In the years immediately after WWII, many corporations converted some of the surplus
military aircraft for corporate use. The Douglas C-47 (DC-3) and C-54 (DC-4) were the most
popular aircrafts for this conversion from military to civilian use. The Atlas Supply
Company, a subsidiary of Standard Oil obtained useful advertising for their conversion of a
C-54 into a flying showroom and meeting room for their clients and dealers. They named their
plane, "The Atlas Sky Merchant."
Continuing on finding ways to get good publicity and expanding their export business, the
Atlas Supply Company came up with the idea of sending their Atlas Sky Merchant on a
round-the-world flight. It would carry souvenir airletter sheets (aerograms) to be given as
gifts to persons who made a stipulated contribution to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund headed by
radio personality, Walter Winchell. The aerograms would be postmarked at each stop on their
way round-the-world and would become a permanent record for aerophilately.
Atlas hired Captain Ivan "Turc" Smirnoff to not only pilot this RTW flight but to coordinate all
aspects of the flight from mechanical servicing to arranging for fuel supplies to establishing
flight schedules and routing. The plane was stripped of its military systems and outfitted as
a showroom for Atlas products. The forward section accommodated seventeen executives who would
act as company salesmen. The rear section housed the display area for prospective customers.
Atlas got worldwide publicity as their RTW flight plans were broadcast on both the radio
and newspapers. F.J. "Fritz" Bedford, president of Atlas was pleased at the potentials of
this venture. The connection to stamp collectors, to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund and to
Atlas products would be an ideal subtle relationship. To legitimize this endeavor, Bedford
asked the American Air Mail Society to undertake the aerogram program, now anticipated to
include 4,500 sheets. Ernest A. Kehr coordinated with country members of the Universal Postal
Union (UPU) asking for cooperation at postmarking the aerograms during its landings.
The flight began on January 5, 1948 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and went to Miami,
FL where the aerograms received their 1st postmark of January 13, 1948. At the Manila,
Philippines stop the Philippine Bureau of Posts issued a special cachet for a side flight of
the Atlas Sky Merchant. These separate covers received a Manila, March 13, 1948 postmark.
When the plane returned to the US at San Francisco, the aerograms were confiscated by US
postal authorities as they were considered to have been "carried outside the mails" and hence
were deemed to be illegal. Atlas's Bedford called Walter Winchell who, using his influence,
got an override from the Post Office Department releasing the areograms for later philatelic