This morning, as I flew from the world's busiest airport to (IMHO) the world's most inefficient airport, I got to wondering why my chosen airline was named after a geographical feature that has nothing to do with (A) air, (B) planes, (C) Delta's hometown of Atlanta, which is bereft of deltas. It turns out that Delta wasn't always an Atlanta institution. It got its start in 1924 on the banks of the Mississippi as the world's first commercial crop-dusting operation. If you ask me, that puts the lie to United Airlines' claim of being the oldest U.S. commercial airline. That claim, according to Wikipedia, goes all the way back to something called Varney Airlines, which took over for the Pony Express starting in 1926:
Varney's chief pilot, Leon D. "Lee" Cuddeback, flew the first Contract Air Mail flight in a Swallow biplane from Varney's headquarters in Boise, Idaho to the railroad mail hub of Pasco, Washington on April 6, 1926 and returned the following day with 200 pounds of mail. April 6th is reckoned in the United Airlines company history as both its own birthday and date on which "true" airline transport—operating on fixed routes and fixed schedules—began.
Bah. Maybe it's just ATLien hometown pride (or the enormous amount of grief that United flights through O'Hare have caused me), but I'm giving this one to the river boys.