Arago: Exhibits

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de Havilland Airmail Plane

de Havilland Airmail Plane

The Post Office Department relied on its fleet of retrofitted de Havilland mail airplanes for carrying most of the mail during the airmail service’s nine year-long existence. The planes were designated DH-4B, representing a retrofit that turned the high-altitude military observation aircraft into well functioning mail airplanes. The de Havillands quickly became the workhorse of the airmail service.

From the earliest days of airmail service, the Department had set its sights on creating a transcontinental airmail route. Unfortunately, the airplanes they were using in the early days of the service did not have the power to match the demands of such a route. With the addition of the retrofitted de Havillands, postal officials had an aircraft that could sustain coast to coast airmail service. The route passed from New York City through Pennsylvania and Ohio into Chicago, Illinois. From Chicago, de Havillands carried mail across Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada before landing at the San Francisco terminus.

By the time airmail was turned over to contractors in the late 1920s, the de Havilland had become one of the most easily identified symbols of America’s airmail service.

de Havilland DH-4 Airplane

De Havilland airmail plane on exhibit in the museum's "Moving the Mail" gallery.