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Airmail: Topics in Chronicling America

A guide for researching the topic of postal "airmail" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Postmaster General of the United States, signing the first letter sent from Washington by airmail on the first flight by a mail airplane while Otto Praeger, Second Assistant Postmaster General, in charge of the airplane mail service, looks on. May 15, 1918, Washington Times, FINAL EDITION, Page 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

On May 15, 1918, the United States Postal Office Department established the first aerial mail route from the District of Columbia to New York. After many experiments and the interruption brought on by the first World War, the Aerial Mail Service was able to gain support as planes had finally proved themselves a reliable resource. The United States was able initiate the first uses of commercial flying that would extend far beyond mail.

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates in the development of the U.S. Airmail service, and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


February 12, 1912 The U.S. Post Office begins experiments with transporting mail by airplane.
May 15, 1918 The first air mail route is established between Washington, DC and New York.
August 11, 1918 Aerial mail was taken over by the United States Post Office.
November 30, 1918 The Aerial Mail Service obtains planes from the War Department to extend routes.
May 15, 1919 Aerial mail celebrates its first anniversary.
July 26, 1919 The first aerial mail strike is broken up.
July 30, 1919 The first transcontinental airmail routes are planned by Otto Praeger.
1919 During this year, many extensions are routed across the country.
January 7, 1922 Night flying speeds the delivery service and makes airmail service even more appealing.