Arago: Exhibits

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B. B. Lipsner

Lipsner was the driving force behind day-to-day procedure in the early days of Airmail service. He was the primary organizer of the Army service and he established the daily routines that lead to the Washington-New York route being, for the most part, reliable.

Contrary to what he would have had you believe, Lipsner was not a pilot. He was actually a mechanic. Before airplanes, he saw to the upkeep of a fleet of trucks for the army. He took what he learned from maintaining the army’s fleet of trucks (things we take for granted, like the necessities of daily maintenance) and applied them to the upkeep of airways and airplanes.

Lipsner, after the tenure of the army, was Superintendent of the Airmail Service until a particularly nasty scuffle with Otto Praeger. His diagreement with Praeger led him to resign from the Airmail Service. He then spent the rest of his life promoting himself as a self-styled airmail pioneer, despite the fact that he had never flown a plane.

It should, however, be noted that Lipsner was far more capable of seeing things from the standpoint of the pilots. Thus he was far less likely to demand flying in impossible weather, and, as a result, was far better liked by the pilots than Praeger.

Airmail pilot Max Miller and superintendent Benjamin Lipsner
Photographer: Unknown
Date created: September 5, 1918
Benjamin Lipsner (holding mailbag), Superintendent of the Airmail Service, and airmail pilot Max Miller (wearing flight gear). Miller is about to begin his pathfinding flight between New York and Chicago.
National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection

Lipsner (on the right, with the mail bag) hands Max Miller the mail he was assigned to fly to Chicago on September 5, 1918.