CAM 9, th U.S. Post Office's Minneapolis/St.Paul to Chicago contract air mail route, was originally operated by an unnamed air carrier founded by Charles "Pop" Dickinson, a Chicago aviation enthusiast.  Service began on June 7, 1926, but within 3 months, after insurmountable problems, Dickinson returned the CAM 9 contract to the Post Office.

     Dickinson's unsuccessful venture gave rise to Northwest Airways, founded as a Michigan Corporation in August, 1926.  The majority of Northwest's initial backers were a group of aviation-minded Detroit area businessmen who ponied up most of the $300,000 necessary to get the airline started. Northwest Airways began Twin Cities to Chicago airmail service via LaCrosse, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with two rented, open-cockpit biplanes on October 1st of that year.  Col. Lewis H. Brittin was the founder and driving force behind Northwest Airways and led it through its turbulent infancy as vice president and general manager and later, executive vice president.

 Northwest became a bonafide transcontinental airline June 1, 1945 when New York City service was inaugurated. Anchorage, Alaska was added in 1946.  July 15, 1947 was a major day in Northwest's history when service to the Orient began - initially Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Manila. Honolulu became a Northwest city in 1948 along with Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

 

 

     In 1921 Col. Brittin and St. Paul banker Richard C. Lilly urged Twin Cities businessmen to buy out the Detroit investors and bring Northwest "home". They were successful and Lilly became Northwest's first "home grown" president.  Northwest's first headquarters was at Speedway Field, on the site of present-day Twin Cities International Airport, on the west side of the Mississippi River.  In 1930 the headquarters relocated to the St. Paul Municipal Airport (later re-named Holman Field), and St. Paul remained Northwest's home for the next 30 years of its growth.

      The year 1928 saw rapid expansion at Northwest. Service began to Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Duluth, Minnesota, and several other North Dakota cities were soon added.  Montana cities soon came aboard and in 1933 Northwest achieved its long-sought "Northern Transcontinental" route to the Pacific Coast, when it was granted an extension to Seattle, Washington.