This past Thursday (May 3) the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History on the campus of Regis College in Weston Massachusetts celebrated the 100th anniversary of US air mail with its annual postal history symposium titled “A Century of US Air Mail”. Four speakers were invited to talk on various aspects of air mail and postal history. Yamil H. Kouri, Jr. Chair of the Spellman began the symposium and introduced each of the day’s speakers in a room at College Hall on the campus of the prestigious and picturesque Regis College.
The first speaker was Scott Trepel of Robert A. Siegel Auctions. Mr. Trepel gave a very engaging and informative talk titled “First Flight of the Jenny” in which he traced the history of the earliest US pioneer air mail flights leading up to the first officially recognized air mail flight on May 15, 1918. The talk included many rare photographs and information regarding the early flights and the pilots as well as details about the legislation involved with early air mail and the issuance of the first US air mail stamp, the Jenny.
The symposium’s next speaker was award winning exhibitor Santiago Cruz from Bogota, Columbia. His talk titled “SCADTA, The Pioneer Years, 1920-1922” described the history of SCADTA (Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transportes Aéreos) air mail partnership between Germany and Columbia from the first survey flight on September 12, 1920, on which no actual mail was carried, to the air mail service’s first official flight slightly more than one year later on September 26, 1921. Mr. Cruz’s extraordinary Columbian air mail stamps exhibit formed the basis for the talk with several examples of the stamps issued as well as rate, usage, variety and plating information.
Following a break for lunch, Murray Abramson’s talk titled “Development of US Air Mail to European, Africa, and Asian Destinations” began the afternoon session and delved into the origins of US foreign air mail service with the first documented evidence for a service between the US and Great Britain being noted in January 1922. Mr. Abramson highlighted a number of repositories that he visited for his research, most notably the British Library and Archives, in order to discover the history of early US-foreign air mail service providing illustrations of many primary source documents.
The symposium concluded with award winning exhibitor David Crotty’s talk on World War II postal routes titled “Air Cargo Transportation in the South Atlantic and Across Africa during World War II.” Crotty discussed the Pan-American Airlines Africa-Orient Division known as the “Cannonball” service as well as the Army Air Transport Command’s (ATC) routes in Africa. According to Crotty, both Pan-AM and the ATC sought repeatedly to expand routes in Africa beyond Leopoldville during this period.
This year’s Spellman Postal History Symposium was a fitting commemoration of the 100th anniversary of US air mail for all those in attendance and an event well worth attending in the future for any postal historian.