Notes from the Past

World's First Official Air Stamp Issued by Italy

The first stamp issued especially for use on letters carried by air was the 'Buffalo' stamp issued in 1877 for mail carried by Samuel Archer King during an ascent at Nashville, Tennessee.  Other unofficial airmail stamps were issued in France, Switzerland, and Germany between 1877 and 1917.  Italy, however, issued the first official airmail stamp on May 22, 1917.

In May it was decided that experimental air mail services would be established between Turin and Rome, and between Naples and Palermo.  Bad weather delayed the planned start of service between Rome and Turin from May 19 to May 22.

A special stamp was prepared for use on letters carried on this flight by overprinting the current 25 centesimi Express stamp with a three line inscription reading:

EXPERIMENTO POSTA AEREA
MAGGIO 1917
TORINO-ROMA - ROMA-TORINO

Although 200,000 of the stamps were printed, purchasers were limited to three per person.  Special commemorative cards were prepared by the Philatelic Society of Turin for both the inbound flight from Rome and the return flight.  The Post Office provided a commemorative cachet inscribed 'Posta Area da Torino a Roma Maggio 1917' within a double-lined circle.

The return flight was made from Rome to Turin on May 27, 1917.  Mechanical problems delayed the flight which was not completed until May 30.

The Naples-Palermo flight took place on June 28.  An unissued Express stamp was overprinted for this flight:

IDROVALANTE

NAPOLI - PALERMO - NAPOLI
25  CENT  25

The mail arrived in Palermo within three hours of leaving Naples and the return flight was made the same day.

Posted September 20, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

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