Italian Airmails

Collecting airmail stamps was a far more popular specialty half a century ago than it is today. Airmail was a major technological advance in communications. Before 1920 the quickest any paper communication could get from one place to another was approximately five hundred miles a day providing expensive railroad lines had been laid. Railroads were ubiquitous in the United States and Great Britain but in many less commercial countries (say Mexico or Italy) communication between far flung areas was slow. Planes and small runways were far cheaper than railroads and Italy among other countries made a concerted effort to promote early airmail flights. By 1940 Italy had issued 105 airmail stamps compared to 24 for the United States, and none for Great Britain. As a specialty, Italian airmail stamps have a special status all their own. Collectors collect early flights and Zeppelins and the stamps mint and used. The airmails of Italy have an almost unique status in the philatelic world as nearly all of them are worth more used than mint. Airmail is gone today as a special service of the post office. In the United States, all mail over few hundred miles goes by air as part of ordinary postage. But most baby boomers remember from their childhood that letters from the east coast to the west that went by train took five days and airmail letters took three. In Italy the need to connect the island of Sicily and the poor road development in the south made airmail service a unique contribution to Italian commerce and development.

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