This is the anniversary of Canada‘s first official airmail flight in 1918. Most first class mail now goes by air, except on routes where another method of transportation is more convenient. The first airmail anywhere in the world was flown in India in 1911 — five miles!
The inauguration of airmail in Canada was haphazard. Captain Brian Peck was a Royal Air Force officer at a training base at Leaside, Toronto. The Royal Canadian Air Force had not yet been formed. Peck wanted to spend a weekend in Montreal and received permission from his commanding officer to fly there on the understanding that he would do some stunt flying to attract recruits.
Peck arrived in Montreal safely, but rained all weekend and he wasn’t able to put on his flying exhibition. However, the Montreal branch of the Aerial League of the British Empire persuaded postal authorities to sanction the delivery of a sack of mail to Toronto. It was loaded and board Peck’s JNIV Curtiss aircraft on June 23. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed because of the heavy rain.
Peck finally got away from the airfield, Bois Franc Polo Grounds, at 10:30 on the morning of June 24. In those days, Montreal was “wet” from more than the weather. The rest of Canada had prohibition as a wartime measure, but not Quebec. There was going to be a wedding at the air base in Toronto, so Peck was carrying a cargo of supplies, as well as the sack of mail. He also had a passenger, Corporal C. W. Mathers.
The plane was so heavily laden that it could hardly take off. Peck had to fly it under telephone and electric wires, and bank clear of a bridge, before he gained altitude! He landed at Kingston for fuel, which was just ordinary automobile gasoline. He then flew on to Toronto where he arrived at 4:55 p.m.
The mail was received by Postmaster W. E. Lemon. Thirty years later, cancelled envelopes from the flight were worth $200 to $250 if they bore Peck’s signature. The envelopes are dated June 23 and not June 24, when the flight actually took place, because the flight on June 23 was cancelled after the letters had been sent to the airfield.
Surely this is worth learning more about it. I’ve come up with a few places to begin your journey. Let’s start at Toronto History.org, and for an interesting read, you must visit Mysteries of Canada.com. Then there’s Leaside Life News for a recent article by Alan Redway. Lastly, I recommend going to Aeroplilately.ca to read “A brief history of Canadian Air Mail Flights.”