Airmail Service chest badge, number 1
This is a badge issued by the Post Office Department's airmail service office. Badges were issued to pilots, mechanics, ground crew, and officials who worked at postal airfields across the country. The Department ran the service from 1918 to 1926.
This badge, numbered one, was issued to Max Miller, the first airmail pilot hired by the Post Office Department. Miller died when his mail airplane caught fire in midair and crashed near New York's Hazelhurst airfield on September 1, 1920.
On August 12, 1918, the Post Office Department took full control of the newly-created U.S. Airmail Service. Control of the service was placed under Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger's office. The Department ran the service from top to bottom - hiring pilots, obtaining airplanes, and creating the infrastructure for airmail flyways. Unlike letter carriers, airmail pilots did not deliver the mail, but were responsible for flying mail sacks and bags between cities. The pilots wore their own clothing for flying, regardless of weather, until 1924, when the Department provided them with winter flying gear. The airmail badge was often the only item carried by an airmail pilot or mechanic that identified him as a postal employee.