Photos and Postcards This Page Updated February 15, 2001




by Craig Morris

Note: Craig has inserted images of numerous postcards into his article, so it may take some time for all of them to load.

The predecessor airline to Northwest Airlines was formed by Charles Dickinson and operated as CAM 9. After a disastrous first day operation on June 7, 1926, from which they never recovered, they went out of business and Northwest Airlines was formed and took over their routes on October 1, 1926 and is today the longest contiguous airline of the same name. Initially, the pilots did not wear uniforms. After all, they only carried mail and there were no passengers to impress. But like all other airlines that started this way, they did start carrying passengers. In 1927 the airline carried 106 passengers but by 1929, this business had increased so that Col. Brittin, Vice President and General Manager of Northwest Airways, not only put his pilots in uniforms, he designed the wings for the pilots. This design was submitted to the Post Office for approval. They were so taken by the design, they asked permission to adopt the insignia as the official emblem to be worn by air mail pilots and permission was granted by Col Brittin. That is the reason you will see that the very first pilots of American Airlines, United Airlines, Continental Airlines and several others wore this wing in the very beginning. The design also shows up on several stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office.
This first wing had a metal center with the words "U.S. Air Mail" in raised letters (1). This center piece was fitted into a bullion background of wings. This design was worn by the NWA pilots until
about 1934 and then they changed to an all metal wing (2). The best way to tell the 1934 wing from other NWA wings is that the Equator line goes through the word "Air" and the reverse is most likely hallmarked "Pat. Pending" and "Rolled Gold". This wing was used until the beginnings of World War II and then the airline got away from gold
and went to a gold look but a base metal was used (3). At this time the wing style changes ever so slightly in that the Equator now is below the word “Air”. Most probably this was caused by the airline changing manufacturers and they inadvertently made this design change. This wing is the same wing as worn by the pilots of Northwest Airline to this day. There are several variations such as feathering and pin back vs clutch back but they are only noticeably to the student of this wing. An interesting sidelight is that, through a series of mergers, one airline which started in 1946 took the NWA wing design as its own. That airline was Empire Airline in Washington state and they used this wing in a silver and gold color. Had a person not had to worry about age restrictions as imposed by the General Quesada, the pilot would have retired wearing the same wing that he started with but in the process going through six other wings via West Coast Airlines, Hughes Air West, Republic and then finally to Northwest.


Another divided back example from Europe would be this early example of a French airline aircraft postcard.

Next is the white border era 1915-1934. This era brought an end to the so-called Golden era of postcards. It ended as importing of postcards from Europe slowed drastically, due to rising import taxes and the mounting tensions of war. Publishers in the U.S. began printing postcards, to fill the void.  Unfortunately the results were usually of poor quality. One type of card from this era was called “Blue Sky” cards. They’re difficult to find in collectible shape. The Europeans continued publishing cards but did not export many to the U.S.. Airline cards of this era would include American Airways, Southern Air Transport, PAA to list a few. For this example I chose a Pan American card.


The Linen era followed from 1934-1946. Improvement in American printing technology brought much improved card quality. Publishers began using linen-like paper containing a high rag content, but used very cheap inks in most of their processes. At first they were thought of as being very drab and uninteresting, however, within the last few years these type of cards have become highly collectible.. Most airlines have issued cards in this time period. The example I chose here is a Chesapeake Airways DC-3.


I really enjoy these types of card for their graphic colors and design. Also note that in the linen process the manufacturer could add or delete objects in the making of the cards. I have in my own collection a PAA real photo card and the same card in linen with objects being added or deleted in the scene.

The Photochrome era is next (1946 to present). Publishers such as Mike Roberts, Dexter Press, Curt-Teich and Plastichrome (to list a few) began producing card that had very beautiful chrome colors and were very appealing to the public. I would venture that every Worldwide airline whether Major, Irregular, or Feeder could afford to publish their airline using chrome era postcards for advertising. The example I chose here is a Continental Airlines Viscount.

The popularity of these cards have surpassed the Linen. 

Finally the real photo postcard which covers 1900 to present day. I believe the earliest example might be the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat airline showing the Benoist Type XIV flying boat (as shown above.) It is sometimes very difficult to date a card unless it has been postally used or dated by the photographer. The stamp box will usually show the process by which it was printed---AZO, EKC, KODAK, VELOX, and KRUXO are some of the major ones. The example here is this Chicago & Southern airline card.


Notice the stamp box. This box dates 1926-1940’s which makes the card correct with the type of aircraft. For a focused look at stamp boxes try:; or for a partial list of major stamp box lettering check here.
AGFA/ANSCO 1930-1940's
ANSCO 1940-1960 2 stars at top and bottom
ARGO 1905-1920
ARTURA 1910-1924
AZO 1926-1940's Squares in corners
AZO 1904-1918 4 triangles pointed up
AZO 1918-1930 Triangles: 2 up, 2 down
AZO 1907-1909 Diamonds in corners
AZO 1922-1926 Empty Corners
CYKO 1904-1920's
DEFENDER 1910-1920 Diamond above and below
DEFENDER 1920-1940 Diamond inside
DOPS 1925-1942
EKC 1939-1950
EKKP 1904-1950
EKO 1942-1970
KODAK 1950-
KRUXO 1907-1920's
KRUXO 1910-1920's X's in corners
NOKO 1907-1920's
PMO 1907-1915
SAILBOAT 1905-1908 Sailboat in circle
SOLIO 1903-1920's Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1907-1914 Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1901-1914 Squares in corners
VELOX 1909-1914 Triangles: 4 pointed up
VELOX 1925-1934

Real photo cards are usually the easiest to reproduce, so careful study of the photo cards is essential. I have seen several reproduced cards in my years of collecting. For example, I have received by mail a postcard with a stamp box (AZO) that was obsolete in 1922 with B-314 flying boats which first flew in 1938/39. Odds are it was a fake, so I simply returned it to the seller. In my first article I mentioned the best way to learn about postcards is by joining a local postcard club. This was my best decision because I met individuals who taught me what to look for as well as where to obtain information for further study. There are several books to purchase which give invaluable information.  Also when looking a real photo cards be sure you have good light and tilt the cards at a angle to see if the photo is super smooth as well as the paper on the back. If both sides are very smooth with No wear be Careful. Always ask the dealer if they can give you any information on the postcard. If you suspect the card has been reproduced put the card back; after all most rare real photo postcards are over $30.00. Happy collecting.

This category will cover postcards (both airline and non-airline issued), photographs, 35mm slides, videotapes, and any digital images of aircraft.