Presented to the First Head of the U.S. Air Mail ServiceWinged America: Trophy Awarded to Captain Benjamin B. Lipsner. Benjamin B. Lipsner (1887-1970) is considered the father of the United States Airmail Service. His collection of material related to the air mail service is housed in the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. He received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Armour Institute in Chicago, working on automobiles and airplanes prior to joining the Army Signal Corps in 1917. In 1918, Congress appropriated $100,000 to launch a regularly-scheduled air mail service between Washington, D.C. and New York. Lipsner was named Captain of the Air Service Production unit. He supervised maintenance on the fleet of planes and was present when the first plane took off on May 15, 1918. On August 10th, the air mail service was transferred from the Army to the U. S. Post Office department. Lipsner had resigned his army commission the month before and was appointed Superintendent of the world's first regular permanent civilian air mail service which officially began on August 12, 1918. Lipsner was in charge of scheduling, establishing safety rules, hiring pilots and mechanics. A test-run to Chicago evolved into a cross-country race between two pilots, generating a good deal of positive publicity for the fledgling service. A clash of wills between Lipsner and Assistant Postmaster Otto Praeger resulted in Lipsner resigning his post on December 5, 1918.
The Winged America Trophy was commissioned by the Aerial League of America, an association of aviators and enthusiasts with chapters worldwide. Perhaps the most notable recipient was Charles A. Lindbergh, cited for his "distinctive achievement in having made the first flight from New York to Paris". Other recipients included Orville Wright, Roald Amundsen and Richard Byrd. This example is engraved: "To/ Captain Benjamin B. Lipsner/ Our First Superintendent/ Of the Aerial Mail/ From the/ Aerial League of America/ In Appreciation of His/ Splendid Pioneer Work". This appears below the caption: "Winged America. America Gave Wings to the World". It was presented on August 12, 1919 by the league president, Admiral Robert E. Peary. The artist was Clio Bracken (1870-1925) who signed the work "Cli. B" on a top corner of the base. It measures 22" in height from the bottom edge of the base to the tips of the wings. The base is 4.5" across and 4" deep. The length of the wing from front to back is 15". It appears to be made of sheet copper over plaster with a dark patina. It was acquired by the consignor in 2015 from a Florida jewelry shop where it was placed on consignment by Lipsner's grandson, then in his 90s.
Besides the presentation inscription on the front, the sides have additional wording. One lists members of the celebrated Lafayette Escadrille "and other brave Americans who went over to pay America's debt to France." Another side pays tribute to the first Americans to fly in the British Air Forces and the four men who were the "First U. S. Army and Navy Aviators to lose their lives over seas after America's entry in the war." The last side lists "Pioneers and Master Builders of American Aviation", most notably the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss. The lot includes a hard bound copy of the 1951 book "The Airmail: Jennies to Jets" by Captain Benjamin B. Lipsner ("First to Hold the Title, Superintendent of the United States Aerial Mail Service"). It is inscribed by Lipsner to his friend, William Westlake, a World War I aviator and journalist between the wars. "To my dearest friend of years standing William Westlake with every good wish Ben. Capt. Benjamin B. Lipsner". We also include a sheath of research material, magazine articles, etc. related to Lipsner and the Winged America trophy.
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