Inter-Island Airways, Ltd.

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Written by Arthur H. Groten M.D.

Inter-Island Airways was founded in early 1929 by a local steamship company to link Honolulu with the outer islands in November of that year.

Sometime thereafter, either 1930 or 1931, they established an Air Express service to carry mail between Honolulu and Hilo. By 1934, the name had become Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. which officially carried mail as AM Route 33 (revised) as of October 8, 1934.

Recently I came across a group of seven covers from 1931 to 1933 with various hand stamps for the Inter-Island Airways, Ltd. Air Express. There were two hand stamps used. One is three-line reading “Shipped by Air Express/[ a pair of wings]/Inter-Island Airways., Ltd.” used 1931 to 1933 in blue and purple (Type 1). The second reads “Received by Inter-Island Airways, Ltd/Date:…./To Be Called For” in purple in 1932-1933 (Type 2).

Of the seven covers, five are definitely commercial while two are probably philatelic. The rating and hand stamps on the commercial covers are as follows: 1) Aug 1, 1931 unfranked but has several numbers on it probably some form of accountancy, Type 1 in blue; 2) October 28, 1932 (hand-dated) on R.R.B. cover, Type 1 in blue; 3) April 1, 1932 2¢ Washington Bicentennial postal envelope, Type 1 in blue (Figure 1); 4 & 5) not dated,, lightly tied with Type 2 in purple, one franked 2¢ postal envelope + 1¢ Franklin, the other with 4¢ + 8¢ Washington Bicentennial issue stamps (Figure 2). The two suspected philatelic covers have 1) 3¢ William Penn tied with Type 2 with Type 1 alongside, both in purple (Figure 3) and 2) 3¢ Oglethorpe tied by Type 2 in purple. None have back stamps.

From this small sample we can surmise that Type 1 was in blue 1931-1932, later purple and that Type 2 appeared in 1933 in purple. The 12¢ rate is an outlier, perhaps a multiple weight.

So much for the description of the group, I have been able to find no information about the service or any catalogue listing. That surprises me. I ask if anyone can help. I can be reached here.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

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Comments (2)

  • Avatar

    Robert Hill


    Greetings Arthur!
    I am a stamp collector of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and have some Air Post items of Hawaii in the time of the Territorial years. [1900-1959] I have scans of three other I.I.S.N.Co. Ltd. Air Express hand stamps that are identical to your “Type 1” that you described in your recent post on the internet. Two of these covers were in a collection once owned by Gary Peters of Hawaii, before he passed away some five years ago. One, I just received from an eBay seller. I will send you these scans. I too, have not found any reference to the use of these hand stamps, nor are they franked so as to inform us as to the charges due to Inter-Island Airways for the ervice they provided. I did at one time own a copy of a softbound book which illustrated aerophilately of Hawaii by someone named Crampon. I don’t remember if this hand stamp was listed in his book. But, the covers all seem to originate at Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. I’ll keep looking.


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    I am also a collector of Hawaii related flight covers. In particular those flown by Inter Island Airways. In fact I have the flight logs of Gilbert Tefft. The 2nd pilot hired for the Airways. Hired out of the USAA and first flew for the Airways in Nov. of 1930.

    He was on vacation in April of 1931. However, if that cover you referenced as having been post marked August 1, 1931 was flown to the Big Island, it was flown by Tefft. On that day he made two Big Island stops before flying back to Oahu.
    Cheers, Dave

    If the cover dated August 1, 19


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