Airmail poster advertising the ten-cent rate
This poster uses an image influenced by a popular World War I poster that features a pointing Uncle Sam (as rendered by artist James Montgomery Flagg for Leslie’s Weekly). Its design is the Post Office Department’s version. An airmail pilot stands-in for Uncle Sam, saying, “Your use of the air mail will make America first in the air,” thus equating the use of airmail service with patriotism.
At first the Post Office Department had a difficult time persuading average Americans to use airmail service. Businesses and banks, however, embraced the speedier system as the most economical, and philatelic collectors eagerly sought to create new treasures by collecting the products of the new service. For most Americans, however, the speedy service did not compensate for the significantly higher cost. The cost per ounce for airmail service began at twenty-four cents per ounce at a time when regular mail service cost only three cents. The Department began a series of rate cuts as incentives to use the mail. At one point at the end of 1918, the Department offered airmail service between selected cities at a mere six cents per ounce.
The price for airmail bounced up and down over the next few years, with rates tied to different levels of service, including distance. On February 1, 1927, when this poster was published, airmail rates were set at ten cents per half-ounce.