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Catalog Number 10387-38
Title Stamp, Postage; Beacon Airmail Stamp, 5 cents
Object Name Stamp, Postage
Description Five cent U.S. Airmail stamp with a blue tinted image of a monoplane circling a beacon tower. Pink edging around image with lettering that reads "U.S. Postage / Air Mail." Image is printed slightly off center.
Date 1928
Material Paper/Ink
Made U.S. Government
Height (in) 1.25
Width (in) 1.5
Search Terms US Air Mail
US Postal Service
History This stamp was issued in 1928 to promote the U.S. Airmail service. It was the first bi-color airmail stamp since 1918. The image is a combination of a photograph of the Sherman Hill, Wyoming beacon and a photograph, taken by Omaha photographer Nathanial Dewell, of a beacon at Wann, Nebraska. The original Dewell photograph depicted a biplane, but this was changed to a monoplane by the stamp designer, A.R. Meissner.

Built between 1921 and 1933 by the U.S. government, light beacons made it much more safe for airmail pilots (who relied mainly on visual navigation) to shuttle mail cross country at night. The beacons usually consisted of a 50-60 foot tower, a building to house the electrical generator that powered the rotating light, and a large concrete arrow embedded in the ground. The beacons were spaced out every few miles and eventually numbered over 1,500. Technological advances and prohibitive costs eventually rendered the beacons obsolete. Most of the towers were torn down in the 1940s and went to the war effort, but many of the concrete arrows remain.
Credit line John E. Carter, Lincoln, NE
Collection Carter, John E.