April 1, 1926: Air Mail service begins in four Florida cities
Regular air mail service was established in Florida as "Miss Miami" flew from Miami to Fort Myers and Tampa with 3,514 letters and Miami's Postmaster J.D. Gardner on board, the Miami Daily News reported. The Florida Airways plane picked up more mail and another postmaster in Fort Myers before landing in Tampa, where it was greeted by Tampa's Postmistress Elizabeth Barnard and a number of local officials. At Tampa, 6,000 pieces of mail were transferred to another plane, the "Miss Tallahassee" for delivery to Jacksonville. Postmistress Barnard boarded that plane, then flew to Miami aboard "Miss Jacksonville" with Jacksonville Postmaster Herbert Ross.
The U.S. Post Office contracted the air mail service with Florida Airways under the Kelly Act of February 2, 1925. The act was intended to "encourage commercial aviation" by authorizing the Postmaster General to contract with airlines to carry mail. The contractors would receive 80 percent of the revenue from the mail they carried. The early airlines also carried passengers, but none could have survived more than a year without the revenue from the mail contracts, according to the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum website. Florida Airways established regularly scheduled passenger service between Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa on June 1, 1926.Founded in 1923 by Eddie Rickenbacker and two partners, Florida Airways failed to turn a profit and ceased operations in June 1927. Its mail routes were taken over by the company that later became Eastern Airlines, and its planes were purchased by the forerunner to United Airlines. Read the story in the Miami Daily News: 'Miss Miami' Mail Plane Reaches Tampa • Check out the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum website entry: Building the Commercial Aviation Network