Speaking to my kids about the olden days (back when I was their age), I mentioned aerograms, which is how we communicated internationally before email and WhatsApp. I’m curious, does anyone know if aerograms are still available in the U.S.?
According to the USPS website:
So if you’ve got an old aerogramme hanging around, you can use it, but any postage printed on it will be invalid, and you’ll have to add stamps.
Not since 2006 in the US and 2012 in the UK. Most other countries have also discontinued them.
I know a guy who gets aerogrammes (or something like them) from Nepal.
It’s been today days since I heard about aerograms (I mean the word sounds familiar but I never knew what they actually were). Maybe they just weren’t very visible to the public which might explain the apparent lack of popularity. Then again maybe the reason I never knew about them is because I never had reason to communicate with anyone overseas back when snail mail was in heavy use, and I still do not know anyone overseas so much that I would still want to use the aerogram for those occasions which warrant a physical copy these days such as birthdays and formal invitations.
I used to use them when traveling internationally or when I was living overseas in the 1970s and 1989s, For those unfamiliar with them, they were a single sheet of lightweight paper. You wrote on the inside, then folded it to form an envelope. Since it was lighter, the airmail postage was less than for a regular letter in an envelope.
Now that most mail goes by air anyway, and there are faster (and entirely weightless) ways to communicate, they are pretty much obsolete.
There was also weightless long-distance communication before the Internet. Ham radio operators routinely talked with each other overseas. And there were overseas telegram options available, too.
You could also just phone people. Although sometimes placing an international long-distance call could involve a trip to the post office to use the booths there.
This. You could write a lot on an aerogram.
Yes, but those were all expensive. Learning morse code and getting a ham radio license were costly, as was maintaining the equipment. Phone calls and telegrams didn’t require obtaining detailed, specialized knowledge, but they cost a lot of money, compared to an aerogram. In contrast, the marginal cost to most of us to send an international email is “free”.
And ham radio communication wouldn’t have been available to the general public.
Until recent decades, aerograms were the cheapest way to communicate internationally, as well as being relatively fast and convenient.
I’ve never sent or received an aerogram, though reading this thread reminded me of ones that my father used to get.
He was in industrial sales in the 1960s and 1970s (he sold printing presses for newspapers), and had a number of international clients. Somewhere along the line, he wound up on the mailing list for a men’s clothier in Hong Kong. Every month or so, he’d get an airmail letter / ad from them (which I now recognize was probably an aerogram, based on the format and the super-thin paper), advertising their current deals on men’s suits.
When I asked him if he’d ever bought a suit from them, he said, “no, and I’d bet that the material in their suits is no thicker than the paper in these letters!”
I made my first solo overseas trip in 1990, spending a couple of years working in the UK and Canada, with side trips to Europe and the US.
I remember calling my mother in Australia from a phone booth in England, and having to shovel the pound coins into the phone almost one after the other just to have a conversation. It was staggering how quickly the money was used up. Needless to say, I spent most of my time overseas writing letters home, not using the phone.
Back in Australia, in the mid-1990s, I used to have a phone call every couple of months with a friend in Canada. We usually talked for about an hour, and that generally added about $60 to my phone bill. About a dollar a minute. Now I can do essentially the same thing, but with video, for free.
I rarely used aerogrammes for my overseas correspondence, though, because while I didn’t write that often, I tended to write longer letters. I also hated the fact that aerogrammes had no lines on them; I could never keep my damn writing straight.
My father used to have a lot of relatives in Europe. (Most of them have died, but that’s another story.). In the 70s and 80s, they wrote many aerograms back and forth.
Which makes them pointless, because the very rationale for sending an aerogram instead of a letter (i.e., paper inside an envelope) was that the areogram was cheaper. So if remaining aerograms can be mailed, nowadays, at the same rate as letters, that means that the best remaining use for aerograms is as stationery to write your letter on, then mailed in an envelope, just like any other letter.
I certainly used them in the 60s and 70s when I had sabbaticals in Europe. They were relatively cheap and convenient.
On a recent trip to the US I discovered to my surprise that the USPS has no special rate for Canada. You have to pay full international postage. Canada still does have a special rate for the US.
Does anyone know what the difference in price was between an aerogram and just a regular letter sent to the same overseas address?
I expect that the postage on them would not be invalid: The USPS really doesn’t like invalidating postage. It’s probably valid but insufficient, meaning that you could add additional low-value stamps to bring the total up to whatever the current first class rate is.
If, of course, you still have any specific-value stamps around, instead of the now-ubiquitous forever stamps. But then, there’s probably a large overlap between those who still have aerograms and those who still have old stamps.
And they were often more secure than regular airmail letters, which the occasional unscrupulous postal employees in some countries might open to see if you were mailing anything pilferable. It was well known, and immediately obvious, that there was nothing inside an aerogram but ink.
Whoa! A blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about aerograms. Used them extensively when I first lived in Thailand in the 1980s. Kept a small stash of them. I am saddened they are no longer. Just one more sign I’ve become a fossil.
Yes, blast from the past indeed, this thread brings back many memories of my frugal parents writing to relatives when I was a kid and we lived overseas.
About it being well known that there was nothing inside an aerogramme, in fact I seem to remember that enclosures were not allowed?
It looks like the Indian postal service still sells them, and so does Australia: http://www.indianphilately.net/intlpostalrates.html