Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures-in this century as in others our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing men together.



Airmail by Train

The first official US airmail arrived at its destination by train.

On 17th August 1859, 123 letters were sent by hot air balloon from Lafayette, Indiana to New York City. Professor John Wise - a piano-maker turned ballooning pioneer - piloted the balloon but there was very little wind. After five hours he had travelled just 30 miles and so landed in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and the letters went the rest of the distance by train.

The Lafayette Daily Courier dubbed the journey a ‘trans-county-nental voyage’.

There had been great excitement about the flight - one of the letters read: ‘Thinking you would be pleased to hear of my improved health I embrace the opportunity of sending you a line in this new and novel way of sending letters in a balloon.’

An advertisement had appeared in the local paper asking anyone who wished to send something to bring it to the post office marked ‘via balloon’.

Airmail Training

The world’s first official airmail entirely by aeroplane was in India on February 18, 1911. It was the first plane to fly in India at all, and it travelled five miles.

The American postal service introduced airmail in 1918, to train pilots for the war. It was a dangerous job: the Assistant Postmaster (who wasn’t a pilot) insisted the schedule be followed regardless of weather conditions. Over half the original 40 pilots died. As a result, the rules were changed so that inspection flights had to be made at the start of every day. The Postal Field Managers had to fly the plane themselves, or, if they weren’t qualified, had to sit in a box in front of the pilots, where the mail was usually kept.


I get mail; therefore I am.

JOHNNY CARSON (1925-2005)

Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.

Ballooning Airmail

During the siege of Paris in 1870, the French sent their mail out of Paris by balloon. The Prussians set up gun-batteries equipped with telescopic sights to blow them out of the sky, but 57 out of 64 balloons arrived, and three million letters were delivered safely.

The painter Edouard Manet, who was in the French army, communicated with his wife, who had escaped to the Pyrenees, in this way.

Rocket Mail

In 1934, Gerhard Zucker, a German engineer showed off his idea of transporting mail by rocket.  The one and only attempt ended when the rocket exploded, blowing the burning packages all over the beach.

The Police in the State of Odisha, India have two ways to transmit messages: wireless communication or pigeons.

In 1977 the U.S. Postal Service abolished airmail and established ‘express mail’ as its category of fast delivery.

The modern French army still operates a pigeon-post.

Barbara Cartland loved gliding and developed the first aeroplane-towed glider airmail. The glider was called The Barbara Cartland.