Brown, Walter F.


Official card signed by Hoover’s Postmaster General who helped transform the US airline industry from mail planes to passenger planes


Autograph ID: 7160
Condition: Very good
Description:  (1869-1961) US Postmaster General 1929-33 (Hoover), considered by some as the person who helped build the US airline industry thru engineering a series of mergers that helped create a systematic air transport system that served for several years. Before he was appointed, private airmail carriers received up to 80% of revenue from airmail postage but neither the Post Office nor the airmail carriers made money carrying the mail. In 1926, the Post Office changed how airlines were paid to payment by the pound of mail. Airlines increased revenues by sending large quantities of heavy airmail to themselves. From Feb. 1926, private airlines gradually took over carrying mail from the government. When Brown took office, there were 44 small airline companies, most lacking capital and the financial incentive to grow, many depended entirely on government airmail contracts. Brown felt they were not investing in new equipment and were operating obsolete aircraft with questionable safety margins. His solution was to eliminate competitive bidding for airmail contracts and direct airmail contracts to large sufficiently financed companies. In 1930, Congress gave the Postmaster General near dictatorial powers over the airlines with the Airmail Act of 1930. The Post Office now paid airlines for available space on their planes not the actual mail carried. The airlines bought larger aircraft to receive more money and filled empty space with passengers after loading the mail, making more money. The new system also paid extra for flying over difficult terrain, in bad weather, and at night, and paid for radio equipment and safer multiengine aircraft. Brown believed in large airlines and that one company should control transcontinental airmail routes. The McNary-Watres Act allowed Brown to force smaller companies to merge or die; those that survived became United Airlines, American Airlines, TWA and Eastern Airlines. He chose and met with some contracting airlines and gave his plan for developing a national air transport system and urged the airlines to form 3 large transcontinental companies. When he left office in 1934, he largely succeeded in bringing order to much of the airmail business. In 1934, FDR’s New Deal led to many investigative committees. One, led by Senator Hugo Black, examined mail contracts and charged Brown with favoritism and collusion with larger airlines. While no testimony or evidence showed he personally benefited, his national political career was over. When Brown entered office, airmail’s cost per mile was $1.10; when he left, it was 54c. In the late 1920s-early 30s, airplanes were called mail planes though they carried passengers; now, an airliner is called a passenger plane even if it also carries mail.
Signed 2 ½ x 4 official “The Postmaster General” card”
Type: Signed Official Card

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