Before airmail was invented, shipping methods were much slower. (Homing pigeons had been used centuries before, but pigeons, to say the least, are not the most sophisticated form of transport.)
But some destinations were inaccessible unless accessed by airplane.
The story of the invention of the airplane is in itself a wonderful tale, but airmail enters the story through the first scheduled airmail service in the UK between North London and Berkshire in 1911. The event was part of the celebration of King George V’s coronation. This first service took 16 flights, carrying 35 bags of mail in total. It stopped only about a month after it started due to bad weather.
But the invention of the airplane was too useful to ignore. While the U.S. government was slow to adopt the incredible invention of the airplane, the U.S. Post Office expressed interest in the airplane early on. They tested a mail flight between Garden City and Mineola, NY. He dropped mail from the plane to the ground where the postmaster picked it up.
The Post Office continued to conduct unofficial flights within different states between 1911 and 1912.
The first regular airmail system in the United States started in May 1918 with a route that ran between Washington, D.C. And New York City.
This is also where the famous Inverted Jenny stamp comes into play. Many of the original planes used to transport mail were Jenny training planes from the Army. The Jenny stamp was issued in 1918 in honor of the first airmail service – but things didn’t quite go as planned. You can read more here.
Airmail postage cost 24 cents.
Airmail continued to expand and grow in the U.S., and planes grew safer as time went on.
Of course, airmail was quite popular with stamp collectors. Philatelists often went out of their way to find the first airmail flights to send letters and collect the cancels from such flights.