Today in Postal History

Catapult Mail to Germany
August 30, 1932

This cover was sent by catapult mail from the steamship
Bremen while en route to Europe from North America.

Catapult mail was one of several schemes used to speed mail
across the oceans before airplanes could make the trips.
The first catapult mail was from the French ship Ile de France on August 13, 1928.
The French gave up the service after four flights as being too expensive.

The Germans provided catapult mail service starting on
July 22, 1929, from the North German Lloyd liner Bremen.
The Bremen Heinkel He 12 seaplane was launched about 300
miles (or 250 miles, depending on the source) from New York.
The service was expanded to include the Europa in 1930
with a Heinkel He 58 and, for a brief period, the Columbus.

Bremen postcard - courtesy of John Paston, New Zealand.
Built in 1929; displaced 51,656 tons.

An aspect of the service which is not so well known is that mail
was also flown by seaplanes to catch the departing steamers.
In the case of the Columbus it was never outfitted with a catapult
and its only seaplane service was as a departing vessel.

In 1932, a Junkers Ju 46 seaplane replaced the He 12 on both the Bremen and the Europa.

Westbound mail mostly flew into New York although there were some flights into Boston.
Eastbound flights initially went to Cologne, Cherbourg, Amsterdam, and Bremerhaven.
However, after July 21, 1930, flights all went into Southampton.

The techniques employed provided a savings of 36 hours in Transatlantic mail.
The service continued until Zeppelin Hindenburg service began in 1936.

This neat cover is franked with a 1928 5 pf. light green Hindenburg and
a 1926 50 pf. brown orange German Eagle airmail (Scott 368 and C31).

around BREMEN | 30-8-32 | NEW YORK.
    The D before Bremen stands for Dampfer or Steamer.

Interestingly, this site (click on 1932 link) says that the Bremen left New York
on August 30, 1932, and the catapult flight was on September 3.
From this, we conclude that the cancellation date is the sailing date.

There is also bilingual airmail etiquette.
The attractive stamped cachet indicates Southampton was where the seaplane would land.

The destination was Friedrichshafen on Bodensee (Lake Constance) in Württemberg.

I was unable to find any information about Ottmar Kehle.
I thought he might have been someone engaged
in the Zeppelin activities in Friedrichshafen.


Today in Postal History
January February March April May June
July August September October November December

Pastnotes Index - The First 300 and the Next 208
provides more tidbits about stamps and collectors.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.