Born February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan, Charles
Lindbergh grew up on a farm near Little Falls, Minnesota the son of a
lawyer/U.S. Congressman. Charles showed exceptional mechanical ability, even as
a child, and was encouraged to attend college and make the most of his talent.
After graduating high school, Charles stayed on to work at the family farm for
two years before enrolling in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he
would study Engineering. Full of a passion for airplanes and the newly expanding
field of aviation, Charles Lindbergh left college after two years to attend the
Lincoln Flight School in Nebraska. when graduated, Lindbergh would spend the
next few years performing daredevil stunts and county fairs and carnivals.
Charles enlisted in the United States Army in 1924, to be trained as an Army
Air Service Reserve pilot. Graduating the following year, Charles Lindbergh was
named the best pilot in his class.
In 1919, Raymond Orteig, a New York City
hotel owner, offered $25,000 to the first aviator who could fly nonstop from New
York to Paris. Several pilots tried and failed. But on May 20, 1927,with The
Spirit of St. Louis, Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in New York, and
became the first pilot in the world to make a solo, nonstop flight across the
Atlantic Ocean. Lindbergh flew some 3600 miles in just over 33-hours and proudly
collected his $25,000 reward in front of cheering fans in Paris. The press
nicknamed Mr. Lindbergh "Lucky Lindy" and the "Lone Eagle" and he instantly
became a hero.
With success and fans everywhere, twenty-five year old
Lindbergh flew to various Latin-American countries in 1927, at the request of
the U.S. government. While working in Mexico, Lindbergh met Anne Spencer Morrow,
the daughter of the American Ambassador. They would marry in 1929, and travel
the world together, charting new routes for various airlines that are still used
by commercial jetliners today. Ms. Lindbergh herself would go on to become a
famous poet and writer.
Much to world's surprise, twenty month old Charles
Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped from his home nursery in New Jersey in
1932, making headlines across the country. Leaving only a ransom note demanding
$50,000 in the window and a homemade ladder leaning against the Lindbergh home,
it seemed someone had kidnapped the baby of the most famous man in the world and
not left any evidence behind. A ransom was paid, but the child was found dead
several months later in a wooded area a few miles from the Lindbergh Estate.
Newly labeled THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY, the press and police went mad in search
of the killer, finally arresting 35-year old Bronx carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Hauptmann would never admit to the crime, but due largely to
circumstantial evidence in what many prosecutors still believe is an unsolved
case, Hauptmann was convicted in 1932 and put to death in the electric chair in
1936. Hauptmann's wife would spend the remainder of her life trying to clear her
husband's name. She never succeeded.
To escape the media attention after the
trial, Charles took his family (including a now three year old son, Jon) to live
in Europe. Always the inventor, Mr. Lindbergh proceeded to work while living in
Europe, developing the first-ever "artificial heart" in 1935. Lindbergh's device
was the first of its kind, capable of pumping substances through human tissue.
Around this same time, Congress passed the "Lindbergh Law" in the United States,
making kidnapping a federal offense if the victim were taken across state lines
or if the U.S. Postal Service were used as a relay for ransom demands. Newly
encouraged, the Lindberghs returned to the United States in 1939. Charles would
join the America First Committee, a group that opposed voluntary American entry
into WWII. Lindbergh became the leading spokesperson for the committee and was
loved by some, and considered a traitor by others. In 1953, Lindbergh published
his first book, "The Spirit of St. Louis," an account of his transatlantic
flight which first made him a household name. The book would win a Pulitzer
Prize the following year.
Lindbergh and his wife continued to fly (mostly
for pleasure) for many years to come. Still followed curious reporters, the
Lindberghs took a winter home in Hawaii, which would later become their
permanent residence. Charles Lindbergh would spend the next few years speaking,
inventing and writing. It was his goal to create a balance between technological
advances and environmental preservation. After moving to Hana, Maui full-time,
Charles was stricken with cancer. Charles Lindbergh would take his final flight
in 1974, as he checked himself out of a New York Hospital and flew home to die,
surrounded by friends and family.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh died of cancer
on August 26, 1974.