Charles Lindbergh Biography
Charles Lindbergh Biography: an instant hero after his solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. But there's so much more to this inventor, author AND pilot.
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. Once graduated, Lindbergh would spend the next few years performing daredevil stunts and county fairs and carnivals.
On the advice of his father, 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 in 1927, with a 220-horsepower Wright Whirlwind plane that he named, 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 under his belt and fans everywhere, twenty-five year old Lindbergh flew to various Latin-American countries in 1927, at the request of the U.S. government. His mission: to be a symbol of goodwill. 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 fast became the leading spokesperson for the committee and was hailed 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 (though mostly for pleasure) for many years to come. Still barraged by 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 ultimate 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 Lindbergh died of cancer on August 26, 1974.