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Charles Lindbergh

Charles LindberghBorn: February 4, 1902, Detroit, Michigan. Married: Anne Morrow, May 27, 1929. Died August 26, 1974, Kipahulu, Hawaii.

The son of Charles August and Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born February 4, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan.

He was enrolled in the school of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but dropped out in 1920 to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to begin flight training. In May 1922 Lindbergh worked as a mechanic and helper on a barnstorming trip through southeastern Nebraska. There he learned to do wing-walking and parachute jumps. He earned extra money working in the Lincoln Standard aircraft factory. Lindbergh learned that an exhibition company needed a parachute jumper in northwest Kansas and he took a train to Bird City. There he lived between exhibitions and became known as “The Daredevil,” entertaining crowds in Montana, Wyoming, and Kansas, with his wing-walking feats and parachute jumps. Lindbergh claimed he had gained considerable respect for the wind in Kansas and Nebraska. By 1923 Lindbergh was ready to purchase his own airplane, a military surplus Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane, which he flew for his barnstorming exhibitions.

Lindbergh became interested in the Orteig Prize of $25,000, which had been offered in 1919 to the first successful nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. Originally available for only five years, Raymond Orteig extended the offer after there was no serious attempt. By 1924 a field of well-known, experienced, and well-financed competitors emerged. Lindbergh was the exception; the unknown mail pilot made a small investment of his own funds and found other backers to raise the modest amount of $18,000. He had become a friend of Wichita Eagle publisher Marcellus Murdock. Murdock introduced Lindbergh to Walter Beech with Travel Air Company, one of several companies he approached. The manufacturers wanted the ability to choose their own pilot and rejected his offer. The monoplane he called the Spirit of St. Louis was specially built by Ryan Aircraft Company in San Diego, jointly designed by Lindbergh and Ryan’s chief engineer Donald A. Hall.

Lindbergh watched as several challengers attempted to win the prize, resulting in crashes, deaths, and disappearances. Finally at 7:52 a.m. Friday, May 20, 1927, he departed from a muddy runway at Roosevelt Field in New York. He flew for 33.5 hours, cruising at 10,000 feet, and landed at 10:22 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. The airfield was not marked on his map, but the car headlights of tens of thousands of eager spectators shown the way. The crowd, estimated at 150,000, stormed the field and carried Lindbergh above their heads. Lindbergh’s successful flight immediately made him among the most famous of his day.  

Earning the nickname, “Lucky Lindy,” he was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1927. He wrote an autobiography of his flight that became a bestseller. He toured the Spirit of St. Louis around the world before retiring the plane and donating it to the Smithsonian.

The Lindbergh’s lives were marked by tragedy when one of their six children was killed in a highly publicized kidnapping and trial. In an attempt to escape media attention, the Lindberghs fled to Europe in the 1930s. During World War II Lindbergh became a technical adviser on airplane production and he participated in some training and combat missions. Following the war he campaigned to protect endangered species like humpback and blue whales. Lindbergh lived his later years on the island of Maui in Hawaii. He died August 26, 1974.

Entry: Lindbergh, Charles

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2016

Date Modified: January 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.