Air Mail Service Arrives in Aberdeen in 1934
The first official air mail route through Aberdeen was opened on July 3, 1934, after years of planning by the aviation committee of the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. Hanford Airlines (which became Mid-Continent Airlines) operated the route which connected Aberdeen to established air routes through Bismarck and Omaha and put Aberdeen within 20 hours of any point in the United States.
Several days prior to the departure of the first mail plane, area citizens interested in using the new service were given the following instructions in the Aberdeen American News:
“Air mail pouches will leave the post office 30 minutes prior to the airplane’s scheduled departing time of 11:30a.m. on the northbound route and 5:05p.m. on the southbound route. Mail will not be accepted at the planes on the airfield.
“Mail should be at the post office at least 30 minutes before the pouches leave the post office so workers will have time to cancel mail, apply the special cachet, and tie the packages.”
Official cachet rubber stamps are created to commemorate special occasions, and the one for Aberdeen’s first air mail flight pictured Spafford Hall (at NSU) framed by an arched ribbon on which “United States Air Mail” was lettered. On either side of the arch were the words “First” and “Flight”. Below the picture the ribbon read “Aberdeen, South Dakota”. Overall, this stamp was approximately 1 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches and was imprinted in black ink so as to show off well on a white envelope.
Aberdeen postmaster, George Kemper, received nearly 4,000 envelopes from stamp collectors in all 50 states, nearly every Canadian province, and the Panama Canal Zone wishing to add this commemorative stamp to their collections. Many of the letters which accompanied these envelopes even requested the autographs of Mr. Kemper as well as the pilot of the first flight, J.A. Jester. Aberdeen collectors could secure the Aberdeen stamp either by mailing a letter from Aberdeen to someone out of town and asking that person to give the envelope back to the collector or by sending a letter to General Delivery in another town with his/her return address on it.
A special ceremony to mark the occasion was held at the airport and included a concert by the Aberdeen Municipal Band, remarks by the city’s former mayor, John Wade, who had been instrumental in the planning and development of Aberdeen’s then new airport facility, and Harvey Jewett Jr., member of the Chamber’s Aviation Committee, who spoke encouraging citizens to utilize the new service to guarantee its continuing.
Nearly 3,000 people including many dignitaries from other cities, were on hand to witness the first mail route flight that day. Postmaster Kemper; city commissioner, Frank Guhin; and Mr. Jewett were passengers on that flight returning to the city on the south bound plane later that day.
Battery A of the National Guard assisted with crowd control. However, one overzealous guardsman held up the show when he closed the only door of the airplane in an attempt to keep the crowds away. The door locked--and the keys were inside!! The pilot called for a step ladder, crawled through the small cockpit window and unlocked the door allowing the ceremonial departure to continue with little delay.