Otto Praeger

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Otto Praeger

Otto Praeger circa 1920.jpg

Otto Praeger, circa 1920
Second Assistant United States Postmaster General
In office
September 1, 1915 March 1921
President Woodrow Wilson
Succeeded by Paul Henderson
Personal details
Born(1871-02-27)February 27, 1871
Victoria, Texas
Died February 4, 1948(1948-02-04) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C.
NationalityFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Spouse(s) Ann C. Hardesty and Carrie Will Coffman
Alma mater University of Texas
Profession Journalist

Otto Praeger (February 27, 1871 - February 4, 1948) was the Washington, D.C., postmaster from 1913 to 1915 and was the Second Assistant United States Postmaster General from 1915 to 1921. He was responsible for implementing airmail from 1918 to 1927. [1]

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

United States Postmaster General chief executive officer of the United States Postal Service

The Postmaster General of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States Postal Service; Megan Brennan is the current Postmaster General.

Airmail air transportation of mail

Airmail is a mail transport service branded and sold on the basis of at least one leg of its journey being by air. Airmail items typically arrive more quickly than surface mail, and usually cost more to send. Airmail may be the only option for sending mail to some destinations, such as overseas, if the mail cannot wait the time it would take to arrive by ship, sometimes weeks. The Universal Postal Union adopted comprehensive rules for airmail at its 1929 Postal Union Congress in London. Since the official language of the Universal Postal Union is French, airmail items worldwide are often marked Par avion, literally: "by airplane".


Praeger was born in Victoria, Texas, on February 27, 1871 to Herman Praeger and Louisa Schultze. He attended the public schools in San Antonio, Texas, then the University of Texas. In 1889 he started work as a newspaper reporter, then an editor, and he worked in journalism until 1914. He married Annie C. Hardesty on February 27, 1897. [2]

Victoria, Texas City and county seat in Texas, United States

Victoria is the largest city and county seat of Victoria County, Texas. The population was 62,592 as of the 2010 census. The three counties of the Victoria Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 111,163 as of the 2000 census. Its elevation is 95 ft.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Journalism refers to the production and distribution of reports on recent events. The word journalism applies to the occupation, as well as citizen journalists using methods of gathering information and using literary techniques. Journalistic media include print, television, radio, Internet, and, in the past, newsreels.

On April 1, 1913, Praeger became the postmaster for Washington, D.C., remaining in that position until September 1, 1915, when he became Second Assistant Postmaster General of the United States. [2] On May 15, 1918, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson assigned him additional duty as chief of the U.S. Airmail Service, [2] telling Praeger, "The airmail once started must not stop, but must be constantly improved and expanded until it would become, like the steamship and the railroad, a permanent transportation feature of the postal service." [3]

Albert S. Burleson American politician

Albert Sidney Burleson was a conservative Democrat and United States Postmaster General and Representative. He is known for gaining cabinet support for instituting racial segregation in the US Post Office, which President Woodrow Wilson applied to other federal agencies.

Steamship Type of steam powered vessel

A steamship, often referred to as a steamer, is a type of steam powered vessel, typically ocean-faring and seaworthy, that is propelled by one or more steam engines that typically move (turn) propellers or paddlewheels. The first steamships came into practical usage during the early 1800s; however, there were exceptions that came before. Steamships usually use the prefix designations of "PS" for paddle steamer or "SS" for screw steamer. As paddle steamers became less common, "SS" is assumed by many to stand for "steam ship". Ships powered by internal combustion engines use a prefix such as "MV" for motor vessel, so it is not correct to use "SS" for most modern vessels.

For a brief period in the summer of 1918, the United States Army Air Service provided the pilots and planes for the airmail service, but then the Post office Department, disssastified with the discipline of Army pilots and the quality of their equipment, began to hire its own pilots and acquire its own planes. However, this effort resulted in the hiring of ex-Army pilots and the purchase of ex-Army aircraft. Admonishing the pilots never to perform stunts while flying mail planes, he insisted that they follow fixed schedules regardless of the weather, and a contentious relationship developed between Praeger and the pilots. [3] The first sign of trouble came on November 18, 1918, when two mail pilots refused to take off from Belmont Field on Long Island due to fog and Praeger ordered them to take off immediately anyway. After they did, but then returned to the airfield shortly and parked their plane, saying ti was too dangerous to fly. Praeger immediately fired them, although they were rehired two months later. [3]

United States Army Air Service 1918-1926 air warfare service of the United States Army

The United States Army Air Service was the aerial warfare service of the United States between 1918 and 1926 and a forerunner of the United States Air Force. It was established as an independent but temporary branch of the U.S. War Department during World War I by two executive orders of President Woodrow Wilson: on May 24, 1918, replacing the Aviation Section, Signal Corps as the nation's air force; and March 19, 1919, establishing a military Director of Air Service to control all aviation activities. Its life was extended for another year in July 1919, during which time Congress passed the legislation necessary to make it a permanent establishment. The National Defense Act of 1920 assigned the Air Service the status of "combatant arm of the line" of the United States Army with a major general in command.

Long Island island in New York, United States of America

Long Island is a densely populated island off the East Coast of the United States, beginning at New York Harbor approximately 0.35 miles (0.56 km) from Manhattan Island and extending eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. The island comprises four counties in the U.S. state of New York. Kings and Queens Counties and Nassau County share the western third of the island, while Suffolk County occupies the eastern two-thirds. More than half of New York City's residents now live on Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens. However, many people in the New York metropolitan area colloquially use the term Long Island to refer exclusively to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are mainly suburban in character, conversely employing the term the City to mean Manhattan alone.

Fog atmospheric phenomenon

Fog is a visible aerosol consisting of tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. Fog can be considered a type of low-lying cloud, usually resembling stratus, and is heavily influenced by nearby bodies of water, topography, and wind conditions. In turn, fog has affected many human activities, such as shipping, travel, and warfare.

On July 22, 1919, angered by Preager′s insistence that they fly their routes on time even in zero visibility weather or be fired – a policy that had resulted in 15 crashes and two fatalities in the previous two weeks alone – U.S. Airmail Service pilots begin a spontaneous strike. After Preager and the United States Post Office Department received much negative comment in the press, the strike ended in less than a week when the Post Office Department agreed that officials in Washington, D.C., would no longer insist on pilots flying in dangerous weather conditions. [4] [3]

Airmails of the United States

Airmails of the United States or U.S. Air Mail was a service class of the United States Post Office Department and its successor United States Postal Service delivering mail flown by aircraft within the United States and its possessions and territories. Letters and parcels intended for air mail service were marked as "Via Air Mail", appropriately franked, and assigned to any then existing class or sub-class of the Air Mail service.

United States Post Office Department former United States federal executive department that was reorganized into the United States Postal Service in 1971

The United States Post Office Department was the predecessor of the United States Postal Service, in the form of a Cabinet department officially from 1872 to 1971. It was headed by the Postmaster General.

On December 10, 1919, Praeger testified before the United States House Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, where he requested US$3 million for the creation and operation of airmail routes between New York City and San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, New York and Atlanta, and St. Louis and Minneapolis. [5]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a city in, and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of, Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th-most populous city in the United States, and the fourth-most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second-most densely populated large US city, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is also part of the fifth-most populous primary statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Pittsburgh City in western Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States, and is the county seat of Allegheny County. In 2017, a population of 302,407 lives within the city limits, making it the 63rd-largest city in the U.S. The metropolitan population of 2,324,743 is the largest in both the Ohio Valley and Appalachia, the second-largest in Pennsylvania, and the 27th-largest in the U.S.

In September 1920, under Praeger′s guidance, the Post Office Department established the first transcontinental air mail route in the United States. However, the United States lacked a system of lighted navigation beacons, making it too dangerous for air mail pilots to fly at night, and trains carried the mail along the route during the hours of darkness. As a result, transcontinental air mail was not much faster – and considerably more expensive – than transcontinental mail service entirely by train. Praeger understood the dangers of night flying, but wanted to demonstrate its feasibility before President Warren G. Harding took office and appointed his successor. He therefore staged a set of experimental day-and-night mail flights between New York City and San Francisco, California – two eastbound and two westbound – in February 1921.. [6] Not a pilot and, as a native of Texas, unfamiliar with winter weather in the northern and western United States, Praeger probably did not fully understand the danger the flights posed to his pilots. [6] The two westbound flights become stranded in Dubois, Pennsylvania, and Chicago, Illinois. The first eastbound flight ended in tragedy when the de Havilland DH-4B carrying the mail stalled and crashed after takeoff from Elko, Nevada. The only real success was by the second eastbound flight, whose pilot managed to fly a night leg from North Platte, Nebraska, to Chicago. [6]

After Harding′s inauguration on March 4, 1921, Praeger was succeeded as Second Assistant Postmaster General by Paul Henderson in March 1921. [6] By the following year, he was an employee of Commercial Aeronautics General in New York City. [2]

Despite the often adversarial nature of the relationship between Praeger and his airmail pilots, during a radio interview years later Praeger praised the pilots for their heroics in flying under difficult conditions to deliver the mail. [3] He died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 1948. [7]


  1. "Employees". National Postal Museum . Retrieved 2013-12-18.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Who's who in American Aeronautics. 1922. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Jensen, Richard, "The Suicide Club," Aviation History, May 2017, p. 62.
  4. "Praeger Denies Air Mail Pilots' Charges. Post Office Department Is Firm Toward Strikers, Insisting the Planes Are Best for Service". New York Times . July 26, 1919. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  5. "Airmail Creates An Industry". National Postal Museum . Retrieved 2013-12-18.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Jensen, Richard, "The Suicide Club," Aviation History, May 2017, p. 64.
  7. Otto Praeger

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This is a list of aviation-related events from 1919:

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