Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site

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Introduction

The Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site tells the full scope of Lindbergh's life, beginning with his boyhood along the Mississippi in Little Falls. His childhood home and exhibits are part of the site, which is a National Historic Landmark operated by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Background

Visitors to the Lindbergh House historic site naturally learn about the life of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., one of the 20th century's most prominent personalities. But this unassuming country home and the historic site's visitor center contain a web of stories about other interesting people, events and a time in history and set of circumstances that produced an American hero.

The Lindbergh family gave the house and 110-acre farm on the Mississippi River to the state of Minnesota in 1931 to honor C. A. Lindbergh Sr., a former congressman and Minnesota political leader. The house had been vacant and forgotten until 1927 when souvenir hunters, thrilled by the younger Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic solo flight, damaged it. The state repaired and painted the house, then enclosed it with a steel fence to prevent vandalism. The land was developed into a state park.

Then, in 1957, a joint project between the park and the Minnesota Historical Society furnished six rooms and opened the house to tours. In 1969, the state Legislature assigned the operation of the site to the Society. Further restoration work, guided by Charles Lindbergh Jr. and his half-sister Eva Lindbergh Spaeth, returned the house to its 1906-1920 appearance. A creatively designed interpretive center, with lines suggesting flight, was opened in 1973 in a ceremony featuring a speech by Lindbergh. Inside, exhibits tell the stories of three generations of the family, the famous 1927 flight, and Lindbergh's astounding but less-well-known research and inventions in medicine, rocketry and the environment.

There are political stories, too. August Lindbergh had been a member of the Swedish parliament who emigrated to the United States after being charged with illegal banking activities. His son, C. A. Lindbergh Sr., was involved with the Progressive and Nonpartisan League movements and had a turbulent political career that included serving in Congress and four bitter defeats while seeking the offices of governor, congressman and U.S. Senator. His son, Charles, got an early introduction to campaigns when he acted as chauffeur for his father in his 1916 campaign for U.S. Senate. He drove a new Saxon Six for the task, a car that has been restored and is on view at the Lindbergh House.

The Lindbergh women also have notable stories. C. A. Lindbergh acquired the Little Falls farm the year his first wife, Mary, died and left him with two young daughters. Three years later, he married Evangeline Lodge Land, a chemistry teacher who was much younger and certainly as independent of spirit as her husband. A native of Detroit, Evangeline returned there for the birth of Charles Jr. on Feb. 4, 1902.

The farm's first house, a grand, two-story building, burned in 1905. The following year, the one seen on today's tours was built. Much smaller, it would never serve as the full-time home for the Lindbergh family. While never divorced, C. A. and Evangeline led separate lives, with young Charles spending time in both Detroit and, especially during summers on the farm he so loved.

Visitors today see young Charles' inventive touches, such as a hand-crafted cement duck pond and a hand-dug well with a gasoline-powered pump. Guides tell about Charles' experience as a salesman for an early milking-machine maker, and his intrepid assembly of a tractor from a kit.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a private, non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849 to preserve and share Minnesota history. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota's past through interactive and engaging museum exhibits, extensive libraries and collections, 25 historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Visit www.mnhs.org for more information.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Step inside a full-scale replica of the Spirit of St. Louis cockpit, and see the Volkswagen Beetle Lindbergh drove on four continents.
  • Tour Lindbergh's boyhood home, with many of its original family furnishings and heirlooms.
  • Watch vintage footage of his historic flight.
  • Learn about Lindbergh's life, from his childhood to his career as an aviator and environmentalist, through new exhibits in the remodeled visitor center.
  • Stroll the Mississippi trails of Lindbergh's youth.
Charles A. Lindbergh

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 Sept. 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

Lindbergh excused himself as quickly as possible. Once in bed, his mind raced with a thousand thoughts - questioning, reasoning, of reporters anxious to interview him. Word of activity in his hangar had already spread. 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, 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 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
www.lindberghspirit.com

Fun Facts
  • Charles hatched chickens in incubators in his family's dining room. He accidentally left burn marks on the wood floors that you can still see to this day.
  • Charles chopped wood for the kitchen stove right in the kitchen. The ax marks are still visible in the kitchen floor.
  • The bathroom plumbing from the Lindbergh House used to empty right into the Mississippi River!
  • After Charles' historic trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, he made a "Goodwill Tour" of the 48 states. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 people in America went out to see him on that tour.
  • Charles attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Because of his poor academic standing, he was asked to leave the school after a year and a half. Lindbergh left there to begin flying. A few years later - after his famous New York to Paris flight - the same university gave him an honorary doctorate degree!
  • Lindbergh became the most photographed person in the world just after his historic flight. In the three weeks following the flight, photographers began filming his every move. During that time, they captured more than 7,430,000 feet of Lindbergh newsreel film.
  • In the early 1930's Lindbergh helped develop the perfusion pump, the first apparatus to keep a human organ alive outside of the body. The pump was used for scientific research.
  • Charles and his wife Anne were instrumental in establishing America's commercial airline industries. They helped map out new air routes, and contributed their famous names to numerous publicity events.
  • Though Lindbergh highly opposed entry into World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he volunteered to join the war. President Roosevelt refused his enlistment, still angered at Lindbergh for his pre-war opposition. However, Lindbergh went to the South Pacific as a civilian helping to increase U.S. Air force capabilities. Lindbergh ended up flying in over 50 combat missions and knocking down at least one enemy fighter plane, unofficially.
  • Lindbergh was instrumental in establishing the Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls. He spent numerous hours at his boyhood home relating stories and sharing information. He also wrote a series of letters, later published in a book "Lindbergh Looks Back," which is still very popular today. Over 90 percent of the items in the Lindbergh Home are original to the family.
Timeline

1902 Charles A. Lindbergh is born in Detroit, Michigan - where his parents are visiting - to Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh and Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. (C.A). Six weeks later, they bring him home to their family farm in Little Falls, Minnesota.

1906-1920
The Lindbergh family is in residence at their home in Little Falls.

1907-1917
Charles' father C.A. is elected U.S. Representative from the 6th District in Minnesota. C.A. had formerly been a lawyer in Little Falls, Minn. After his election, C. A. serves five two-year terms.

1917-1920 Charles runs his family's farm in Little Falls by himself. He graduates from the Little Falls High School in 1918.

1920 Charles attends the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After Lindbergh studies there for a year and a half, the school asks him to leave due to his poor academic record. Never having cared for school, Charles heads to Lincoln, Neb., to learn to fly.

1920-1927
Charles spends much of his time flying. He serves in the Army Air Service Reserve, does stunt flying and barnstorming through the Midwest, then begins to fly airmail with Robertson Aircraft of St. Louis, Missouri.

1927 Charles enters the race to become the first pilot to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. The prize, worth $25,000, is called the Orteig Prize. To honor the men who had paid for his plane to be built, Charles names his plane "The Spirit of St. Louis;" his funders lived in St. Louis, Mo. The Ryan Corporation had built the plane in San Diego, Calif.

May 20, 1927
Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island early on the morning of May 20. (He has not slept for over 48 hours.) The flight takes him 33 ½ hours to complete. By the time he arrives in France, he has not slept for three days. When he lands in Paris, France, the world goes crazy! In previous attempts to make this same flight, six men died.

1927 Charles becomes the most famous and most photographed person in the world. In his plane, he takes a Goodwill Tour that visits 48 states. More than one out of every three Americans sees Charles Lindbergh on this tour. In New York City, an estimated four million people show up for the ticker tape parade on 5th Avenue to welcome him home.

1928 Lindbergh donates "The Spirit of St. Louis" to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where it still is on view.

1931 The state of Minnesota takes ownership of the Lindbergh property, establishing it as a public park.

1927-1974
Charles Lindbergh dies in 1974 at the age of 72. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, becomes a famous author and writes many books that are still popular today. Charles Lindbergh becomes one of the most recognized people in the world, and the media will not leave him and his family alone. In 1932, his young son is kidnapped from his home and held for ransom. The baby is later found dead in the woods near the Lindberghs' home; it is called the Crime of the Century. Lindbergh goes on to have five more children. Charles becomes well known for his work with aviation, human science and conservation. He is also known for his anti-war beliefs during World War II.

1969 The Lindbergh House and 17 acres are transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society.

1977 The Lindbergh House is designated a National Historic Landmark.

1993-present
The park includes 328 acres of heavily wooded land on the west bank of the Mississippi River, with a campground, hiking trails, and a picnic area.

Images

Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site Images

Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site Images

Charles Lindbergh House

Charles Lindbergh House

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Charles Lindbergh, 1971

Charles Lindbergh, 1971

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Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, 1927

Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, 1927

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News Releases

August 4, 2017 Charles Lindbergh House and Museum Partners with The National WWII Museum to Provide Hand-Knit Scarves to Local Veterans
June 1, 2016 ALERT: Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site Celebrates Nine Months of Restoration Work
November 19, 2014 Spend New Years Eve by Candelight at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
October 15, 2014 Travel Back to Christmas 1918 with the Charles A. Lindbergh Family on Nov. 29
May 7, 2014 New Family Tour, Extended 'Living History' Program and Dollar Day This Summer at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
April 2, 2014 Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site Opens for the Season with Film Screenings and Guided Tours
March 12, 2014 New Community Partnership 'History After Hours' Launches April 24 with Program on Lindbergh and Pop Culture
December 18, 2013 Free History Film Series at Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
August 21, 2013 Free Film, Sept. 10 at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
July 17, 2013 Explore the Childhood of Charles Lindbergh During Special Programs in August
June 12, 2013 Celebrate Minnesota's Greatest Generation and Watch History Come to Life at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in July
May 15, 2013 Free Family Day and Living History Tours at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
April 24, 2013 May's History Film Series Presents: 'Lindbergh: The Shocking, Turbulent Life of America's Lone Eagle'
March 13, 2013 History Film Series Presents: 'The Civilian Conservation Corps'
February 20, 2013 History Film Series Presents 'The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case'
January 23, 2013 History Film Series Delves into the Private Lives of Abraham and Mary Lincoln
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