A brief history of Canadian Air Mail Flights

The first air mail flight in Canada was from Montreal to Toronto on June 24th 1918. It was made by Captain Brian Peck from the Royal Air Force training school at Leaside, outside Toronto, and was planned as part of a publicity event to encourage wartime recruitment. Approximately 125 covers were carried, and given a special cancellation as shown above. This was followed by some 20 more mail carrying flights over the next five years, made by a variety of individuals and organizations. The amount of mail carried on each of these flights was small, and while most Canadian air mail covers are relatively affordable, these pioneer covers tend to be rare and expensive.

During the 1920's, a number of companies began flying into remote Northern areas, often in support of prospectors and miners. The Post Office allowed these companies to charge for letters they carried, and to issue their own stamps. These stamps had a "semi-official" status, as they were sold from post offices, but the Post Office did not assume responsibility for the airmail, or help with the cost of service!

The First Semi-Official Air Mail stamp,

produced by Laurentide Air Services in 1924.

The last of the Semi-Official Air Mail stamps,

produced by Canadian Airways Limited in 1934.

At first these stamps could only be placed at the back of the envelope, and were not allowed to show a value in case they were confused with regular postage stamps. These restrictions were later relaxed.

The Post Office first budgeted money for air mail services in 1927. It began with experimental service between Montreal and Rimouski, designed to connect with trans-Atlantic steamers, and to speed up mail to and from Europe. This was soon followed by additional services, mainly to points that were cut off during winter. No extra charge was made for initial air mail services. No official cachets were produced for these early services, although mail prepared by dealers with unofficial cachets can be found. The Post Office did not begin providing cachets until 1928.

In 1928 the Post Office flights were divided into two types:

AIR MAIL SERVICES which provided a faster service than regular air mail. A higher fee was charged for these services after October 1st 1928; and Canada's first government air mail stamp was issued ten days earlier on September 21st 1928.

AIR STAGE SERVICES which carried all the mail to a point which was very difficult to reach be other means. Mail was normally flown on these services without an additional charge for air mail service, but when a new service was introduced, the air mail rate had to be paid if a First Flight cachet was required.

On March 1st 1939, Trans-Canada Airlines inaugurated a daily air mail service between Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. To mark this occasion, the Post Office produced forty different First Flight cachets. After this many new air mail routes were opened, but only rarely did the Post Office produce First Flight cachets for them.

On July 1st 1948, ALL UP SERVICE was introduced: all first Class mail within Canada, weighing up to one ounce, then received Air Mail treatment, without the payment of additional fee. This service was gradually expanded until it covered most letters carried in Canada, to the United States, and overseas.