Today in Postal History

Italy to United States
December 15, 1954

This airmail envelope was on its way to Chicago from Corleone
when it was callously interrupted by a crash in New York.
When recovered, it received a DAMAGED BY PLANE CRASH | AT NEW YORK 12-18-54
handstamp and was sent on its way.

The flight was Italian Air Lines Flight 451 bound from Rome to New York.
The pilot, the entire crew of 12 and 22 passengers died.  Six passengers survived.
On its 4th attempt at an instrument landing at Idlewild it came in
short of the runway, over a 2000 ft pier, and sank in Jamaica Bay.
95% of the mail load of 2116 lbs was salvaged.
This rubber stamp is one of the scarcer of 4 known.

The cover is franked with a pair of 60 l red stamps with winged wheel watermark
from the regular issue of 1950 portraying a grain cart (Scott 564).
The winged wheel watermark was probably of the 3rd type which would have been current at that time.
Most large values of stamps didn't get held for long times.
The rate was from the 5th tariffs applicable at the time
which provided 60 l flat rate for international correspondence
plus 60 l for the first 5 grams for international airmail.*

Corleone is about 20 km south of Palermo on the western end of Sicily.
Corleone was apparently a suboffice of Palermo.

The addressee may have been a member of the Mafia.
Google searches came up with a number of pages in Italian
which linked a Giacomo Riina with criminal activity.
I found this note on Palermo tourism:
"Then we will move to Corleone, a lovely town surrounded by emerald hills and waterfalls.
Here you'll visit the Duomo and the prehistoric Museum.
After visiting this . . . town, it will be hard to believe that this was the home
of the terrible mafia boss TotÚ Riina, now serving a life-long prison term."

*Thanks to Matthew for suggesting the Mafia relationship.
Thanks, too, to Paolo, for the insight on the rates and watermark.
He also reminds us that there were other Riinas in Corleone not associated with the Mafia.


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