Chart of the Post Office’s first airmail flights
Benjamin Lipsner, superintendent of the Post Office Department’s airmail service, used this chart to record information about the first week of flights. The chart is separated by flights from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and flights from Philadelphia to New York City. The sections include date, aviator, start and finish times, the amount of mail carried, and remarks. Lipsner added information about the chart by hand in the upper right corner, marking it “1918 / first Permanent Airmail” and signing it “B.B. Lipsner.”
According to the chart, Max Miller flew the first flight from Washington to Philadelphia on August 12, 1918. He left from the College Park, Maryland, airfield at 11:35 a.m. and arrived at Philadelphia’s Bustleton Field at 1p.m. Miller carried 245.5 pounds of mail, 222 pounds of which was airmail. Maurice Newton flew that day’s flight from Bustleton to New York, leaving at 1:13 p.m. Newton carried 284.5 pounds of mail, 222 pounds of which was airmail. In the remarks column following Newton’s flight, Lipsner noted that the pilot had a forced landing at 2:15 at Hillside, near the Belmont race track that served as New York’s airmail landing field. According to the remarks, the mail was removed from the airplane and forwarded to Belmont by truck, where it arrived at 2:40 p.m.
On these flights and for a time to come, postal officials added regular mail to the flights if there was space available. The high cost of airmail postage during the first few months prevented most people from using it. Initially, the primary users were banks and collectors.
On August 13 Edward Gardner flew the Washington-to-Philadelphia route, leaving at 12:29 p.m. and arriving at 3:30 p.m. He carried 202 pounds of mail, only twelve pounds of which was airmail. Robert Shank flew the Philadelphia-to-New York route on that day, carrying 158 pounds of mail (twelve pounds of which was airmail), leaving Philadelphia at 2:40 p.m. and arriving in New York at 3:55 p.m. In the remarks column, Lipsner noted that “because the Washington plane was late, Shank left for N.Y. with Phila. mail Newton followed with N.Y. mail from Washington at 3:45 arriving 4:45 p.m.“ The Philadelphia-to-New York flights had to wait until the Washington, D.C., mail arrived to ensure that the D.C. mail was forwarded that day.
On August 14 Miller carried 21.5 pounds of mail (over eleven pounds of which was airmail) from D.C. to Philadelphia. He left at 11:35 a.m. and arrived at 12:56 p.m. Maurice Newton carried 158 pounds of mail (twelve pounds of which was airmail) from Philadelphia to New York. He left at 1:12 p.m. and arrived at 2:10 p.m.
August 15, 1918, Gardner flew his 212.5 pounds of mail (8.5 pounds of which was airmail) to Philadelphia, leaving Washington, D.C., at 11:35 a.m. and arriving at 1:22 p.m. Robert Shank carried the mail to New York, leaving Philadelphia at 1:27 p.m., and arriving in New York at 2:25 p.m. He had 146.5 pounds of mail that included 9.5 pounds of airmail on the flight.
Max Miller flew 210 pounds of mail (eight pounds of which was airmail) from Washington to Philadelphia on August 16. He left D.C. at 11:30 a.m. and arrived in Philadelphia at 1:09 p.m. Newton completed the relay, taking 142 pounds of mail (nine pounds of which was airmail) from Philadelphia, leaving 1:16 p.m. to New York City, arriving 2:18 p.m.
The last entries on the chart are for August 17, 1918. Eddie Gardner flew 214.5 pounds of mail (8.5 pounds of which was airmail) on that day from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. He left at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at 1:18 p.m. Gardner’s good friend Robert Shank carried the mail the rest of the way. He left Philadelphia at 1:25 p.m. and arrived in New York at 2:34 p.m. Gardner brought 168 pounds of mail (nine pounds of which was airmail) into New York.