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A 1928 Airmail Cover from One Sporting Goods Dealer to Another

The Post Office began to transport mail via plane, i.e., "airmail," as early as 1911, but official airmail service didn't commence until 1918 on a route covering Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York. That was the year the first airmail stamps were issued. The rate on that route was steep: 24-cents per one ounce, which included a 10-cent special delivery fee.

Airmail rates varied over the following decade by distance, route and weight as the Post Office worked out the logistics, but by the time this letter was sent in March 1928, airmail rates were more or less settled. Between February 1, 1927, and July 31, 1928, it cost 10-cents per one-half ounce to send a letter via airmail on any route.

This cover was sent via airmail from Waco, Texas to New York City on March 23, 1928 (Figure 1). It arrived in New York City the following day (Figure 2). The cover is franked with 12-cents of postage consisting of a strip of six US Scott #599. This is a coil stamp that was sold in rolls, which is why it is perforated only on two sides. This particular stamp is perforated vertically.

Why the cover has 12-cents of postage instead of 10-cents is a good question. It's possible the sender accidentally tore off six instead of five stamps from the coil roll. Another possibility is the sender thought that in addition to applying 10-cents of postage for airmail, another 2-cents needed to be applied for the regular letter rate. Whatever the case, the Post Office made an extra 2-cents on this cover.

The cover was sent by the Tom Padgitt Company of Waco. The return address is covered by the stamps, but you can read it from the back:

Tom Padgitt Company

Wholesale Saddlery, Sporting Goods,

Wheel Goods, Toys, Trunks and Luggage

Waco, Texas

As printed in the lower left of the front of the cover, Tom Padgitt Company was established in 1867 by, you guessed it, Tom (Thomas) Padgitt (Figure 3).

Padgitt was born in Tennessee in 1846. In 1853, at the age of 7, his parents moved to Houston. Sadly, his father died of yellow fever in 1854 and his mother died in 1859 leaving Tom orphaned along with his three siblings. Tom became the head of the household and to earn a livelihood, he started work at the Tom Bond Saddle Store in Houston in 1859.

He obviously learned the saddlery business well because by 1867 he opened his own saddlery and harness store in Bryan, Texas and moved it to Waco, Texas in 1872. His moves to Bryan 100 miles northwest of Houston and another 100 miles further northwest to Waco are explained by the extension of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. In essence, he followed the people.

His business did extremely well and by the time he died in 1826 at age 79, Tom Padgitt Company was one of the largest saddlery and harness businesses in Texas. [i] Padgitt's earthly remains were buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Waco.

Padgitt was married three times - he was twice a widower - and had nine children with his first and second wives. His son Clint became president of the Tom Padgitt Company and immediately expanded its business to include luggage, sporting goods, and toys, thus the content of the return address on this 1928 cover.

Clint passed away in 1945 and control of Tom Padgitt Company would pass on to his widow Camilla and a gentleman by the name of Wilton Lanning Sr. Upon Camilla's death in 1954, Lanning Sr. became the sole owner. It was under Lanning Sr. and his son Lanning Jr. that Tom Padgitts Company would become Tom Padgitts Inc., become a wholesale and retail photography and audio-visual business, and completely drop its saddlery, sporting goods and luggage lines. Tom Padgitts Inc. is still listed as a business in Waco, but it does not have a website and its Facebook page is inactive. [ii]

The recipient of this cover - H. & D. Folsom Arms Co. of New York - has a similar fascinating history and it too is still in business.

The firm was established by brothers Henry (1829-1887) and David (1839-1897) Folsom. Born in New Hampshire, they moved to St. Louis early in their adulthoods and engaged in the firearms trade. During the Civil War, they suppled a large quantity of firearms to the Union Army. After the war, they moved their business to New York City where they became well-known as a sporting goods distributor catering to hunters and fishermen. They advertised frequently in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in the early 1900s.

In 1954, the H. & D. Folsom Arms Co., was purchased by Universal Fishing Tackle, and its new owner, Louis Feldsott (1917-2019), renamed the operation "Folsom Corporation" and gradually shifted the business to focus solely on fishing equipment. Folsom Corporation remains privately-owned and family-operated and is based in Mahwah, New Jersey. [iii]

[i] The Eagle, Byran, Texas, October 20, 1926.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Tom Padgitt, 1870

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