Buffalo NY- 1873
Perhaps the most enigmatic of all American stamps, the "Buffalo" balloon stamp is certainly among the premier rarities in aerophilately. This stamp begs the question, “What is an airmail stamp?” Described variously as “experimental,” “semi-official,” “a carrying label,” and even as a vignette or cinderella, the fact remains that it was the first of its kind ever issued. Since it was privately issued for use with a standard U.S. postal service 3-cent stamp to pay for air handling of a mailed piece, it was (if one includes both private and government issues) the world’s first airmail stamp.
The stamp is an accurate representation of the enormous 92,000 cubic foot “Buffalo” balloon of Professor Samuel Archer King (1828-1914). The Buffalo balloon launched from Nashville, Tennessee, on June 18, 1877, and dropped a number of covers, probably in containing envelopes or drop bags sewn to brightly colored nine-foot streamers. After a Gallatin, Tennessee, landing, there was a second flight the next morning. There were also other, later flights of the "Buffalo", and covers could have been flown on any of those flights.
Few if any Buffalonians realize not only was the balloon named, honoring this city, "Which has shown so much interest in Aeronautics"(S.A. King), it was actually built right here in Buffalo, probably the first aircraft ever built in this city. I’ve found no earlier record of such an event. More importantly to note, it was built in what we now know as "Canalside" downtown on the corner of Prime and Llyod Streets, in the Aetna Insurance building. There should be a marker commemorating this event.