Now we have all heard of working on a time crunch, but imagine setting up an entire US Postal Airrmail service (including finding pilots, mechanics, planes, extra parts, fuel and landing sites) in only 15 days. Now imagine that your deadline has been broadcasted to the entire United States and that the President will be at the inaugural flight ceremony of the first ever scheduled airmail service. That my friends, is what I call pressure.
It was the responsibility of Major Reuben H. Fleet to do all this work as assigned by Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson. And he had no chance of getting out of this one. But if that wasn't enough it seemed like with every turn there was someone there to try and halt Fleet's progress. Like when he cut down a tree smack dab in the center of Potomac Park, the designated Washington, D.C. airfield. It needed to be done to fly in and out of the already tree encompassed death trap, but the Parks Department was slower then molasses and caused Major Fleet to take matters into his own hands. Which ended up landing him in the office of Secretary of War Baker for cutting down that single tree. Talk about getting called into the preverbal principal's office. Luckily Baker was on Fleet's side from the start and told him he would "Back him from Hell to breakfast." That had to be a confidence boost.
It is stories like this that have inspired me to focus on the trials and adventures of these fledgling airmail years. I will admit that when it comes to the mail I simply expect it, like air or water it has to work and has to be on time. But this is only because of all the people that have worked so hard in the past and now to make the post seem invincible. Therefore, I have decided to actually switch my thesis direction just a tad. Instead of focussing on a strictly retail perspective I will be looking into traveling exhibitions like the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) which includes the actual exhibit as well as an accompanying publication, poster and/or brochure. I love the idea of being able to focus the topic of aviation and postal services into a more concise exploration of the first few years of airmail through a display and collateral pieces. At the end of this project I hope to inspire those who visit my popup space with pride for these aviators and mailmen once more.
**Warning** This video is pretty darn dry. But if you were ever interested in knowing how traveling exhibitions are set up well then buckle up for 16 minutes of banjo. My apologies.