February 18: Airmail

airmail1911While we may be living in the last decades (if I’m being generous) of the postal system, it’s worth noting that today marks the anniversary of the first official airmail flight on this day in 1911.

The first airmail flight was actually part of an aviation exhibition in India. The event’s organizer, Sir Walter George Windham, got permission from the Indian Postal Service to run an airmail service to raise money for charity while also generating publicity for the exhibition. People from all over the region brought mail to a local church and in the end, pilot Henri Pequet flew 6,500 letters 8 miles from the village of Allahabad to the village of Naini. All of the letters carried on this 13 minute flight were given a special stamp reading “First Aerial Post, U.P. Exhibition, Allahabad. 1911”.

Amusingly however, this was not the first time that mail had been delivered by airborne transportation: Hot air balloons had been used in limited capacity for matters of both frivolity and great importance. For instance, when Jean-Pierre Blanchard traveled by balloon from Philadelphia to Deptford, New Jersey in 1793, the first hot air balloon flight in North America, he carried with him a letter from President George Washington that was to be delivered to the owner of whatever land Blanchard landed on. Also of note, while the February 18, 1911 flight was the first official use of airmail, one day earlier (February 17, 1911) pilot Fred Wiseman took three letters with him on a flight between the California towns of Petaluma and Santa Rosa, making it the first (unofficial) airmail flight.

The cocktail called Airmail is a nice fizzy drink whose name is perhaps a reference to how quickly it will get you sauced. Airmail’s exact origins are unknown, but this drink’s earliest known appearance was in the 1949 edition of Esquire Magazine’s Handbook for Hosts.

Airmail

  • 2 ounces Golden Rum
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 5 ounces Champagne
Stir all ingredients except the champagne with ice and pour unstrained into a Collins glass, then fill with champagne.
Tomorrow: “Buy me some peanuts and…”
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