H. Bush – industrialist and Panhandle
ranch owner -- heard someone knocking on the door of his Chicago residence at
11:30 that night. Peering outside, he was relieved to see a gray-uniformed postman.
“Special delivery,” the mail carrier announced, handing Bush an envelope
with a red and blue border.
The letter was from his brother James in Amarillo.
Opening it, William saw it had been written the day before, Oct. 24, 1930.
“Dear Brother,” it began, “I am mailing you this letter by air mail. This is the
first trip that the air mail makes direct from Amarillo.
I am sending it special delivery and they tell me you should get it Saturday night
or Sunday morning.”
Indeed, it was Saturday night, October 25. With five
cents in postage and an additional 20 cents for special delivery, the envelope
had left the Panhandle shortly
before 8 a.m. that day. The plane carrying it and airmail landed in Kansas City,
where postal workers transferred the bag holding the letter to Bush to another
plane. That aircraft reached the Windy City at 9:30 p.m. From the airport, the
letter and others went by truck to the north side post office. When it arrived
there, a carrier drove it to Bush’s residence for delivery only 15 hours and 30
minnutes after it left Amarillo.
While that is snail-like compared with email, it was incredibly fast for 1930,
especially to the Bush brothers.
you first came to Texas,” James reminded William,
“you could only come part way by train and had to use the stage coach which today
is obsolete. Not only the airplane of today but also the automobile had not been
Even when Amarillo
first got rail service, it was not unusual for a train to be as much as a day
late, he said.
“When you came here first there was no Amarillo,”
James continnued, “and when I came here in 1903 it was only 1,500 [in population.]
There was not a paved street, a white-way light or a cement sidewalk in the place,
or a fenced highway that extended over two miles from town.”
letter James mailed to William was in the first bag sent directly from Amarillo
via airmail, the Panhandle city had received its first airmail via a Transcontinental
and Western Air Ford tri-motor passenger plane in May 1929.
air mail service began the following year on October 25. In anticipation of the
big event, Amarillo and Panhandle
residents had been dropping off airmail letters at the post office for a week
so the envelopes would receive the first-day-of-service cancellation.
will travel from Amarillo to
New York in 22 hours, against 52 hours for rail time...," the Amarillo Daily News
reported on Oct. 23. "It will go to Chicago in nine hours and 40 minutes, and
to Los Angeles in nine hours."
Two days later, at 7:57 a.m., Postmaster
W.C. Kenyon hefted the first pouch of airmail on to the first flight out of Amarillo's
English Field. “Before night it will be scattered across the mid-west to Columbus,
Ohio, there to go to the Atlantic coast," the article continued.
Air Mail Day ceremony celebrating the inaugural flights, Congressman Marvin Jones
predicted that Amarillo would
become an aviation center.
"It will become known as the cross roads of
the air," Jones said.
The newspaper said that six mail planes would be
stopping in Amarillo every
day. Regular mail would continue to be sent and received via rail.
Bush’s letter to his older brother made its way to Chicago, other airmail began
arriving in Amarillo.
some instances,” the newspaper said on Oct. 26, “letters mailed in Los Angeles
Saturday morning and bearing special delivery stamps were read by Amarilloans
within a few minutes of their arrival here at 3:55 o'clock Saturday afternoon."
Three days after getting the letter from his brother, William replied.
he was writing for posterity, the 71-year-old businessman recalled his first trip
to the Panhandle in June 1881.
Traveling with his father-in-law, barbed wire manufacturer Joseph F. Glidden,
he had taken a two-day train ride from Chicago to Las Vegas in New Mexico Territory.
The two men tried all day without luck to find someone willing to take them by
buggy to the newly formed Frying Pan Ranch in Potter County, the future site of
Amarillo. Finally they got
the name of someone in Springer, New Mexico, a community about 50 miles north
of Las Vegas, who could take them to the ranch in Texas.
went there and remained over night, then started early the next morning, and we
were five days andfour nights where we slept in the open with horse collars for
pillows, and eating ‘chow’ with the exception of the second day, [when] Mr. Glidden’s
partner shot a jackrabbit,” William wrote.
Bush collected dried cow manure,
which he called “prairie chips,” and built a fire to cook the rabbit. After eating,
they rolled on to Tascosa,
where they spent the night.
“Our foreman came for us the next morning,”
he continued, “[and] drove us to Tecovas Springs headquarters, about 25 miles.”
Bush concluded: “It is wonderful the changes that have been made since the year
Cox - February
23, 2012 column
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