National Airmail Week (Lawrence, MA)

cachetThis collection consists of one envelope measuring 4 x 7 inches.  The edging is in blue and red check and reads “Air Mail” at the top.  The cancellation, May 19, 1938, 1 PM Lawrence Mass., is on a 6-cent stamp.  The cachet takes up the left half of the envelope and shows mills and smokestacks.  It reads “National Airmail Week May 15-21, 1938 First flight May 19, 1938. Lawrence Mass. The friendliest city in the United States weaves the worlds worsteds cachet sponsored by the Lawrence Philatelic Society”.  Envelope is addressed to Milton Earlich 147 Lefferts Avenue, Kew Gardens, LI, NY. In 2011 Lawrence Postmaster Charles Cronin’ family allowed the Library to scanned and use a scrapbook oned by Mr. Cronin who was postmaster at the time. 

In 1938 the world was mired in the Great Depression, air transport companies were struggling, but developing. Air travel was still a novelty to many; after all, the Wright Brothers had taken their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina just 35 years before.

In an effort to help the airline companies and at the same time promote airmail service, a nation-wide public relations campaign was launched. Dubbed the National Air Mail Week (NAMW), activities were planned to honor twenty years of airmail service in the United States. Held May 15 thru 21, 1938, the goal of the organizers was to get each citizen to mail and/or receive an airmail letter during the weeklong celebration.

Festivities were kicked off with the issuance of a new 6-cent Eagle multi-colored airmail stamp (Scott #C23, shown above) on Saturday, May 14th. For the next seven days, thousands of communities across the 48 States and most U.S. Territories became involved with their own local activities. Along with all the varied local events, from the largest cities to the smallest crossroads, an estimated 10,000 individual cachets were prepared, giving each of the localities a chance to brag about the beauty, history and/or progressivism of their home towns.

While these cachets were available for use the entire week, most of these covers were mailed on Thursday, May 19th to be carried on special one-day-only NAMW flights, linking all the thousands of participating sites.

Many local airports were dedicated during National Air Mail Week, but if the sites had no air facilities, organizers were very creative in accommodating these special flights. Fields were cleared and back roads were closed, creating temporary runways to allow these planes to land and take-off, carrying their precious NAMW cargoes. Miraculously, weather delayed only a few flights, and only one of the special flights crashed. No one was hurt, and the covers were safely delivered by motorcar!

Locally crowds gathered May 19, 1938 at the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover to awaiting the arrival of planes from Lowell, Haverhill, Newburyport, and Salem Depot, NH.  The Lawrence plane piloted by Lieutenant John S. Hart, left the airport after 2 PM heading for Boston.   18,000 airmail stamps were purchased that day.   A parade of uniformed members of various organizations marched from the post office down Essex Street then continued via automobiles to the airport.  Postmaster Charles A. Cronin met the procession at the airport.  The Lawrence flight commemorates the 1st official airmail flight 20 years ago on May 19th 1918 from Washington, DC to Mineola, LI.

One Response

  1. My grandfather was Lawrence Postmaster Charles A. Cronin.

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