Vernal is a small city in the Ashley Valley of the Unitah Mountain range which lies in the northeastern corner of Utah. The area was inhabited in prehistoric times by dinosaur giants and today is the site of tourism as it is near Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado border.
Contract airmail was instituted through the Airmail Act of 1925 (Kelly Act) which authorized the U.S. Postmaster General to contract with private airlines to carry the U.S. mail. Routes were given Contract AirMail (CAM) numbers and awarded to various airlines.
Served by the Vernal-Unitah County Airport, Challenger Airlines was awarded Contract Airmail route number 74 on May 10, 1947 with service to various cities in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Service to Vernal was initiated on 1 July, 1949 with two routes – one to Salt Lake City to the west and a second to Evanston to the northwest. The flights connecting from those cities took the mail in all directions.
Special First Flight Cachets were instituted to mark the initial flights and in the case of Vernal, a local hand-stamp was used commemorating the airport dedication as well. This hand-stamp is found on the rear of envelopes and is present on covers carried on both routes.
The northwest route morning flight was postmarked at 7AM and piloted by R.D. Nicholson. Addressed to Philadelphia, PA, this cover used the northwest route through Evanston and was backstamped along the route at Rock Springs, Wyoming at 10:30AM.
The westward route afternoon flight was postmarked at 12PM piloted by Harry Mitchell. Addressed to San Francisco, CA, this cover used the western route through Salt Lake City and was backstamped along the route at Salt Lake City at 6PM.