INTRODUCTION: Back on January 4, 2022, I featured an article under “Harlan’s History: Post Cards from the Past” (see article No. 2) that is titled “The First Air Mail Flights in South Jersey”. In addition, on November 4, 2022, I posted another article (see article No. 39) titled “Early Air Mail In Stone Harbor: Never-Before Seen Photos Come To Light From August 1912”. If you have not seen and read articles No. 2 & No. 39 or if you would wish to re-read them, it just might serve useful to you to do so at this time. The reason I mention these two particular articles is that they will provide excellent background information and serve to enable you to springboard into the 5 articles/accounts that I am posting below. However, in order to simplify things, I am providing a somewhat shortened and condensed account of the 1912 events below for you to read under the heading “THE BACKSTORY”.
Recently, while visiting the Stone Harbor Museum, I came upon some interesting materials and articles pertaining to a commemorative re-enactment event that occurred in 2012 and was directly related to the first air mail service linking Stone Harbor with Ocean City in 1912.
That being said, this extended post will present 5 separate but related accounts along with photos that appeared in the local newspapers heralding the 100th Anniversary or Centennial air mail flight ceremony that took place at Stone Harbor on August 3, 2012.
Therefore, in order to make these newspaper articles easy to read, I have re-typed each article and will provide exactly what was printed and published in those articles along with any and all accompanying images including captions. In addition, I have corrected a few misspellings contained in those original sources. I have also taken the liberty of interspersing a few additional images (vintage post cards and photographs) from other sources to highlight certain statements.
THE BACKSTORY: Before proceeding, it is important to once more lay the foundation for just how those special airmail flight demonstrations came about in 1912. During that summer, the founding Risley brothers of Philadelphia had set into motion their plan to develop a seashore resort community called Stone Harbor, New Jersey on Seven Mile Island in Cape May County. What they needed was to implement a unique means of promoting Stone Harbor in ways that would capture the attention of the public.
Among their many novel ideas was to turn to the infant aviation industry for help. They engaged the services of a young pilot in the Philadelphia area by the name of Marshall Earl Reid. Pilot Reid owned a Wright biplane that was driven by two propellers that had cost him $5,000. The Risley’s entered into an agreement to pay Reid $1,500 a week for his services. Please keep in mind that Wilbur and Orville Wright had only been successfully flying for 8+ years since their history-making first powered flight in December of 1903. Airplane sightings, air fairs and air show events which were becoming very popular created quite a thrilling sensation and the public embraced such events and occurrences with tremendous enthusiasm.
As part of that agreement, it was determined that passengers and mail were to be flown between the South Jersey towns of Ocean City and Stone Harbor. Interestingly, and prior to this development, an application was formally made to the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. for the authority to fly the mail between Ocean City and Stone Harbor. The approval was granted for this temporary service to occur just between August 3 and August 10, 1912 over the newly created pioneer air mail route designated #609,003.
Marshall E. Reid was duly sworn in as an official U.S. mail carrier and the mail service was advertised in advance so that both towns could accept and handle specially flown air mail for these occasions. In addition to the required postage, each piece of mail which consisted mostly of picture post cards, had to be endorsed and have written or printed in manuscript the words “VIA AIRPLANE” or “VIA AEROPLANE MAIL”. A total of 12,615 pieces of mail were carried by Reid over the 5 days that flights were actually conducted. He carried mail to and from Stone Harbor on Saturday, August 3. The following day, Sunday, he only carried only passengers. The dates that mail was officially flown from Ocean City occurred only on August 3, 5, 9 and 10 with the number of pieces flown to Stone Harbor recorded as 11,556 including a whopping 5,000 flown on the last trip from Ocean City. Only 1,059 pieces of mail were recorded as being flown from Stone Harbor on August 3, 7, and 9. Authentically flown pieces of mail properly postmarked on only those 3 trips from Stone Harbor are considerably scarcer and subsequently more valuable to certain collectors, called aerophilatelists, who collect such specialized airmail material.
In addition, and as another means of identifying such flown mail during this time period, two different cachet imprints using black ink were applied. One such cachet used at both post offices was a two-line hand stamp which read: “OCEAN CITY & STONE HARBOR / AERIAL U. S. MAIL SERVICE.” The other cachet imprint simply read: “VIA AEROPLANE-ROUTE”.
After August 10 the flown mail and passenger service between Ocean City and Stone Harbor ceased. Upon the cessation of air mail service, Pilot Reid vacated his headquarters at the Hotel Normandie in Ocean City and re-located his aircraft and mechanic to Stone Harbor whereupon the Risley’s continued to pay him to give flying exhibitions as well as take passengers on sightseeing flights around town for another 3 weeks until Labor Day of 1912. There is no doubt the Risley brothers and their novel airmail promotional efforts realized some increased investor interest in developing their “New” Stone Harbor. After all, that was the desired outcome for such a promotion.
PART 1: – Published by ATLANTIC CITY PRESS 8/3/2012
“BIPLANE CELEBRATES 1ST AIRMAIL FLIGHT
IN N.J., FROM O.C. TO STONE HARBOR”
By Elisa Lala – Staff Writer
Photo #1: (Caption) “Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters, under the tent, spoke during the centennial celebration of the first airmail service to the borough about how few cars there were in 1912 and how the developers organized the first mail drop off from Ocean City to Stone Harbor to promote tourism. Walters said, ‘It was the first airmail drop of the state’.”
“Standing on the Stone Harbor beach pavilion at 95th Street on Aug. 3, watching a 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane loop its way across the sky, borough resident and historian John Hencheck said special events such as this are what push people to reflect on the importance of our history.
The ceremonial flyover by pilot John Flood marked the centennial celebration of the first airmail flight in New Jersey, routed from Ocean City to Stone Harbor and piloted by Marshall Earle Reid.
Photo #2: (Caption) “John Flood flew a 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane to mark the centennial of the first airmail flight in New Jersey, which went from Ocean City to Stone Harbor, piloted by Marshall Earle Reid.”
It was the first time the written word was delivered by air,” Hencheck said. “In a day of 4G smartphones, we come a long way, but this was the start.
Pilot Reid’s 20-mile flights occurred daily, except on Sundays, with his original authorization set for Aug. 3-10. But because of its success, it was extended to Sept. 5.
Reid’s flight came just nine years after the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903.
People started to need and want to have their information delivered quicker,” Hencheck said. “They began to realize if they wanted to send a letter to, say, the Caribbean, they didn’t have to wait a month for it to be retrieved. I still remember the thin parchment paper envelopes that were used in my day to make the mail lighter for flying. Times change.
On Aug. 3, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, Cape May County Freeholder Susan Shepard, heads of the Culture and Heritage Committee, city officials of both Stone Harbor and Ocean City, and the United States Postal Service celebrated the historic flight.
About 50 people attended this event, which also included an unveiling of a commemorative plaque to be housed in the Stone Harbor Historical Museum.”
PART 2: – Published by CAPE MAY COUNTY HERALD 8/3/2012
“FLYOVER MARKS GALA CENTENNIAL OF AIRMAIL DROP”
“STONE HARBOR – The centennial of New Jersey’s first airmail drop was celebrated Fri., Aug. 3 with a flyover by a 1940’s era bi-plane over the borough beachfront.”
“Back in 1912, I can tell you this was a very big deal for Stone Harbor, Ocean City, and the United States Post Service, said Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters. The airmail flight was supposed to last from Aug. 3 through Aug. 10, 1912 but it was so successful that it continued into September with both airmail and passenger service.
A 1940 Waco UPF-7 bi-plane from Red Baron Air Tours in Woodbine, piloted by Joe Flood, took a ceremonial 100th anniversary flight over Stone Harbor’s beachfront.
Flood conducted some aerobatics with the plane to the delight of the crowd assembled at the 95th Street beach pavilion.
On Aug. 3, 1912, Ocean City’s postmaster handed pilot Marshall Earl Reid a sack of mail. Reid departed Ocean City at 9:15 a.m. and the first-ever airmail flight in New Jersey began. Reid converted his Wright pusher aircraft into a hydroplane since most of his flights would be over water. He continued the flights until September 5, 1912.
As part of the commemoration of that historic flight, the U.S. Postal Service presented a plaque with a framed airmail staff that is gifted to the Stone Harbor Museum.
Judy Hendrick, senior plant manager for the Postal Service, unveiled the plaque with the assistance of Walters and County Freeholder Vice Director M. Susan Shepard, of Ocean City.
Also attending was the entire Stone Harbor Borough Council representatives from the office of U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, (R-2nd) representatives from post offices in Stone Harbor and Ocean City, and volunteers from the Stone Harbor Museum.
The flyover officially kicks off Stone Harbor’s celebration of its 100th Anniversary, which will be formally held in 2014. Future events this year will include anniversary celebrations of the Stone Harbor Beach Patrol and the Stone Harbor Volunteer Fire Department.
A cancellation stamp commemorating the historic event is available at the Stone Harbor Museum for the next 30 days.
The museum is located at 235 95th Street.”
The image above shows U.S.P.S. postal card that has been cancelled with the special event/pictorial postmark device which shows a bi-plane aircraft flying over waves and stating: “AERIAL U.S. MAIL SERVICE / 100th ANNIVERSARY / 1st COASTAL AIR MAIL DELIVERY STATION / STONE HARBOR, NJ 08247 / AUGUST 3, 2012”
PART 3: – Published by BRIGHT SIDE NEWSPAPER C.M.C.H. – 8/2012
“CELEBRATING AN HISTORIC MOMENT IN STONE HARBOR’S PAST”
“One hundred years ago, August 3, 2012, the Ocean City Postmaster handed pilot Marshall Earle Reid a sack of mail at 9:15AM, and the first airmail flight in New Jersey was on its way to Stone Harbor.
Aviator Marshall Earle Reid converted his Wright pusher aircraft into a hydroplane for flying between Ocean City and Stone Harbor, as most of the flight would be over water, His twenty-mile flights occurred daily, except for Sundays, and carried both mail and passengers. His original authorization for making flights between August 3rd and 10th was such a success that it was extended to September 5th, 1912.
On the Centennial Celebration of this significant event. the historic flight was celebrated in Stone Harbor by officials from both towns, local dignitaries and the United State Postal Service. The ceremony held at the 95th Street pavilion on the beach in Stone Harbor. The crowd was treated to a ceremonial fly-over by pilot John Flood and a 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane.
The event also included an unveiling of a commemorative airmail stamps plaque by the U.S. Postal Service, which is housed at the Stone Harbor Historical Museum, 234 – 93rd Street.
As a community service, the United States offers pictorial postmarks to commemorate local events. People attending these events can obtain the postmark in person. The postmark can also be obtained bye submitting a mail order request. The “Stone Harbor Coastal Airmail Delivery Station Pictorial Postmark” is only available until October 3rd. Contact the Stone Harbor Post Office for details.
Pictured from left to right are Stone Harbor’s Acting Postmaster Marleen Moore, Stone Harbor Museum President Terrie Cwik and Cape May Point Postmaster Melissa Lomax.”
PART 4: – Published by STONE HARBOR MUSEUM ARCHIVES
RARE PIECE OF FLOWN AIR MAIL
FROM STONE HARBOR TO OCEAN CITY, N. J.
AUGUST 7, 1912
See the lower part of image
depicting the 2-cent postmarked envelope
that was addressed to Mr. J. R. Taylor
in Trenton, N.J.
Next, see the upper post card with a hand-written message
from Stone Harbor, N.J. and dated 8/9/12 that states:
“Dear Sir: I beg to advise that the Aeroplane Mail service is concluded. Was in operation from 8/3 to 8/13 carrying in four trips from Ocean City, N.J. distance 21miles a total of 11,456 pcs mail and three trips from Stone Harbor, N.J. a total of 1059 pcs. Yours truly, Geo Freshell”
(Incidentally and for the record, George Freshell was the Postmaster serving at the time at the Stone Harbor Post Office.)
PART 5: – Created by BOROUGH OF STONE HARBOR – 2003
Copy of Official Plaque on Display at 95th Street and Beach
“During the first week of August, 1912 the first airmail delivery in New Jersey took place between Ocean City and Stone Harbor. Flying the twenty miles in twenty-nine minutes, the Curtiss pusher single engine,
chain driven twin propeller aircraft used the beach as a landing strip. Over 500 pieces of mail were delivered that week as part of a demonstration of the feasibility of airmail delivery. Six years later, in 1918, the US Post Office started regularly scheduled air mail service between Washington, D.C. and New York.”
“STONE HARBOR MUSEUM
(Superimposed Pictorial Image of the Borough Seal)
BOROUGH OF STONE HARBOR – AUGUST 2003”