Today in Postal History

Italy Internal Usage - First Airmail Stamp

May 27, 1917

This airmail cover was flown on an early experimental flight.
On May 20 a flight had been made from Turin (Torino) to Rome (Roma).
The Turin - Rome flight took 4 hours and 11 minutes carrying 200 kg of mail.*
It was intended that the return flight would be made the same day.
However, the return flight was not made until May 27.

This cover was carried on the return flight.

This was an ambitious flight of about 500 km between
Turin in northwest Italy and Rome in central Italy.
Further, the flight was accomplished in the midst of World War I.
"In 1917 there was concern that the enemy (Austrians) would cut
sea-mail communications between the mainland and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia,
so a special committee was appointed to organize experimental flights to Sardinia.
The Pomilio aircraft company later approached this committee and persuaded
them to authorize an experimental overland flight between Turin and Rome.
The suggestion was favourably received, because it was considered
likely to boost morale at a time when Italian arms had not been prospering against the Austrians."*

What makes this cover particularly interesting is that the stamp
was a special offical airpost stamp overprinted on a special delivery stamp.
This was the first offical airmail stamp ever issued (Scott C1).
"It was put on sale on 15 May 1917 only in Turin and Rome.
Special post boxes were installed at post offices of Turin and Rome."

The stamp chosen to be overprinted was the 25c. rose red express letter stamp of 1903 (Scott E1).
The over print is:

A special CDS was used inscribed POSTA AEREA ROMA-TORINO.

Because of the original plans for a May 20 return flight, most of the return mail was cancelled May 20.*
Two different iron Guller handstamps with minor differences were used to make the cancels.
This cover is unusual in that it was among those
cancelled on May 27 when the flight was finally undertaken.
This particular handstamp was from the second type of Guller handstamp.
There are two strikes of this CDS.

"The pilot was Lieut. Mario de Bernardi flying a Pomilio P.C.I biplane.
On the return journey the mail did not reach Turin by air,
since the plane was forced by a gale to land on the beach at Lavagna,

a few miles south east of Rapallo (region Liguria)."
This was southeast of Genoa about 150 km short of the destination.
"On 18 July 1967 a 40L. stamp was issued to commemorate the flight (Sass. #1053)."

Special cacheted cards were also prepared for the flight.
"Proofs of the genuine white card used for the return journey
Rome-Turin have been used to make up counterfeit cards.
They can be identified because forgeries of two postmarks
used for the flight Turin - Rome were used on them."

*Thanks to Paolo for providing the interesting comments included in quotes
(with some editorial license on my part) concerning this cover.
He has also provided the details concerning the flight and cancellations.
The comments have been gleaned from his refernces on Italian stamps and from his own knowledge.


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