ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Charles A. Lindbergh: When Little Falls, Minnesota, flew into history

This year marks the 95th anniversary of Lindbergh's solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Paris in 1927. The famed aviator dubbed “Lucky Lindy” grew up on a Little Falls farm before becoming a worldwide celebrity.

Front page of the May 21, 1927, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch announcing Charles of Lindbergh's arrival in Paris and his completion of a record-breaking solo, nonstop, transatlantic flight from New York City.
Brainerd Daily Dispatch headline Saturday, May 21, 1927 - "LINDBERGH IN PARIS". 25-year old Little Falls native Charles Lindbergh takes off at 7:52am May 20, 1927 from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York.
Brainerd Dispatch file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

LITTLE FALLS — With the sky-high costs of flying today, it may be tempting to go it alone and take to the friendly skies by piloting a plane.

That would have been A-OK with famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. who as a boy on a farm in Little Falls during the First World War who dreamed one day of taking to the skies himself.

Lindbergh made history by flying nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Paris in 1927. Next month will be the 95th anniversary of that incredible journey.

“Lucky Lindy,” as he came to be known, gained worldwide recognition for that then-remarkable achievement, succeeding where others before him had failed and paid the cost with their lives.

"Lindbergh, a young airmail pilot, was a dark horse when he entered a competition with a $25,000 payoff to fly nonstop from New York to Paris,” according to History.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Charles Lindbergh
In May 1927, a 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh from Little Falls gained worldwide fame when he completed the first-ever nonstop, solo transatlantic flight.
Submitted photo

Little Falls upbringing

Lindbergh, the son of a prominent U.S. Congressman, ordered a small monoplane, configured it to his own design and christened it the “Spirit of St. Louis” in tribute to his sponsor, the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, according to the history-based website.

“In addition to being a skilled aviator, Lindbergh was also an amateur scientist, inventor and leader in the early conservation movement,” according to the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum across from the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, about a mile south of Little Falls.

“Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved,” Charles Lindbergh wrote in his book “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

Lindbergh was born in his mother’s hometown of Detroit but relocated to a new home in Little Falls on the banks of the Mississippi River on a 110-acre farm outside of town. The farm was also home to Charles's two half-sisters from his father’s first marriage, Lillian and Eva.
“He would often spend his days swimming in the river, climbing trees, interacting with the lumberjacks who brought logs down the river and hunting with his father,” according to the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum.

Little Falls’ favorite son saw his first airplane while growing up in the Morrison County city.

“One day I was playing upstairs in our house on the riverbank. The sound of a distant engine drifted in through an open window. … No automobile engine made that noise. ... I ran to the window and climbed out onto the tarry roof. It was an airplane!” he recounted in his book.

Airmail pilot

Robertson Aircraft Corp. was one of five companies in 1925 to obtain a U.S. airmail contract, according to the Smithsonian, and among its stable of pilots was a 23-year-old Lindbergh, who received flying instructions at a Nebraska flying school from veteran airmail pilot Ira O. Biffle.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Friday, April 15, it will be the 96th anniversary of when Lindbergh first flew the airmail on that Chicago-to-St. Louis route after the Robertson Aircraft Corp. successfully bid to secure the government contract for the service.

“Lindbergh earned his nickname, ‘Lucky Lindy,’ years before his trans-Atlantic flight. While flying the mail for the Robertson brothers, Lindbergh was forced to bail out of his mail plane not once, but twice!” according to the Smithsonian.

Lindbergh turned his attention to the Orteig Prize for the first aviator to fly nonstop across the Atlantic from Paris to New York or New York to Paris. Raymond Orteig, a French-born American businessman, announced the competition for the $25,000 prize in 1919.
“On Sep. 15, 1926, French flying ace René Fonck and his crew attempted to take off from Roosevelt Field in New York, only to crash at the end of the runway, killing two of the four crew members,” according to the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum.

Upon reading about Fonck’s failure, Lindbergh began to plan his own flight to Paris, figuring that "a nonstop flight between New York and Paris would be less hazardous than flying mail for a single winter."

The weight of the airplane was a primary concern for the fledgling daredevil, who wanted to make the trip across the Atlantic by himself and reportedly told Ryan Aeronautical Co. chief engineer Donald Hall that "I’d rather have extra gasoline than an extra man."

“Everything that was too heavy was left behind, including a parachute and radio,” according to the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum.

Making history

The 25-year-old Lindbergh landed his airplane at Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris on May 21, 1927, after taking off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, about 33 hours and 30 minutes earlier and 3,610 miles away.

“His greatest challenge was staying awake; he had to hold his eyelids open with his fingers and hallucinated ghosts passing through the cockpit,” according to History.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Artist/writer Robert Perrizo painting of world figure Aviator Charles Lindbergh will be on display Saturday through Aug. 30 at Madden’s Stable Gallery on Gull Lake.
Artist/writer Robert Perrizo painting of aviator Charles Lindbergh
Contributed / Robert Perrizo

Charles Lindbergh facts

  • His father was a U.S. Congressman. When Lindbergh was 4 years old, Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District elected his father, Charles August Lindbergh, to the U.S. House of Representatives. 
  • He worked as a daredevil and stunt pilot. After learning to fly at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation in Lincoln, Lindbergh spent two years as an itinerant stuntman and aerial daredevil.
  • He wasn’t the first person to make a transatlantic crossing in an airplane. Lindbergh’s major achievement was not that he was the first person to cross the Atlantic by airplane, but rather that he did it alone and between two major international cities.
  • He experienced hallucinations and saw mirages during his famous flight. Between his pre-flight preparations and the 33.5-hour journey itself, he went some 55 hours without sleep.
  • He helped invent an early artificial heart. By 1935, Lindbergh had developed a perfusion pump made of Pyrex glass that was capable of moving air and life-giving fluids through excised organs to keep them working and infection-free.

Source: History.com

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

Related Topics: LITTLE FALLSHISTORYAVIATION
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
What to read next
Gov. Tim Walz and front-line workers on Wednesday encouraged essential workers who'd stayed on the job during the height of the pandemic to apply for hero pay through the state.
The former officer faces 20 to 25 years for violating George Floyd's civil rights
Students who knew Philando Castile say his killing inspired them to pursue activism
Minneapolis event aims to celebrate and educate