Arago: 30-cent Transatlantic

30-cent Transatlantic

On May 16, 1939, the Post Office Department issued a stamp for the inauguration of transatlantic airmail service. The 30-cent issue featured the winged globe design (see C12, C16, C17, and C19) but with changes. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing submitted two models for consideration: one in blue and one in bi-color, red and orange. The post office chose the dull blue. In addition to the change of denomination and color, two ships were added to the background and “Trans-Atlantic” was added above the insignia of airmail pilots. Alvin R. Meissner designed this issue, which was printed on a flat plate press.

The inaugural flight on FAM 18 (foreign airmail route 18) took place May 20, just four days after the stamp was issued. The first eastbound flight of this transatlantic service carried 112,574 first-flight covers, all receiving a cachet prepared by the post office as evidence of being flown. Pan American Airways, Inc.’s Yankee Clipper flew the mail to Horta (Azores), Lisbon (Portugal), and Marseille (France). No passengers flew on the inaugural flight. After departing Long Island, the plane flew over the 1939 New York world’s fair, where it dipped in salute over the dedication of the Aviation Building. This first regularly scheduled eastward mail flight between the U.S. and Europe took place twelve years after Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris.

First day sales totaled 166,671 stamps, with 63,634 covers cancelled. The 30-cent stamp was issued for use in franking mail to be flown on regular airmail service across the Atlantic Ocean and paid for up to a half ounce to any point in Europe.

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