June 24, 1918
Canada joined a small but ever-growing number of nations in a new method of postal delivery when that nation’s first official airmail service took place. At 10:12 a.m., Captain Brian Peck of the Royal Flying Corps departed for Toronto from the Bois Franc Polo Grounds near Montreal in a JN-Curtiss two-seater biplane carrying a bag of mail. Corporal C.W. Mathers, who was a mechanic, accompanied Peck and held the bag on his lap.
Peck and Mathers had flown to the Montreal area from Toronto in the first place so that the former could stage an aerial demonstration to inspire potential military recruits to enlist in the Royal Flying Corps and help fight the war in the skies over Europe during World War I at the time. Members of the Aerial League of the British Empire seized on Peck’s presence in that part of Canada to enlist him in making the first-ever formal air mail run in Canada on his return flight to Toronto.
This flight was originally set to occur on June 23, and the members of the league obtained from the Postmaster General in Ottawa approximately 120 letters for the trip that each had special stamps reading: “Inaugural Service via aerial mail – Montreal 23.6.18.” A heavy rainstorm, however, postponed the flight until the following day.
Peck and Mathers still had to contend with both rain and winds en route to Toronto and they ended up stopping in both Kingston and Deseronto to refuel the plane. In addition, the bag of mail they were transporting further weighed down the plane and Peck found himself flying no higher than an altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) and maneuvering underneath telegraph wires. Peck and Mathers finally arrived in Toronto at 4:55 p.m., landing at the Leaside Aerodrome.
That evening, Mayor Thomas Langton “Tommy” Church of Toronto highlighted the flight’s significance. “The educational effect of Capt. Peck’s splendid feat today will do untold good for the promotion of aviation in Canada,” proclaimed Church. “Today’s feat is an historic one, and should act as an incentive to influence [Canada’s federal government] in keeping in advance of public opinion on the subject of aviation.”
For more information on the first official airmail flight in Canada, please check out http://torontoplaques.com/Pages/Canadas_First_Air_Mail.html and https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/cpm/courrier2/cciel18e.html.