December 1928: The International Civil Aeronautics Conference



US commemoratives to honour this Conference


2-Cent stamp showing the Wright Flyer I airplane, in left profile, used by the Wright brothers in their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on 17 December 1903

5-Cent stamp showing a Ryan B‑5 Brougham airplane with an outline of the globe in the background

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first sustained and controlled human flight in a self-propelled heavier-than-air craft by the Wright brothers, President Calvin Coolidge of the USA called the International Civil Aeronautics Conference in Washington, D.C., from 12 to 14 December 1928. The purpose of the Conference was to consider the strides made throughout the world in the science and practice of civil aeronautics since the first power-driven flight, and to discuss ways and means of further developing it for the benefit of mankind. It provided an opportunity for an exchange of views upon problems pertaining to aircraft in international commerce and trade, and suitably commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first flight of the Wright brothers. It also streamlined the way international airmail was prepaid and handled; before that, rules for prepaying international airmail depended on country-to-country treaties. Orville Wright was the honorary guest (Wilbur had died in 1912); Charles Lindbergh was also present. 250 delegates from 39 countries attended this Conference; the total official attendance was 441.


Before the business of the conference began, delegates had the opportunity to attend the International Aeronautical Exhibition in Chicago. The show featured American aircraft and technology, including nearly every American airplane in production, motors and accessories, special exhibits, and displays of foreign aircraft as well.


Legendary New-Jersey stamp dealer-publisher-cachet maker Albert C. Roessler (1883-1952) added his own tribute to the Wright brothers by privately overprinting KITTY HAWK with N.C. inside a circle. He overprinted the stamps as a sales gimmick soon after they were issued.

The International Civil Aeronautics Conference of 1928 was the first significant national recognition of the Wright brothers' achievement of powered manned flight. Since Orville and Wilbur Wright's historic flight a quarter century earlier, powered flight had come a long way. Airplanes were now accepted as part of the fabric of modern life. They had proved their military value in the First World War and were increasingly finding roles in the civilian world, such as airmail service. The conference was held at the Chamber of Commerce Building, across Lafayette Park from the White House.


Each day was devoted to a different topic: 12 December, international air transport; 13 December, airway development, including meteorology and communications; 14 December, foreign trade in aircraft and engines. Selected papers of special interest were read in the morning plenary sessions and, along with the other papers, formed the topics for discussion in the afternoon sub-sessions. General topics included air transportation, airway development, aeronautical research, aerial photography, aero propaganda (or, more correctly, public relations), trade in aircraft and engines, and private flying and competitions. Following the conference, the delegates traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to attend ceremonies on the site exactly twenty-five years after the Wrights' historic flight.


No international agreements or conventions were produced by the conference, as none were intended. Its most lasting legacies may well be the two U.S. postage stamps issued to commemorate it. In the end, State Department officials may have correctly categorized it as "nothing but a celebration". Perhaps so, but it was still a fitting way to recognize the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day "America gave wings to the world" (as indicated on one of the commemorative covers).


The effects of the Depression muted the long-term impact of the International Civil Aeronautics Conference in establishing the United States as the world leader in civil aviation. While the period of the 1920s and 1930s is characterized as "Aviation's Golden Age", the aviation industry faced daunting challenges over these two decades.


The First Day Covers bear the conference first-day logo in green and a Washington D.C. DEC. 12, 1928 circular date stamp. However, postmark dates range from 12 to 14 December 1928.


First Day Cover: Roessler (New-Jersey stamp dealer-publisher-cachet maker) cachet depicting the Wright Brothers plane at Fort Myers, VA, USA



First Day Cover: Dominic A. Brosnan cachet



First Day Cover: Milton T. Mauck cachet.


First Day Cover: Michael Sanders cachet serviced by H. F. Colman, typewriter-addressed in Colman's distinctive addressing style to Mr. H. A. Robinette of Washington DC.


First Day Cover: Green cachet (with Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) by A. E. G., Albert E. Gorham, Secretary of the Washington Philatelic Society. This cover is properly cancelled with a Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, hand-cancel dated 17 December 1928.



First Day Cover



First Day Cover

On the left-side: Picture showing Orville Wright, President of the Aeronautics Association, Senator Hiram Bingham, Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis, Amelia Earhart, Igor Sikorsky, Giovanni Battista Caproni at Kitty Hawk.

At the place for the address: Picture of the delegates to the International Civil Aeronautics Conference (ICAC).

On the afternoon of 17 December 1928, the Delegates to the ICAC arrived at the Kill Devil Hills (at Kitty Hawk, N.C., USA) memorial site, twenty-five years after the Wrights' historic flight. At two o'clock, Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis laid the cornerstone of the planned national monument at the top of the dune. Senator Hiram Bingham, president of the National Aeronautical Association, spoke and unveiled an inscribed ten-ton granite boulder to mark the site (see left-side on this cover). The delegates' final arrival in Washington, D.C., from Kitty Hawk marked the last official activity related to the conference.


First Day Cover with cancel dated 17 December 1949, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wright’s feat - Picture showing Orville Wright, President of the Aeronautics Association, and Amelia Earhart. The second picture shows the Kitty Hawk Marker from where Orville Wright took off on 17 December 1903 in a machine designed and built by Wilbur and Orville Wright.


First Day Cover hand-drawn and hand-painted by Ben Kraft.

One-of-a-kind item. Orville Wright at the commands of the Flyer.


First Day Cover hand-drawn and hand-painted by Ben Kraft.

One-of-a-kind item. The cachet depicts the Ryan B‑5 Brougham airplane.

Although both stamps in this series feature airplanes, they were regular postage stamps, not air mail stamps. But since 5-cent was the then airmail postage rate, the higher value was often used for air mail by using an approved airmail envelope or by adding the legend Via Air Mail.


First Day Cover on the stationery specially prepared by the Department of Commerce for this Conference, which was held in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building.


Second Day of Issue (13 December 1928)


Last Day of Issue (14 December 1928)


Last Day of Issue (14 December 1928)