We are so used to enormous technological change impacting our lives that we have become quite casual about it. But major technological change was more unusual a century ago and no technology ever seemed as liberating as the first manned flight. Soaring like the birds has been the aspiration since Icarus and the Wright’s feat was hugely important. Early on, philately cashed in on the popular fascination with air flight, with the early Airmail flights really just publicity stunts, serving no real postal purpose.

It was only a few years though before the speed that Airmail allowed made a major difference in the efficacy of communications. Early Airmail was expensive, but it was worth it and special stamps were issued by most countries for the more costly airmail service. Judging by the ornateness and technical printing prowess in the designs and executions of these early Airmail stamps I have always felt that they were meant to be philatelic souvenirs as much as legitimate postage stamps meant to pay for airmail. The two French 50 franc stamps above are certainly beautiful but the amount of postage that they paid was one hundred times the first class postage so there couldn’t have been much legitimate postal need for them. Still, these early worldwide airmails, including the United States Zeppelin set, are a nice addition to our hobby, even if, strictly speaking, they weren’t postally necessary.

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