Airmail Thesis Week 8

No one likes to lose control of their projects. This is a human truth that can sometimes cause for unconventional (and sometimes dangerous) solutions to problems. From the beginning there was a power struggle between the military and post office over control of airmail. But the USPS was holding strong, making their way with as little help as they could manage. This started with choosing airfields. An important task, one of the first three airfields set up for the budding airmail service was Belmont Field. This location was actually a horse racing track, which meant it had a large, clear area of grass that enabled pilots to land and deliver mail from Washington to New York relatively consistently. 

Lt. H.P. Culver arriving at Belmont Park with the first airmail from Washington, D.C., May 15, 1918.

Credits - © 2001 National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (Neg. No. A-5388-A)

But in 1920 flying operations were moved to Heller Field due to Belmont being so close to Long Island that the fog and mist made pilots uneasy to fly (plus there was word that staff had become annoyed by planes disrupting the racing. Heller Field's location was closer to Manhattan, thus it was thought that mail ground handling times would be quickened. However, there was a major problem with the airfield: it was sandwiched between a fireworks factory and a Tiffany's Silver factory. Not to mention at the end of an extremely short airstrip was a canal full of water. The landing was so dangerous that Tiffany factory workers would make bets on if planes would make their take-offs and landings without crashing or hitting one of the many 80 feet height factory chimneys. 

Martin MP No. 203 was severely damaged at Heller Field, NJ  n 1920. Photo: Editor’s Collection

So as you can see location, placement and timing were extremely important for pilots to deliver mail in a timely and safe fashion. Similarly, I am dealing with the same issues for thesis (minus the flight and potential for crashing parts.) This coming week I will be making a loose draft of the layout of my exhibition (where things will go)  along with what part of Crane's 3rd floor I would like to show it at. There are a few considerations that will aid in making the Crane decision, like finding a place where I can hang banners from the ceiling, have free standing podiums/structures as well as space to hang displays on the wall. Updates will ensue. 

Danielle Williams