Did you know that 100 years ago, the combined efforts of the Post Office Department and the United States Army laid the groundwork for the commercial aviation industry as we know it today? On May 15, 1918, a biplane took off from the National Mall for the very first flight of the inaugural airmail route linking Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia. The need to deliver mail quickly and consistently was the catalyst for these pioneering flights which have had lasting effects on the entire world.
The National Postal Museum is commemorating the centennial anniversary of this historic moment with the exhibition Postmen of the Skies, which opens on May 1, 2018. Through authentic apparel, maps, log books, photographs, video footage and pop culture memorabilia, the exhibition tells the exciting stories of the pilots who risked their lives delivering the mail.
In partnership with the United States Postal Service and the American Philatelic Society, the museum will celebrate opening day of the exhibit with several activities and programs this coming Tuesday, May 1! Participate in a self-guided scavenger hunt of airmail objects throughout the museum, including an original de Havilland DH-4 airplane flown by one of the pilots featured in the exhibition. Or try your luck at vintage games illustrating the impact of airmail on American culture in the early 20th century. There will also be a ceremony for new stamps issued as well as a book launch and signing. Here are more details about the day along with more special activities coming up in May.
May 1: U.S. Postal Service First-Day-of-Issue Ceremony – At 11am, USPS will conduct a First-Day-of-Issue Ceremony for the airmail centennial commemorative stamp. Designed in the style of the 1918 stamps released for the first flights, the new stamp features a Curtiss JN-4H biplane (colloquially known as a “Jenny”) in a rich shade of blue. Kids can witness the momentous occasion and be among the first to obtain these unique stamps.
May 1: Book Launch & Signing – At 12pm, the museum welcomes Kellen Diamanti and Deborah Fisher for the release and signing of “Stamp of the Century.” Though the book is geared toward adult readers, children can enjoy the legendary tale of the “Inverted Jenny.” During the production of the 1918 stamp series, 100 stamps were erroneously printed with the plane flipped upside down. These days, an “Inverted Jenny” can fetch a million dollars at auction; four are currently on exhibit at the museum.
May 15: NPM Glider Give-Away – In honor of the 100th Anniversary of Air Mail Service, every visitor to the National Postal Museum will be given a wooden glider they can assemble themselves and fly at home.
May 26: Paper Airplane Regatta – Be the engineer! Design your very own paper airplane and test it through the College Park Aviation Museum’s paper airplane launcher at the National Postal Museum in celebration of the 100th anniversary of air mail in America. How far will your plane go and what modifications will you need to make your design soar? Visitors of all ages will design and fold their own paper airplanes and test their designs.