Notes from the Past

Autogyro Mail for Philadelphia

When the new Philadelphia General Post Office at Market, Chestnut and Thirtieth Streets was completed in 1935, a modern post office building of the most advanced design had been constructed, a post office unusual in many respects and which is the only one in the world immediately accessible not only by motor, rail and water, but aerial transportation as well.

Under the building run the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad, while the Schuylkill River flows along the eastern side of the structure.  The building's large flat roof, 350 by 275 feet, was designed for use as a landing field for autogyros carrying the airmail, and a roof heating system, the first of its kind prevents accumulation of snow and  ice so that safe landings are provided for the entire year round.  The adequacy of the roof for its intended purposes was demonstrated in the numerous landing and take-off experiments.

The time is now approaching when it will go into regular service for the receipt and despatch of airmail by autogyro planes and a few weeks ago the Post Office Department solicited bids from air transport companies for the inauguration of a service, planned at first to be experimental in character, to and from the air field at Camden, H. J.  When, as and if a satisfactory bid is approved, the initial operations will no doubt be marked by the use of special cachets.

Postal facilities in the Quaker City will be a far cry from what they were in the colonial days of Benjamin Franklin.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
December 31, 1938
Posted November 7, 1999

Editor's Note:  The inaugural flight occurred July 6, 1939, under a contract awarded to Eastern Air Lines, Inc.  Actually 3 flights were required to carry all of the inaugural flight mail.  The contract called for 5 flights daily except Sunday and holidays.  The capacity of the autogyro was limited to 150 pounds of mail.  The following flight cover illustrates this use.  The cover is provided through the courtesy of Sam D. Virsi.

The service was discontinued shortly after the airport for the flight was moved from Camden Field to Philadelphia Municipal Airfield at Hog Island on June 20, 1940.  (The flight covers which noted this change were erroneously postmarked July 20.)

Index of 507 Notes from the Past

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