airmail plane, 1918.

A modified de Havilland airmail plane with number #299, 1920.

Airmail loaded for pathfinding transcontinental flight, July 29, 1920.

Airmail plane at Chicago, 31 Dec. 1920.

Airmail planes at Elko, Nevada, 1920.

Airmail planes at Omaha, Nebraska, 1920.

Airmail pilots Edison Mouton and Rexford Levisee, 1921.

A de Havilland airmail plane parked on unidentified airfield next to a U.S. mail truck, 1922.

Airmail planes at Omaha, Nebraska, 1924.

Unloading Airmail in Omaha, Nebraska, July 1, 1924.

Airmail pilot James Hill ready for transcontinental night flight, July 1, 1925.

Airmail pilot Paul Collins and bag of first overnight airmail, July 1, 1925.

Airmail pilot William Fillmore, 1925.

Loading airmail in New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1925.

Airmail pilot Lloyd Bertaud and an unidentified individual, September 6, 1927.

An airmail plane in front of a hangar on the Omaha, Nebraska airmail field, 1927.



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