THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO

 

December 1928: The International Civil Aeronautics Conference

 

 

US commemoratives honouring 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. A total of 77 official and 39 unofficial delegates from foreign countries attended, in addition to the 12 official American delegates, 43 technical representatives, 238 representatives, and 32 committee members, for a total official attendance of 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. More information on the stamp issue can be found by clicking on: USA - 1928 - International Conference on Civil Aeronautics.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

First Day Covers: Dominic A. Brosnan cachet. Dominic A. Brosnan, owner of Old Stamp Exchange at 62 Pemberton Square, Boston MA, manufactured FDC Cachets from 1928 to 1930. The first Brosnan Cachet was based on the issue for the International Civil Aeronautics Conference.

 

 

First Day Cover: Dominic A. Brosnan cachet – The 5-Cent denomination US airmail stamp shown above (Air beacon, Sherman Hill and Rocky Mountains) was issued 25 July 1928 to meet the new airmail letter postage rate; effective 1 August 1928, the rate was reduced to 5 Cents per ounce.

 

 

 

First Day Covers: Milton T. Mauck cachet. He was a pioneer FDC (First Day Cover) and FFC (First Flight Cover) servicer and cachet maker operating during the 1920s at 911 Harlem Ave, Baltimore,

MD, at least as early as 18 May 1925; later he moved to New Jersey. A contemporary of

Roessler, Mauck closely followed Roessler’s early adoption of cachets for commemorative issues, but a step or two behind the innovative Roessler. Picture of an airplane personally drawn by Mauck.

Note that on the green cachet, picture and text are reduced in size.

 

First Day Cover on a 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. Born in 1871, Albert E. Gorham of Washington D.C. was one of the most prolific FDC Cachet makers and Servicers of the 1920s, honoured by election as President of the Society for Philatelic Americans in 1931.

 

 

The above cachet also exists in red.

 

First Day Cover: Green cachet (with Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis) by A. E. G., Albert E. Gorham.

 Following text in black: FIRST DAY ISSUE – A. E. G. – Green Washington cancellation related to the 2nd day of the Conference (13 December 1928). Herbert H. Griffin was well known in the FDC circles as Cachet maker.

 

 

Last Day of Issue (14 December 1928) - Bradie Buchanan Cachet (in red and blue, with Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis). Best known for generic or general purpose Cachets, Bradie Buchanan produced FDC Cachets in East Liverpool, OH from 1927 to 1960. The Cachet also exists with VIA AIRMAIL and 5-cent stamp.

 

 

First Day Covers – Black and green cachets.

 

 

Granite boulder: On 17 December 1928, 200 delegates from the conference, Orville Wright and other members of the Wright family and friends and a few thousand visitors made a pilgrimage to Kill Devil Hill, where a granite marker was dedicated. It was carved to resemble a bronze boulder and carried a bronze tablet with the following inscription: THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT OF AN AIRPLANE MADE FROM THIS SPOT BY ORVILLE WRIGHT DECEMBER 17, 1903 IN A MACHINE DESIGNED AND BUILT BY WILBUR AND ORVILLE WRIGHT. THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED BY THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION OF THE USA DECEMBER 17, 1928 TO COMMEMORATE THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS EVENT. Measuring approximately six feet by four feet, the marker had cost $2,500. It was placed at the top of a small mound facing Kill Devil Hill. Determining the exact location was difficult, because of the dunes and hills had shifted since the Wright Brothers’ 1903 flight.

 

 

 

First Day Covers - 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 (Italian aircraft manufacturer) at Kitty Hawk on 17 December 1928.

 

 

Picture of the delegates to the International Civil Aeronautics Conference.

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. The delegates' final arrival in Washington, D.C., from Kitty Hawk marked the last official activity related to the conference.

The picture of the aviation pioneers group was taken at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (Virginia, USA), established in 1917 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and named for aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley.

 

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.

 

 

 

Commemorative covers (17 December 1928 cancel) personally signed by Capt. Benjamin B. Lipsner, America's first Air Mail Superintendent in 1918, member and guest of the International Civil Aeronautics Conference, who accompanied Orville Wright from Washington, D.C. to Kill Devil Hill, N.C. The printed cachet at left and rubber stamped cachet in the centre commemorate the 25th Silver Anniversary of the "First Flight by the Wright Brothers".

The front is printed in three inks: blue for the leftmost cachet and address, silver for the shading in the cachet and strips at the top and bottom outlining airplanes, and green (or orange) for the allegory of flight. The cachet at left bears a tribute to the Wright Brothers by Captain B.B. Lipsner. There is also a black hand-stamp at the front-centre that reads: “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary First Flight made by the Wright Bros. at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17, 1903”.

Beyond the attractiveness of this cover below, is the content of the cachet: two columns made up of the names of flight and airplane pioneers. Over half of them have been honoured on stamps issued by the United States or other nations for their contributions to the development of aeronautics.

On the back is a green hand-stamp that reads: “This is to certify as a member and guest of the International Civil Aeronautics Conference, called by President Calvin Coolidge, to mark the first quarter century of human flight, I accompanied Hon. Orville Wright from Washington, D.C., to Kill Devil Hill, N.C. On the entire pilgrimage I carried this cover and finally mailed it personally at the place and on the date as postmarked. (Signed) B.B. Lispner.”

 

Insert of the above covers. Captain Lipsner tells about the event.

 

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

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

 

First Day Cover with hand-drawn and hand-painted cachet 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 Covers with hand-drawn and hand-painted cachets by Jack Follows. One-of-a-kind items.

On this totally awesome pair of masterfully hand-drawn and lavishing hand-painted cachets, Jack Follows reminds us of the early days of air travel with his depiction of 4 different vintage aircraft, both single-wing varieties and double-wing varieties, as they soar in the bountiful sky, which is punctuated with cotton-white clouds.

The add-on cachets by Englishman, Jack Follows (1927-1997) are very popular with collectors. They do not appear in the marketplace very often. Follows was known for his cartoonlike cachets which combined the themes of women, aviation, and comic characters. Each cachet was unique in design. 

 

 

First Day Cover (5-cent) – One-of-a-kind item – Hand-drawn and handpainted by Cachet maker DeWitt.

Showing one of the Wright Brothers tuning up his aircraft by the side of a river, the cachet seems to refer to the Wright Model CH. The Wright Brothers produced this hydroplane in early 1913. It was a Model C equipped  for taking off and landing on water. Originally,it used two twin pontoons affixed to the skid supports, but this made the aircraft difficult to turn; the Wrights switched to one large pontoon under the center and small ones under each wingtip and tail. The cachet seems to be an reworking of a picture showing the Model C on water.

As cachet maker, DeWitt made so few covers and did not stay in the hobby long enough to get a reputation.

 

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. Two blocks of four stamps, one with the marginal inscription.

 

Cover sent from the Special Post Office opened in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building.

Postmark dated 14 December 1928 (last day of issue).

 

First Day of Issue (12 December 1928). Block of four 5-cent stamps - Special registered red hand-stamp.

 

Second Day of Issue (13 December 1928).

 

Last Day of Issue (14 December 1928).

 

Historic  postal  cover  with  1928  5c  stamp  postmarked  Kitty  Hawk,  North  Carolina,  Dec  17 1928, with special rubber stamped pictorial cachet commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight.

 

Back of the above cover with red imprint for the 25th anniversary of the first aeroplane flight.

 

 

 

Cover postmarked in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on 17 December 1928 for the Wright Brothers 25th anniversary first flight celebration. Cachet says "Twenty fifth anniversary first flight made by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17, 1903”. It was a gift sent to stamp collectors from long-time dealer H. E. Harris & Co., Boston, Mass.; it includes two enclosures (see here-below), providing an interesting example of a combo Christmas, special event and advertising cover.

 

Historic  postal  cover  with  1928  5c  stamp  postmarked  Kitty  Hawk,  North  Carolina,  Dec  17 1928, with special rubber stamped pictorial cachet commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight, nicely signed in ink at the upper left by Orville Wright.

 

First Day Cover with cancel on 17 December 1933, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wright’s feat.

Picture showing Wright’s Flyer I.

 

First Day Cover – Web craft add-on cachet (applied in 2007); the Web craft name and the year that the cachet was applied are printed under the flap. The word CONFERENCE is misspelled (Missing F). The upper aircraft is Charles Lindbergh's Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis, while the lower is the Wright Flyer 1.

 

First Day Cover with cancel on 17 December 1949, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the

Wright’s feat - Picture showing Orville Wright, President of the Aeronautics Association, Amelia Earhart, and Senator Hiram Bingham, Secretary of War Dwight  F. Davis, pictured in front of the Kitty Hawk Marker unveiled during the International Civil Aeronautics Conference in 1928.

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