When the transcendent feat such as the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic ‘Ocean was performed by one previously unknown air-mail pilot, it became inevitable that it should be indelibly impressed at once thereafter, upon our air-mail service and on the public use of that service.
Although Lindbergh was entirely unknown to the general public before the flight, however he was very well known indeed to those whose work consisted in directing or flying the air mail. About the only occasions on which the generality of people had heard of him, previous to May of 1927, were those rather frequent occasions when he was compelled to hurriedly step off his airplane into vacancy and drift down to earth while dangling on a parachute. But those notices were just little routine newspaper squibs of a few lines each, about incidents such as were to be expected in connection with carrying the mail through the clouds.
Lindbergh’s career as an air-mail pilot started on April 15, 1926, the day on which service began on Contract Air Mail Route No. 2, between Chicago and St. Louis, and we show a letter mailed in Springfield, Illinois, that was flown by him on the memorable day. That cover was, in a sense, the first chapter of a remarkable tale.
A little over a year later came the great adventure and the acclaim of the world. Maybe the first concrete tribute to the aviator in this country was found in an action taken by the American Book-lovers Society of New York City. After the Atlantic flight ended on May 21, in less than ten days the Society had created and was using little stamp-like pictures of Lindbergh and his mother. These were printed in panes of four, and one of these complete panes, as issue was reproduced. A letter was mailed by the Society on June 1, and which bore copies of the labels.
Closely following the Booklovers Society labels there appeared a large and pretentious coloured lithograph on which a portrait of the aviator was shown between flags, with the “Spirit of St. Louis” below and the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower in the upper corners. Both the portrait-labels of the Society and the lithograph (a reduced reproduction of which is shown on our front cover) are now rare.
The Post Office Department of the Federal Government was not a laggard in honouring the man who was still one of its fliers. The special Lindbergh air-mail stamp was immediately decided as a fitting official commemoration of the flight, and was so swiftly prepared that it was placed on sale on June 18, in St. Louis in Little Falls, Minnesota (the aviator’s birth-place) and in Detroit and Washington. The rest of the country got it immediately thereafter.
Lindbergh was the guest of the President of France, of the King and Queen of Belgium, and of the King and Queen of England. He was brought home on the cruiser Memphis and landed at Washington. There he was the guest of President Coolidge, received his decorations, and at the Washington Monument reception he addressed some 60,000,000 people throughout the country and the world over the radio.
Then followed the unparalleled scenes in New York City, St. Louis and elsewhere, and through all of these events the aviator kept his perfect poise.
After these events came his tour of the country, during which every state had the opportunity to see him fly the “Spirit of St. Louis.” It was after that tour (and on February-20 and 21, 1928) that he once more flew the mail on his own route between St. Louis and Chicago. A letter then flown by him from St. Louis, and addressed to Brooklyn, is shown.
His tour of the country (now known to philately as the “Good Will” tour) began on July 20, 1927, and was completed on October 23. During that trip no less than 86 different cities commemorated his visit by some special mail cachet on the day of his presence, and with distinguished letters that are avidly sought and treasured. It is doubtful if any absolutely complete collection of these covers exists in one’s ownership.
During 1929 and 1930 came his flights to the West Indies, Central America, Mexico and South America, and he carried mails on these journeys. Cuba, Panama and Costa Rica issued or surcharged stamps in his honor and used them during his visits, and Puerto Rico used a big cachet on its mail, and Haiti used a cancellation in the shape of an airplane with the legend “Lindbergh.” The Cuban cover portrayed bore at least six of the surcharged Lindbergh stamps, and the Puerto Rico card bears his portrait on the reverse. Like wise the Panama cover had his picture.
Nor were these the only manifestations of the esteem in which Lindbergh was held or the only philatelic memorials of the flight. On its first anniversary, May 21, – 1928, Chicago used a portrait cover, and the city of Saginaw, Michigan, used a “Lindbergh Day” cover on the second anniversary. On February 4, 1930, the town of Little Falls, Minnesota, celebrated with a “birthday” cover.
It could be said that Lindbergh’s flight of 1927 had been the inspiration and motive-cause of more diversified philatelic items in the shape of different postage stamps, envelopes, post-cards and cachets than any other famous figure of history, maybe except for George Washington. Nor has the creation of such things ceased. Spain issued a Lindbergh stamp in 1930, more than three years after the flight. Many future anniversaries of May 20-21 may witness the appearance of postal tokens of some sort or another in commemoration of that event.
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