Marjorie Nugent or Heather Koop
Media Relations Manager Northern District Manager
Phone: 651-296-9108 Fax: 651-297-3343 651-296-6654
In this media kit:
Climb inside a cockpit modeled on that of the Spirit of St. Louis. Delve into the controversial side of Charles Lindbergh’s life. Hear Lindbergh’s own words. Understand his passion for the environment. Discover the adventures and strength that Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh shared.
The Charles Lindbergh Historic Site features new exhibits and an expanded visitor center, which opened in 2002. The site, which Lindbergh helped the Minnesota Historical Society to develop, features the aviator’s boyhood home on the banks of the Mississippi River in Little Falls.
From May 1 through Labor Day the site is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Labor Day through October hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Regular admission fees are $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens, and $4 for children ages 6-12. Different fees may apply for special events.
Charles Lindbergh’s memories guided the content of the original exhibits, which focused to a large degree on his parents’ lives and influence. He also provided information for the restoration and furnishing of the house. The new exhibits more deeply examine Lindbergh’s full life and that of his wife, Anne, and incorporate recordings of Lindbergh’s voice and his writings. The house also has undergone extensive preservation work and expanded trails, parking lot and landscaping add to the renewed site.
“The family connection here is very strong,” says former site manager Don Westfall. “The house presents an intimate look into the surroundings that helped form Lindbergh’s adventurous spirit. Visitors enjoy hearing that the historic interpretation we do is guided by Lindbergh’s own visits to the site and his stories of what happened within the house. Now, with expanded exhibits, we can tell more about the breadth of Lindbergh’s life and include more about Anne Lindbergh.”
Exhibit curator Brian Horrigan adds, “The Lindbergh site is the most intensely biographical of all of the sites in the Society’s network, and our new exhibits reflect this focus on telling the complete story of an extraordinary life. But we have left most of the telling to Lindbergh himself. Of the seven books Lindbergh wrote, six are autobiographical, and we have made extensive use of all of them as we developed the texts and graphics for the exhibit. Overwhelmingly, the ‘voice’ of this exhibit is Lindbergh’s – we’ve even used his actual voice in three different media pieces we have developed for the exhibit.”
A highlight of the new exhibit is a partial mock-up of the Spirit of St. Louis. Visitors are able to climb inside and experience the sounds of the flight. Most will notice two things immediately: the cramped quarters and the fact that Lindbergh’s view from the cockpit was very limited. That fact brought about one of the new activities that will be offered in the expanded visitor center. “Dead Reckoning” has proven popular. Participants try their skills at navigating as Lindbergh did, without a full view of the ground. Another new activity challenges visitors to choose what they would take on their imaginary solo flight to Paris without overloading the plane.
Previous visitors will notice that parking and entering the visitor center is now much easier. The main building entrance is on its upper level, immediately adjacent to the access road and the parking lot. Just inside is a new reception area and gift shop. The ramps that formerly complicated the spaces of the center have been eliminated, and new exhibit spaces, totaling more than 3,500 square feet, have been created.
One level below the entry is a soaring new gallery where exhibits focus on Lindbergh’s boyhood, his flight to Paris in 1927 and the flight’s aftermath. Highlights on this level include a partial recreation of the second floor of his Little Falls home, from which young Lindbergh first caught sight of an airplane; exhibit cases filled with his childhood toys and souvenirs; the full-scale cockpit model; and a small theater featuring historic film footage of the flight and its aftermath.
One more level down, the stories center on Lindbergh’s later life and his work as a writer and an advocate for environmental causes worldwide. Highlights here include the Volkswagen that Lindbergh drove through Europe and Africa; exhibits and photographs of the extended Lindbergh family; a remodeled theater for film showings and programs; and a new area for educational programs.
Gopher State Contractors of Rice was the general contractor. The project was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its Minnesota Transportation History Network appropriation.
History of the flight
In the fall of 1926, during the lonely hours flying the mail at night, a young airmail pilot for Robertson Aircraft Corporation had his first thoughts about flying across the cold Atlantic waters in an attempt to capture the elusive Orteig Prize. His name was Charles A. Lindbergh.
The $25,000 Orteig Prize, which had been offered since 1919 by a prominent New York hotel businessman, Raymond Orteig, for the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris, was not what interested Lindbergh. Instead, he was intrigued by the idea of demonstrating publicly that airplanes could safely link the United States and Europe, and at the same time, giving greater credibility to civilian pilots. As for the danger of such an incredible flight, Lindbergh believed that neither the weather nor the danger of a Trans-Atlantic crossing could be any worse than what he had already experienced flying the mail through rain, snow, ice and fog and the emergency parachute landings he made during his airmail career.
As he considered how to go about getting funding for what would become an historic trans-Atlantic journey, he considered using his personal savings, but realized this would not be enough. So he planned a presentation for St. Louis businessmen, hoping they could see what modern aircraft could do and that they would agree to sponsor his attempt at making the crossing. “First, I’ll show them how a non-stop flight between America and Europe will demonstrate the possibilities of aircraft, and help place St. Louis in the foreground of aviation. Second, I’ll show them that a modern airplane is capable of making the flight to Paris, and that a successful flight will cover its own costs because of the Orteig Prize,” Lindbergh later wrote in his book The Spirit of St. Louis.
Major Albert Bond Lambert was the first to pledge $1,000 toward the flight, after Lindbergh committed his own personal savings of $2,000. By February 1927, Lindbergh received complete financing for his flight from Harold M. Bixby, Harry F. Knight, Harry H. Knight, Albert Bond Lambert, J.D. Wooster Lambert, E. Lansing Ray, Frank H. Robertson, William B. Robertson and Earl C. Thompson. The group became known as the St. Louis backers.
Because of the support from the St. Louis backers, Lindbergh was given the freedom to pursue his dream of crossing the Atlantic in an unlikely single-engine monoplane that Mr. Bixby would later name the Spirit of St. Louis. Having been turned down in his attempt to purchase a Bellanca (the best plane available at the time for such a flight), Lindbergh ordered a specially designed aircraft from Ryan Airlines Inc. of San Diego, which he helped design. It would need to be ready in two months.
When Lindbergh registered with the National Aeronautic Association as a contestant for the Orteig Prize, he was regarded as the long-shot of all the crews because he was the only one who planned to fly alone, and in a single-engine plane. Lindbergh believed the single-engine plane was best because it could fly longer than multi-engine planes and could be more streamlined. But some still called him a “flying fool.” For pilots reaching for the prize, the lack of instrumentation, accurate weather reporting and adequate lighting were obstacles to be confronted with skill and determination, but building a plane capable of getting off the ground with the heavy load of gasoline needed for a 3,600-mile flight was the greatest challenge of all. In fact, the Spirit of St. Louis, with its huge fuel tanks that blocked his forward vision, weighed in at 5,250 pounds, of which 2,750 pounds was its 451 gallons of gasoline.
Lindbergh carefully planned every detail of his trip and evaluated the necessity of every item he would carry. He opted to leave his parachute and radio behind so he could carry more fuel, believing that if he crashed he wouldn’t need them anyway. When pressed about his decision to forego the radio, Lindbergh said, “When the weather is bad you can’t make contact with the ground. When the weather isn’t bad a pilot doesn’t need a radio.” He even went so far as to trim the edges off his maps, remove unnecessary pages from his notebook, and declined to take navigational equipment in order to conserve weight on the plane.
On April 25, 1927, Lindbergh wired Harry Knight in St. Louis to inform him that the plane was ready. Two Army observation planes and a Ryan monoplane escorted Lindbergh as he left San Diego for St. Louis on May 10. He arrived at Lambert Field in St. Louis the following morning, May 11, 1927, establishing a non-stop speed record of 1,500 miles in 14 hours and 25 minutes. He spent the night in his former boarding house and left the next morning for New York.
Lindbergh arrived in Long Island on May 12, 1927. The mood was tense as Lindbergh and the other contestants waited day after day for the weather to clear enough to make a successful take-off. He spent hours reviewing weather charts, tuning his plane, dealing with the incessant media – diligently guarding his take-off plans, and occasionally taking in some sights in New York. In the weeks preceding Lindbergh’s take-off, the magnitude of the danger of the flight became even more eminent. Newspapers were peppered with stories of plane crashes and fatalities surrounding the competition. French pilot Rene Fonck and three others crashed on takeoff from Roosevelt Field on Long Island on September 21, 1926, killing two crewmen. Both Richard E. Byrd (who had already flown over the North Pole) and Clarence D. Chamberlin, a noted aviator, had minor accidents during the testing of their planes in April 1927, and a third plane, piloted by Noel Davis also crashed that month, killing Davis and his co-pilot. French pilot Charles Nungesser and navigator Francois Coli left Paris for New York in a single-engine biplane on May 8, just two weeks prior to Lindbergh’s flight, and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. To make matters worse, he had not yet become eligible for the Orteig Prize, which stipulated that 60 days must elapse between acceptance of his entry papers and take-off of the flight. His St. Louis backers told him to fly when he was ready, despite the prize.
May 19 was dreary. The weather forecasts offered little hope of a clearing in the weather in the next few days. That evening, after touring the Wright plant in New Jersey with some of his new friends, Lindbergh and some others had planned to attend the Broadway show “Rio Rita.” Before they arrived at the theater, however, they stopped for one more check on the weather. There was good news. A sudden break in the weather was predicted, with high pressure beginning to clear patches of clouds over the ocean. An early morning departure was possible. The group headed back to the airfield to begin making preparations and final inspections. After working on the plane for a few hours, Lindbergh returned to the hotel just before midnight. If he was to be ready at daybreak as he had planned, he needed to get some sleep. Upon arriving at the hotel, however, Lindbergh was confronted by a throng of reporters anxious to interview him. Word of activity in his hangar had already spread. Lindbergh excused himself as quickly as possible. Once in bed, his mind raced with a thousand thoughts – questioning, reasoning, calculating, reviewing every decision he had made. At 1:40 a.m., he realized there was little hope for sleep.
At 2:30 a.m. on a misty Friday morning, May 20, 1927, Lindbergh rode from the Garden City Hotel, where he and the other contestants were staying, to Curtiss Field to prepare for take-off. Even at that early hour, 500 on-lookers waited. At 4:15 a.m. the rain stopped. Lindbergh ate one of the six sandwiches he had been given the night before and ordered the Spirit of St. Louis to be wheeled outside. The weather had been too bad the night before to move the plane to Roosevelt Field. Six Nassau County motorcycle patrolmen escorted the concealed plane, which was tied to the back of a truck, and was hauled across the deeply rutted road to Roosevelt Field, where Lindbergh had planned to make his departure. With the nose of the plane pointing toward Paris, Lindbergh worried about the take-off. He would have 5,000 feet to lift off the ground and gain enough altitude to clear the trees and telephone wires at the end of the field. The Spirit had never been tested carrying this much weight. If it weren’t for the water-soaked runway, the lack of headwinds, the heavy humidity that would lower the engine’s r.p.m., and the untested weight of the plane, he would not have been so concerned. A bucket brigade formed to fill the plane’s five fuel tanks, and by 7:30 a.m. the tanks were filled to the brim. Hundreds more people joined the crowd. With the wheels sinking into the ground Lindbergh readied himself for take-off, mentally gathering all his flying experience from the past four years.
At 7:51 a.m. he buckled his safety belt, put cotton in his ears, strapped on his helmet, and pulled on his goggles and said, “What do you say – let’s try it.” At 7:52 a.m., Lindbergh took off for Paris, carrying with him five sandwiches, water, and his charts and maps and a limited number of other items he deemed absolutely necessary. The heavy plane bounced along the muddy runway, splashing through puddles. At the half-way point on the runway, the plane had not yet reached flying speed. As the load shifted from the wheels to the wings, he felt the plane leave the ground briefly, but returned to the ground. Looking out the side window, Lindbergh could see the approaching telephone lines. Now less than 2,000 feet of runway remained and he managed to get the plane to jump off the ground again. It bounced again, and with less than 1,000 feet, he lifted the plane sharply, clearing the telephone wires by 20 feet. At 7:54 a.m. he was airborne.
Although he had no forward vision during the flight (except a small periscope), and fighting off fog, icing and sometimes overwhelming drowsiness, he navigated his journey to a perfect landing 33 hours, 30 minutes, and 29.8 seconds later at LeBourget Field where a huge crowd of 150,000 on-lookers awaited his arrival. At that very moment, the 25-year-old farm boy from Minnesota was transformed into the most famous aviator in the world
From the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation
Quotes from Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh
About seeing his first airplane:
Charles Lindbergh remembered seeing an airplane for the first time when he was about nine years old. It happened one summer afternoon here at the house in Little Falls:
One day before the First World War began, when I was playing upstairs in our house on the riverbank, the sound of a distant engine drifted in through an open window. Automobiles had been going past on the road quite often that summer... . Suddenly I sat up straight and listened. No automobile engine made that noise. It was approaching too fast... . I ran to the window and climbed out onto the tarry roof. It was an airplane!
Flying upriver below higher branches of trees, a biplane was less than two hundred yards away – a frail, complicated structure, with the pilot sitting out in front between struts and wires. I watched it fly quickly out of sight... .
I imagined myself with wings on which I could swoop down off our roof into the valley, soaring through air from one river bank to the other, over stones of the rapids, above log jams, above the tops of trees and fences.
From Charles Lindbergh’s speech at the 1973 dedication of the Lindbergh Boyhood Home Interpretive Center and from The Spirit of St. Louis [pp. 244-45]
About the Spirit of St. Louis:
The Spirit of St. Louis is a wonderful plane. It’s like a living creature, gliding along smoothly, happily, as though a successful flight means as much to it as to me, as though we shared our experiences together, each feeling beauty, life, and death as keenly, each dependent on the other’s loyalty. We have made this flight across the ocean, not I or it.
Charles Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis [p. 486]
About the kidnapping of his son, Charles Jr.
Kidnapping was a disturbingly common crime in the early years of the Great Depression, but of all the cases, none became more famous than of the abduction of “Baby Lindy,” in March 1932. When the baby’s body was discovered several weeks later, public outrage and fascination mounted to new levels. In December 1935, to escape the ceaseless glare of publicity, the Lindberghs moved to England.
On the night of March 1, 1932, soon after my wife and I had moved into our newly built house in the Sourland Mountains, a tragedy took place that was to affect our lives forever. Our son, Charles Jr.., was kidnapped. Born on July 22, 1930, he was twenty months old, blond, blue-eyed, and just beginning to talk.
Autobiography of Values [p. 139]
Four months since I saw the baby – longer than that trip abroad. I feel, as then, desperately, that I never had a baby – he is so gone. I used to think that having sorrow would make one feel more secure – as though you could say, “Now I have borne suffering, I am strong, I will not be afraid again.” But it does not affect me that way. I feel all foundations shaking under me... . And death so near me – I feel as though I walked hand in hand with it.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, diary entry, July 2, 1932
About the Lindberghs’ 1959 Volkswagen “Beetle”
Charles Lindbergh bought this Volkswagen in Paris and used it to travel throughout Europe, the Near East and Africa. Later he had it shipped back to the United States. In 1970 he drove it here to the historic site but was called away suddenly and had to leave the car behind. Rather than reclaiming the VW, he donated it to the Minnesota Historical Society, along with the canned food and other items displayed in the exhibit.
I have had some wonderful and extraordinary experiences in this Volkswagen. I drove it considerably through most western countries, and Anne and I used it as a family car while we were living in Switzerland. I once drove it around the eastern Mediterranean, leaving it for several months in Istanbul, and for another several months in Beirut. My son Scott joined me at Beirut, and in Egypt we drove together up the Nile to the valley of the Kings. On the trip around the Mediterranean and also driving in Europe I often slept in the car. I suppose that, over the years, I have spent more than a hundred nights in it. I found that I could take the right front seat out, take its back off, reverse its position in the slide grooves, and with the use of an air mattress make a comfortable full-length bed.
Letter to the Minnesota Historical Society, 1972
What is it like to live the life of a Masai? Driving along a one-track dirt road in southern Kenya once, I overtook two spearmen and offered them a ride. They accepted solemnly and started to climb into my small Volkswagen, but their sharp-bladed weapons were too long to take inside. Seeing their confusion, I switched off the engine, walked around to their open door, and held out my hand. Each man handed me his spear. I motioned one to the back seat and the other to the front, then placed the spears, point forward, against the side of the car. The man in the front held them there, through the open window. My Volkswagen must have looked like an armed knight as it rolled through the dust and sand.
Autobiography of Values [p. 275]
“The wisdom of wildness”
From about 1960 until his death in 1974, Charles Lindbergh traveled almost constantly in support of conservation causes. He met with world leaders and environmentalists in the United States, Europe, South America, Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Islands. Most often, he focused his energies on wildlife species threatened with extinction. Lindbergh also worked for habitat preservation and for the protection of traditional human societies, such as the Tasaday in the Philippines and the Maasai in Africa.
In the decades I spent flying civilian and military aircraft, I saw tremendous changes take place on the earth’s surface. Trees disappeared from mountains and valleys. Erosion turned clear rivers yellow. Power lines and highways stretched out beyond horizons... . Almost everywhere I landed I heard stories of disappearing wilderness, wildness, and natural resources. Many species of animals that had taken epochs to evolve were, within decades, on the verge of extermination. I became so alarmed that I decided to take some personal action.
Autobiography of Values [p. 32]
The human future depends on our ability to combine the knowledge of science with the wisdom of wildness.
Charles Lindbergh, “The Wisdom of Wildness,” Life, Dec. 22, 1967