American Air Mail Society Founded 1923

Contract Air Mail (CAM)

Contract Air Mail (CAM)

1926 – 1978


The fifty-three year Contract Air Mail period (1926-1978) was the most significant era of development of commercial air service in the United States.  The Contract Air Mail period began and ended with government legislation: The Air Mail Act of 1925 (also known as the Kelly Act) authorized the United States Post Office Department to contract with commercial airlines to transport air mail and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ended the Contract Air Mail period.

The first commercial flights to carry air mail under contract occurred on February 15, 1926 when Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company, using Ford TriMotor aircraft, carried air mail between Detroit/Dearborn (served through Ford Field in Dearborn), Cleveland, and Chicago.

During the first eight years of Contract Air Mail, the network expanded to 34 different routes, providing air mail service to many American cities.  Two famous aviators, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, piloted Contract Air Mail flights before 1930.  All of the Air Mail Contracts were cancelled during February 1934 and the United States Army Air Corps was pressed into service to provide domestic air mail service.  Multiple fatal airplane crashes compelled the Post Office Department to restore air mail service by commercial airlines.  New air mail contracts were inaugurated during May 1934 and Contract Air Mail service continued to expand until the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.

Unlike the treatment that Contract Air Mail history between 1934 and 1978 received in prior editions of the American Air Mail Catalogue, the Seventh Edition treats each Air Mail Route inaugurated during 1934 or later as a new air mail route.  The listing policy in this section was simplified to better document the development of each air mail route.  These changes were made to allow collectors and historians to better understand the expansion of the domestic air mail network.

Alan Lieberman


Previous EditionsUseful LinksSection Contact
5th Ed Vol 2 (1977) pages 593-975Airlines of the United States Since 1914, by R.E.G. DaviesAlan Lieberman
5th Ed Vol 3 (1978) pages 1011-1297
5th Ed Vol 5 (1985) pages 2581-2597
7th Ed Vol 1 (2014) pages 1-213
7th Ed Vol 3 (2017) pages 1-262