The Birthplace of Pan Am (Key West, Florida)

Pan American World Ariways
Photo by Alex de Carvalho

From the 1920s til its untimely collapse in 1991, Pan American World Airways was the largest airline in the United States. The airline, started its operations by providing scheduled passenger and air mail service between Key West and Havana, Cuba. Pan-Am’s first mail delivery to Key West was made on October 19, 1927. On January 16, 1928, seven passengers made Pan-Am’s first commercial flight, covering a distance of only 90 miles, the distance between Key West and Havana.

The 1925 Air Mail Act allowed the government to enter mail delivery contracts with private carriers. It was this act that in 1927 allowed Juan Trippe create Pan American Airline. Its “flying boats” held an almost exclusive monopoly over international travel routes for years due to its location and government contracts. Trippe had greater hopes for his little airline from the beginning and wanted to “provide mass air transportation for the average man at rates he can afford to pay”.

In September 1929 Trippe toured Latin America with Charles Lindbergh to negotiate landing rights in a number of countries. By the end of the year, Pan Am offered flights along the west coast of South America to Peru.

Pan Am Office
The First Pan Am Office – Photo by Roger W

Birthplace of Pan American World Airways Facts

  • The site was purchased by Kelly McGillis (yes, the actress from Top Gun) and turned into Key West’s first modern microbrewery.
  • On October 28th, 1927, Pan Am Flight Number One left Key West, Florida and landed safely in Havana, Cuba.
  • The address for the birthplace of Pan Am is 301 Whitehead St. Key West, FL 33040.
  • The Birthplace of Pan Am is on an 11 minute walk (on the same street) from the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
  • The little Pan Am office secured a government mail delivery contract before it had the planes needed to make the deliveries.

Pan American World Airways Facts

  • Pan Am’s holding company, the Aviation Corporation of the Americas, was one of the most sought after stocks on the New York Curb Exchange in 1929
  • By 1961, Pan-Am was earning over $450 million annually.
  • It was the first American international air service in scheduled operation.
  • Pan-Am operations were relocated from Key West to Miami in 1934.
  • By 1970 over 11 million passengers had traveled more than twenty billion miles with the airline.