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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Lindbergh Air Mail Stamp

Instead of a postcard today, a stamp -- and a remarkable one at that. On May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. To honor that achievement, the U.S. Postal Service issued the above airmail (or "air mail") stamp on June 11, just three weeks after the historic landing. That was the same day Lindbergh received the Distinguished Flying Cross, but five days before he collected his $25,000 prize from Raymond Orteig for making the flight.

The competition to be first to fly across the atlantic, known as the Orteig Prize, was sponsored by hotelier Raymond Orteig who owned the Lafayette and Brevoort Hotels in Manhattan. Orteig, hoping to boost Franco-American relations, first offered the prize to complete a transatlantic flight in 1919. When no one had made an attempt in five years, Orteig extended the competition and by 1926 it had begun drawing serious competitors. However, the hazards of aviation meant that by the time Lindbergh began his historic flight, six of his fellow competitors had died.

Lindbergh's flight in the Spirit of St. Louis began on May 20 at 7:52 a.m. with his ground crew pushing the heavy plane down the muddy runway. The plane carried 450 gallons of fuel but Lindbergh had removed as much as possible from the plane, including his sextant -- meaning that Lindbergh would have to fly by the stars (if they were visible) or dead reckoning. Lindbergh dodged bad weather across the Atlantic (sometimes flying as low as twelve feet above the waves) and reached Le Bourget, France, at 10:22 p.m. on May 21st where he was mobbed by a crowd of eager well-wishers.

Upon his return (by steamship) to America, Lindbergh was feted in Washington, D.C., before heading to New York. On June 13th, the aviator was honored with a tickertape parade on Lower Broadway.

Three days later, he collected the Orteig Prize at a breakfast at the Breevort Hotel with Orville Wright in attendance. (The Breevort Hotel was demolished in 1953 to be replaced by the Brevoort apartments.)

The successful flight spurred tremendous interest in aviation and Lindbergh became America's most visible spokesman for commerical flight.

Alas, the stamp is not very valuable today. A mint condition single stamp is only $13.50.

[This post was adapted from an earlier entry.]

* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

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you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
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