Historical Highlights

Representative Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania, “the father of the air mail”

August 04, 1883
Representative Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania, “the father of the air mail” Image courtesy of Library of Congress A newspaper entrepreneur by trade, Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania served for two decades in the House of Representatives.
On this date, Representative Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania was born in Bloomfield, Ohio. After attending Muskingum College in Ohio, Kelly entered the newspaper business in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1904, he established the Braddock Leader, followed by his acquisition of the Daily News and Evening Herald. Kelly first delved into politics as a member of the Pennsylvania state house of representatives. In 1912, he won election as a Republican to the U.S. House. The congressman became the first freshman Member ever to serve on the Committee on Rules. Despite this distinction, Kelly lost his re-election bid to the 64th Congress (1915–1917). In 1916, he was re-elected as a Progressive to the 65th Congress (1917–1919) and then again as a Republican to the eight succeeding Congresses. In the 67th Congress (1921–1923), Representative Kelly was named to the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads. There he earned the title of “father of the air mail” for his work in revolutionizing the delivery of mail in the United States. He sponsored the Air Mail Act of 1925, also known as the Kelly Act, which authorized the postmaster to issue contracts for mail service to commercial airlines—not only ensuring swifter mail delivery but also acting as a boon to the fledgling commercial airline industry. By 1933, Kelly had become the top Republican on the Post Office Committee. In an unprecedented move, the chairman of that panel, Democrat James Mead of New York, made a trip to Pennsylvania in the fall of 1934 to campaign for Kelly who was running in a tight (and ultimately unsuccessful) race against James Quinn, the Democratic nominee. A few months after leaving office, Clyde Kelly died after he accidently shot himself while cleaning his gun. Chairman Mead eulogized Representative Kelly on the House Floor stating, “He was studious, energetic, kindly and lovable—a splendid character, a true friend. The Congress has lost a great counselor, the Post Office personnel a great champion, and his State and the Nation one of its foremost citizens.”

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