Delta Airlines Began as Dusters
The nation’s number four airline started life dusting crops. In the 1920s, Huff Daland Duster company became the first company – as opposed to individuals – founded to apply pesticides through the air. They were based in Monroe Louisiana and serviced cotton farmers in the Mississippi Delta.
Dusting is a seasonal business, so the owners went looking for other markets for their services. They found them in South America dusting crops where the seasons are reversed. Then, in 1927, they diversified when they got a contract to carry mail between Peru and Ecuador, over the massive Andes Mountains.
A year later, the company sold its dusting service and renamed itself Delta Air Service. In 1929, it started passenger service between Dallas, Texas, to Jackson, Mississippi, via Shreveport and their old home of Monroe, Louisiana.
In 1940, Delta introduced their first “stewardesses” in the cabins of the planes to improve customer service. In 1941 – just as the war was starting – Delta moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Operations during the war were slowed while many of their pilots and crew members joined the military. After the war, they pioneered the use of a “hub and spoke” system of travel. In 1959, they became the first airline to enter the jet age when they bought their first Douglas DC-8. Over the succeeding decades, Delta has acquired several other airlines, including the former industry giant Pan American.