Notes from the Past

Rocket Mail

Despite the rapid development of rocket propulsion in the last few years in connection with space research, very little use of rockets has been made so far for carrying mail.  Various experimental flights were made in pre-war years but most were over very short distances -- in some cases only a few yards -- and were of little or no practical use.  All were private ventures, some of whose sponsors produced labels to be affixed to the mail carried, often in defiance of postal regulations.  These labels were manufactured for sale to collectors as a means of raising funds.  They may be regarded as interesting curios, but hardly as postage stamps, even of a local character.  After the flights most of the mail was posted in the ordinary way.

The first mail-carrying rocket on record was dispatched by Friedrich Schmiedl in Austria in February 1931.  This was the forerunner of a series of Austrian experiments.  The first in Great Britain was Gerhard Zucker's trial on the Sussex Downs in 1934.  The first American flight took place in the following year.  In post-war years the Rocket Research Institute has conducted a series of more successful trials.

America was also responsible for the first official experiment in 1959.  This was described as a 'Missile Mail'.  Afterwards the American Postmaster-General forecast that even before man reached the moon, mail would be delivered within hours between American, Britain, India or Australia by guided missile.  Whether such hopes are ever fulfilled, and whether rockets will eventually become a regular means of mail transport, are matters for the problematic future.

- R. J. Sutton 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony
The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia
Published 1966
 Posted March 10, 2000

Editor's Note:  Needless to say, the Postmaster-General's optimism has not been borne out by history.  The internet is probably the fastest widespread means of rapid communication today.  The 'Missile Mail' was carried by a Regulus guided missile launched from a submarine on the surface off the coast of Florida.  Dignitaries (like Representatives and Senators) received souvenir envelopes which, by the way, are not standard 6 3/4 envelopes.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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