Jan 1938: Clipper takes first NZ airmail to USA

Evening Post, 8 January 1938, p 14


A total of £4145 was produced by the sale of stamps for the first air mail taken from New Zealand by the Pan American Airways Samoan Clipper, which took off from Auckland on Sunday. The mail included 25,034 letters and weighed 353 lb ll oz net.

The registered portion of the mail totalled 3863 letters, weighing 55 3/4 lb, and the ordinary air mail 21,171 letters, with a weight of 298 lb. Contrary to early indications, the major portion of the mail was for San Francisco.

The mail was made up as follows:— Ordinary: For San Francisco, 12,814 letters (weighing 191 lb); for Honolulu, 3172 letters (41 lb); for Pago Pago, 5185 letters (65 lb). Registered: For San Francisco, 2908 letters (41 lb); for Hqnolulu, 353 letters (4 1/2 lb); for Pago Pago 702 letters (9 3/4 lb).

One of the first pieces of mail to travel by air from New Zealand to the USA in 1937
One of the first pieces of mail to travel by air from New Zealand to the USA. Courtesy: Murray Moffatt

The envelope above appears to have travelled on the first airmail service from New Zealand to the USA aboard Captain Edwin Musick’s flying boat Samoan Clipper in January 1938 (originally scheduled for late December 1937, but delayed due to weather).

The sender is believed to be a New Zealand radio enthusiast living near Thames. Perhaps he was sending a radio reception report to CJCS, an AM broadcasting station in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. That would have been an impressive bit of “DXing” but certainly not impossible.

Known for being an avid stamp collector, it seems he asked the Canadian recipient to return the envelope for his collection. Indeed their correspondence may have been purely related to stamp collecting and not connected to radio at all.

Either way, it’s an envelope that reminds us just how important was the arrival of airmail service to New Zealand.

Sadly, Captain Musick and his crew aboard Samoan Clipper died on their next trip to New Zealand. Because of this tragedy, airmail service did not resume until 1940.

The radio station at Musick Point was conceived as a memorial to Captain Musick.

» More information about the NZ-USA airmail service at nzstamps.org.uk