The U.S. commercial aviation industry can be traced to the nation’s postal system. In August 1918, the Post Office Department took control of all aspects of airmail service. It created the foundation for a service that would become a fundamental part of American life. From 1918 to 1927, the department built and operated the nation’s airmail system, establishing routes, testing aircraft, training pilots and flying the mail.
“Birth of an Industry,” the latest featured collection from the National Postal Museum’s award-winning virtual museum, Arago(www.postalmuseum.si.edu/ARAGOBirthofanIndustry), highlights the first years of this service. It is a story of people, adventure and luck. The establishment of reliable, regular airmail service came at a price—the cost of equipment was high; the human cost was higher. In the end, the Post Office Department had created an infrastructure that was a point of national pride when it was turned over to private contractors.
Arago is dedicated to the online presentation of the museum’s vast collections. Stunning high-resolution images and associated stories are presented by curators, expert volunteer researchers, museum staff and guest writers. The virtual museum never closes, offering people around the world access to thousands of objects and online exhibits featuring philatelic and postal history treasures. Visit it at www.arago.si.edu.
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, please call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285. Visit the museum Web site at www.postalmuseum.si.edu.
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