Air Mail Pioneers
The postal system played a key role in the early history of U.S. civil aviation. On May 15, 1918, the Post Office inaugurated the Nation's first continuous scheduled air mail service between cities (Washington, Philadelphia, and New York).
A Curtiss JN4-H prepares to carry mail on a northward flight from Washington's Polo Field. Another mail plane headed south from New York to begin the first air mail route. (Photo: Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, copy of Signal Corps print)
After initial help from the Army, the postal authorities took full responsibility for air mail operations and began to expand the system. They undertook the establishment of lighted airways and pioneered the techniques of airway flying.
Besides its importance in developing the technical side of air transportation, air mail offered a material incentive. In 1925, Congress gave a much-needed boost to America's struggling airlines by authorizing them to carry the mail on a contractual basis. Shown at left is a Boeing 40-C mail plane operated by Universal Air Lines.