#5281 - Blue
2018 50c Air Mail Centenary
Value: 50¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate- Forever
Issued: May 1, 2018
First Day City: Washington, DC
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Ashton Potter
Format: Pane of 20
Quantity Printed: 7,500,000 stamps
On May 1, 2018, the US Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first airmail flight. The stamp depicts a Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny,” the plane used for that historic flight on May 15, 1918.
One of the first airmail pilots to fly the Jenny was Lieutenant George L. Boyle. Fresh from flight training, Boyle was in charge of the journey from Washington to Pennsylvania. After a rough takeoff, Boyle made it into the air, but quickly became disoriented and headed south instead of north. Not long after, the confused pilot crash-landed in a field. Pilots scheduled for other legs of the journey succeeded in delivering their mail, and the first day of airmail was deemed a success.
Boyle wasn’t the last pilot to get lost or have an accident – all pilots struggled with poor navigational aids and unreliable planes. Even the most skilled pilots had abrupt landings due to low visibility and fuel capacity. Fortunately, as time went on, navigational and other challenges were resolved.
Prices dropped as airmail gained popularity and letters arrived much faster than by train. The USPS continues to use airmail to ensure faster service and lower costs. With the issue of the new commemorative stamp we’re reminded of the early pilots who risked their lives to deliver America’s mail.
First Stamp To Picture An Airplane
On December 16, 1912, the United States issued the world’s first stamp to picture an airplane – a 20¢ Parcel Post issue.
The US Postal Department had introduced Parcel Post service that year for items that weighed 16 ounces or more. Rural Americans used the new mail class to access goods and merchandise they could not have gotten before, giving rise to mail order giants like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward and Co.
Twelve stamps with various denominations were issued in 1912-13 to prepay the fourth-class rate. The four Parcel Post stamps with denominations of 5¢ through 20¢ feature transportation of the mail. Although different vignette designs were featured, all twelve stamps used the same border and color, which caused a great deal of confusion for postal workers.
The airplane pictured on this 20¢ stamp is from a photo taken at College Park, near Washington. The landscape that forms the background was drawn in later. Interestingly, the stamp pictures an “Aeroplane carrying mail.” While experiments to deliver mail by air had been staged as early as 1911, regular airmail service would not begin until 1918. This was the first stamp in the world that pictured an airplane. It was issued on December 16, 1912, and over 17 million were printed.
Less than a year later, the Postmaster General authorized ordinary postage for use on parcel post. Parcel post stamps were then made valid for all classes of mail and were used as regular postage until the supply was depleted.
The next US stamps to picture airplanes would be the 1918 airmails. Most of the airmail stamps issued over the next 94 years would picture airplanes, aviators, or space exploration.
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