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Aviator Charles Lindbergh Died 40 Years Ago Today

August 26, 2014 Featured, History/Preservation, Transportation 2 Comments

U.S. Route 67 runs north-south from the Mexico border in Texas into Iowa after passing through Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. In St. Louis County U.S.67 is better known as Lindbergh Boulevard, named after famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974):

One of the finest fliers of his time, Charles Lindbergh was the chief pilot for the first St. Louis to Chicago airmail route, in April 1926. While based at Lambert Field, he conceived of an airplane that could fly from New York to Paris, and persuaded a group of St. Louis businessmen to finance the project. The result was the immortal “Spirit of St. Louis,” which he flew across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1927. The feat made Lindbergh a national hero, and raised public awareness of aviation’s potential to an unprecedented level. (St. Louis Walk of Fame)

Lindbergh was born in Detroit and died in Maui, Hawaii at age 72:

The "Spirit of St. Louis" in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, photo Sept 2001
The “Spirit of St. Louis” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, photo Sept 2001

Lindbergh didn’t live here long:

March 1924 – Lindbergh enlists in the Army Air Service and begins training. He graduates, first in his class, from the Army’s Advanced Flying School and is commissioned as a second lieutenant. At loose ends because few squadrons need new pilots, he decides to head for St. Louis, where he begins working as a test pilot, barnstormer, stunt flyer and mail pilot.

Fall 1926 – Bored with mail flying, Lindbergh dreams of capturing the $25,000 Orteig Prize that will be given to the first aviator to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. He starts searching for the financial backers necessary to sponsor his flight. Time is of the essence because several other teams of pilots in the U.S. and France, including U.S. Navy Commander Richard Byrd, are preparing their own transatlantic flights.

April 1927 – Construction on Lindbergh’s plane, built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego, is completed, and Lindbergh conducts a series of test flights.

May 12, 1927 – Lindbergh arrives in New York. He had crossed the entire country in less than twenty-two hours of flying time. The media takes a shine to Lindbergh, not only because he is physically the most attractive of all the fliers attempting the New York/Paris flight but because he is the only one attempting the journey on his own.

May 20, 1927 – At 7:54 am, Lindbergh, who has not slept in almost twenty-four hours, takes off from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field.

May 21, 1927 – At 10:54 pm, Lindbergh lands at Le Bourget airfield near Paris. A human tidal wave of spectators, 150,000 strong, is there to greet him and Lindbergh is quickly caught up in the riptide of the masses. Overnight, the modern wonders of communication transform the 25-year “boy” into the most famous man on earth. (Lindbergh Foundation)

Lindbergh needed financial backing to buy the plane he needed for the attempt, it came from St. Louis businessmen:

He had $2,000 in savings, and he figured he’d need an additional $15,000.

The first to pony up was Maj. Albert Bond Lambert (note the last name), an enthusiastic balloonist and the city’s first licensed pilot. The others were banker Harold M. Bixby, head of the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce; broker Harry H. Knight and his father, Harry F. Knight; aircraft execs Frank and William Robertson; Earl C. Thompson; J.D. Wooster Lambert; and St. Louis Globe-Democrat publisher E. Lansing Ray.

Bixby suggested that Lindbergh name the plane the Spirit of St. Louis. Today Bixby’s nephew, Charles Houghton, says his Uncle Harold had more in mind than honoring his own city. “What most people don’t know is that the patron saint of Paris was Louis IX, Saint-Louis,” Bixby says, “so the French were just thrilled when this plane arrived. Besides honoring the backers and the community, there was that wonderful connection to the French people.” (St. Louis Magazine)

I wasn’t able to find out where Charles Lindbergh lived during his couple of years living in St. Louis prior to the famous flight, perhaps someone out there knows. Charles A. Lindbergh was born on

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  • Alfred Fickensher

    In 1967 while I was living in Maplewood I enjoyed several conversations with an old guy (I was 25 so most older people were “old” and you’ll want to factor that in when surmising the veracity of the guy’s story) who might well could have been contemporary with Lindbergh in St Louis.

    This old guy, who owned a hobby shop on Sutton just off the corner of Manchester, was a Christian Science follower and his claim was that Lindbergh rented room and board from a lady who was active in and apparently we’ll known within the St Louis Christ Scientist group of the era. The hobby shop old guy never inferred that he had known nor even had met Lindbergh, but rather only that he knew the lady owner of the rooming house back in 1926-27.

    That would have taken place before The Flight when Charles Lindbergh of course was merely a young man working for a living.

    True? or perhaps an exaggerated partial truth? or totally made up to impress me, a young new customer? Who knows nor does it really matter. Back in 67 at 40 years since The Flight there we’ll could have been possibly a hundred or so people alive yet who really had had some close or indirect contact with the soon-to-be young hero.

    • Alfred Fickensher

      And I see that my iPad spell checker screwed me on “well” / “we’ll”.

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