High-Flying Facts About Charles Lindbergh

October 27, 2023 | Kyle Climans

High-Flying Facts About Charles Lindbergh

“How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?”—Charles Lindbergh.

Most people remember him as either a highly accomplished pilot, or a bereaved father whose family troubles filled the newspaper headlines. Charles Lindbergh has faded somewhat from the popular imagination, but his influence is impossible to deny. More than flying alone across the Atlantic or losing a child in a horrific kidnapping, Lindbergh’s legacy was that of an enormous celebrity whose fame couldn't hold off tragedy and controversy. So how did this happen? What really happened in the kidnapping case? What else is there to know about Charles Lindbergh? We’ve provided a list to try and answer those questions about this polarizing figure of human achievement.

1. Where I Began

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in Detroit on February 4, 1902. He spent most of his childhood growing up in Washington, DC and Little Falls, Minnesota.


2. I Wanna Soar!

In 1922, Lindbergh dropped out of studying mechanical engineering in college to pursue his dream of flying. That same year, he finally achieved that dream when he was a passenger in a two-seat Lincoln Standard biplane which was flown by Otto Timm. He began flying lessons soon after that.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

3. Watch Me!

Before he was ever known as a pilot who flew across the Atlantic Ocean, Lindbergh was known as a barnstormer. Barnstormers were pilots who performed stunts with their planes, much to the delight of audiences on the ground.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

4. Happy Landing

When he finally completed his trans-Atlantic flight, Lindbergh landed his plane in Paris, specifically Le Bourget Aerodrome, their principal airport at the time. Amazingly, the airport wasn’t marked on his map, and all he knew was that he had to find his landing location “seven miles northeast of the city".

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

5. Meet Your Wife

In 1927, while visiting Mexico City, Lindbergh met Anne Morrow, the daughter of one of his financial advisors. They would marry in 1929 and go on to have six children together. Sadly, their firstborn child was Charles Lindbergh Jr., the victim of a tragic kidnapping that horrified the nation (more on that later).

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

6. If You Land It, They Will Come

When Lindbergh landed the “Spirit of St. Louis” plane in Paris, more than 150,000 people had gathered to welcome him to France. In fact, they caused what became known as “the largest traffic jam in Paris history".

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

7. Speedy Delivery!

Aside from barnstorming, Lindbergh was also known as a delivery pilot. He flew planes on behalf of US Air Mail, traveling across the country.

Charles Lindbergh factsU.S. National Archives & DVIDS

8. Dad’s Example

Lindbergh’s father, Charles August, became a member of the US Congress when Lindbergh was a toddler. Lindbergh Sr. became known for his vocal opposition to US entering the WWI, to the point where he was accused of sedition.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

9. I Look A Bit Too Old…

The most well-known portrayal of Lindbergh on the screen was the 1942 film The Spirit of St. Louis. Hollywood star James "Jimmy" Stewart was a longtime admirer of Lindbergh and was himself an aviator who had participated in aerial combat missions during WWII. Unfortunately, while he was making the movie, Stewart was was twice as old as Lindbergh was at the time that he flew across the Atlantic! That kind of age difference contributed to the film’s critical and commercial failure.

Charles Lindbergh factsThe Spirit of St. Louis (1957), Warner Bros.

10. Balanced Plane

In order to fly across the Atlantic successfully, Lindbergh flew his monoplane while it was loaded with 450 gallons of fuel. In total, the plane weighed more than 5,100 pounds.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

11. International Recognition

Throughout his life, Lindbergh was granted several honors, not just from the US. He was awarded Commander of the Legion of Honor by France, the Air Force Cross by the UK, and Knight of the Order of Leopold by Belgium.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

12. Sleep Is For Wussies!

Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic lasted more than 33 hours. If you add up the time he spent preparing for this non-stop flight, that means he spent 55 hours awake.

Charles Lindbergh factsFlickr, Tullio Saba

13. A Song On Your Lips

In an example of musicians watching the news for inspiration, Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight inspired many popular songs soon after he completed his flight. One of the most well-known songs made in honor of him was “Lucky Lindy” by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Abel Baer.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

14. A Role He Was Meant For

Perhaps due to his incredible fame and aviation skills, Lindbergh was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics by President Herbert Hoover.

Prohibition factsWikimedia Commons

15. From Air To Space

In 1929, Lindbergh became aware of the scientist Robert Goddard and his experiments with rockets. The two of them initiated a friendship that persisted until Goddard's final days, with Lindbergh leveraging his celebrity influence to secure funding for his friend. Goddard, who is now known as the “father of modern rocketry," proved an invaluable influence on space exploration. Lindbergh lived to see astronauts go into space, and even land on the moon. He personally praised the astronauts of Apollo 8 for helping to turn Goddard’s dreams into reality.

Moon Landings FactsWikimedia Commons

16. You’re A Star!

The fame of Lindbergh following his flight across the ocean can’t be exaggerated. He could arguably be called one of the first celebrities in American history. He was flooded with adulation, attention, and job offers. According to one writer, the public responded, “as though Lindbergh had walked on water, not flown over it".

Charles Lindbergh factsFlickr, USMC Archives

17. Two Weeks Before The Ides

On March 1, 1932, Lindbergh’s home in East Amwell, New Jersey, was broken into. His 20-month old son, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., was stolen from his crib, prompting a public outcry that was unprecedented in its size and scope. The attention hindered any law enforcement initiatives, considering that it was initially designated as a local offense, resulting in the federal authorities not possessing jurisdiction. A ransom payment was made in accordance with a note, using telltale money which authorities hoped could be eventually be traced back to the kidnappers. Unfortunately, the endeavors to rescue Charles Jr. concluded dismally; he was ultimately found without signs of life, and only Richard Hauptmann was held responsible and subsequently received the severest of penalties. However, there are those that question the legitimacy of Hauptmann's conviction.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

18. Business Logo Deals

As some of you might know, the plane which Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean was called the Spirit of St. Louis. You might be wondering why that was the case, since Lindbergh was born in Michigan. The reason is that a group of St. Louis businessmen financed $15,000 for Lindbergh’s big flight. Probably for the best that Lindbergh wasn’t relying on funds from the town of Walla Walla. Would have made for a slightly less cool-sounding name.

Charles Lindbergh factsPicryl

19. That’s Our Charles!

Since that famous flight name-dropping St. Louis, the city has repaid Lindbergh in kind. A high school, highway, and school district are all named in his honor. Not only that, Lindbergh has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

20. Distant Dad

Due to his various jobs flying and his frequent traveling, Lindbergh apparently saw his children as little as just a couple of months per year. In addition to that, his wife, Anne, was allegedly instructed to keep him informed on every one of the children’s infractions.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

21. Saving Lives

In the 1930s, Lindbergh took on a personal project when his sister-in-law Elizabeth began battling heart disease. Lindbergh found a partner in Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon who’d won a Nobel Prize. The two of them collaborated and succeeded in creating an initial version of an artificial heart. This perfusion pump had the capacity to transfer air and fluid to organs outside the body while maintaining their viability and avoiding contamination.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

22. Even The Criminals Are Helping Out!

One of the most unlikely individuals to extend a helping hand to the Lindbergh family during the kidnapping was none other than the infamous Al Capone, known widely for his unlawful activities. Even as he was anticipating the start of his incarceration period, Capone extended not only his sympathies but also a $10,000 reward for any information that could reveal the identities of the kidnappers. He even proposed to assist in gathering information through his own contacts in the illicit underworld. However, Lindbergh declined Capone's offer.

Al Capone FactsGetty Images

23. Also A List Of His Favorite Lullabies…

When Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped, the infant had been dealing with a cold. In an act of desperation, the Lindberghs released a statement to the press giving instructions to the kidnappers on how to feed and look after Charles Jr. so that his health wasn’t put at further risk. Excuse us while we go chop onions for a few hours…

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

24. Amending The Record

The first thing that people learn about Lindbergh, namely his record of being the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, isn’t completely true. Two British pilots, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, flew from Newfoundland to Ireland for 16 hours straight in 1919. That’s eight years before Lindbergh, and for their efforts they were knighted, given a cash prize by Winston Churchill, and were hailed as heroes by the British. The Americans, however, mostly ignored their achievement, especially when one of their own performed a similar feat. So while Lindbergh is certainly the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, he was only the third person to do it.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

25. Getting In Early

In 1967, Lindbergh was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. That’s just five years after the NAHF was founded in the first place.

Charles Lindbergh factsPicryl

26. Crackdown On Kidnapping

In the aftermath of the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Federal Kidnapping Act was enacted by Congress in 1932. Also known as the Little Lindbergh Law, the law declared that if a kidnapping victim was taken across state lines, federal authorities were obligated to take over the case. Individual US states went a step further and activated their own versions of the Little Lindbergh Law, one version of it making capital punishment the sentence if the kidnapping victim was harmed in any way.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

27. What’s In A Law?

While the Little Lindbergh Law proved to be beneficial, it gained significant influence from a heartbreaking event in 1963, resulting in the fatality of a law enforcement officer. Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger were two law enforcement officers who confronted criminals Gregory Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Powell had heard of the Little Lindbergh Law, but had misinterpreted it, believing that the sentence was capital punishment for any kind of kidnapping. Believing they were doomed anyway, the criminals fired upon the law enforcement officers. Campbell met his demise, while Hettinger narrowly escaped with his life. The offense, along with the harrowing court struggle that originated from it, were depicted in the book The Onion Field and its 1979 film adaptation.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

28. The People We Know

Lindbergh was granted the commission of a brigadier general in the US Air Force Reserve. He had been recommended by no less than President Dwight D. Eisenhower!

Generals FactsGetty Images

29. Accidentally Starting A Tradition

One of the few magazines which didn’t cover the Lindbergh flight was Time. However, they found an opportunity to do so near the end of the year. During a period of slow news, they dubbed Lindbergh “Man of the Year” and ran a whole issue on him. He was the first person ever dubbed this honor by Time, and they decided to run with it ever since.

Charles Lindbergh factsPicryl

30. Save The Creatures!

One of Lindbergh’s biggest personal causes was conservation of the environment. He even stated that he preferred having “birds than airplanes” when he made his views known. Throughout his life, Lindbergh used his wealth and status to try and save endangered species such as the humpback whale and tamaraw.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikimedia Commons

31. Save The People Too!

Not only was Lindbergh interested in the conservation of environment on behalf of the animals, but also for indigenous peoples. Lindbergh spent part of his life living amongst tribes in Africa and the Philippines and one way in which he helped them was ensure a protection of their land rights against encroaching civilizations.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

32. R.I.P.

In 1974, Lindbergh succumbed to lymphoma on the island of Maui, Hawaii. He was 72 years old at the time of his passing and was laid to rest in the community of Kipahulu, on Maui.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

33. Wait, What?

Being a famous pilot and aviator comes with opportunities, some of them far less ethical than others. Lindbergh didn’t have a problem seizing said opportunities in the 1950s. Between 1958 and 1967, Lindbergh fathered seven children with three women living in Europe, all while he was still married to Anne Morrow.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikimedia Commons

34. Uncertain Flying Conditions

This lack of sleep proved hazardous when Lindbergh was flying alone over the Atlantic Ocean. In an effort to keep himself awake, Lindbergh flew his plane dangerously low, skimming the water to catch enough ocean spray so he’d be jolted out of drowsiness. This didn’t work, though, as Lindbergh later claimed he’d become so delirious from fatigue that he hallucinated apparitions formed out of the fog through which he was flying.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

35. Keep It In The Family

Of those three women who fathered Lindbergh’s secret children, one of them was his European secretary, Valeska, who lived in Baden-Baden, Germany. The other two were actually sisters! Brigitte and Mariette Hesshaimer both mothered children by Lindbergh.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

36. Tell No One

All three of Lindbergh’s lovers were instructed by Lindbergh to keep the secret of who he was from everyone, even their children. Lindbergh would visit his children under the pseudonym “Careu Kent". The truth didn’t emerge until years later when the children of Lindbergh investigated the mystery of their father. DNA tests later confirmed the truth, much to everyone’s surprise at the time.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

37. The Worst Moment Of All

The body of Lindbergh’s child was found by two truck drivers on May 12, 1932, just four miles from the Lindbergh estate. The body had been decomposing for two months and had been fed upon by animals. Lindbergh had to chiefly identify the body of his child based on what was left of his nightshirt. Once the body of Charles Jr. was identified, Lindbergh insisted on having him cremated immediately.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

38. Halt The conflict!

Lindbergh, like his father, was a solid detractor of US participation during the period of the Second Global Conflict. He received a lot of criticism for his stance, even being labeled a traitor when he made public speeches against President F.D. Roosevelt.

Charles Lindbergh factsPicryl

39. You Made A Powerful Enemy!

Eventually, the criticism leveled against Lindbergh took its toll on him and he decided that his reputation was worth more than his cause. The attack on Pearl Harbor also served to help change his mind on whether the US should fight or stay out. He attempted to secure a commission in the armed forces, but President Roosevelt denied Lindbergh the opportunity.

Pearl Harbor FactsPicryl

40. If The Shoe Fits…

One reason why Lindbergh's reputation was significantly tarnished due to his anti-conflict perspective was his frequent visits to Germany during its regime change, from which he returned only with commendation. He also reacted to the horrifying anti-Semitic event known as Kristallnacht with comments about the “Jewish problem” that Germany was dealing with.

Charles Lindbergh factsGetty Images

41. Elitist In The Worst Way

It didn’t help that Lindbergh didn’t just look down on Jewish people, but also other races. Lindbergh was accused of supporting extreme nationalist ideologies due to an article in Reader's Digest in 1939, where Lindbergh warned that preserving one's European heritage was the only way to "have peace and security". Not only that, Lindberg’s staunch belief in eugenics had once been socially acceptable, but with the entry of the US into the WWII, Lindbergh’s philosophies sounded too similar to those of America’s enemies.

Charles Lindbergh factsWikipedia

42. A Surprising Enemy

As you can imagine, Lindbergh earned a lot of enemies and critics during WWII for his discriminatory beliefs and anti-Semitism. One of the best examples of such was a political cartoonist who worked for PM, a New York magazine. Lindbergh was often ridiculed in the cartoons for allegedly sympathizing with the German authoritarian regime. Now, you might be wondering who this cartoonist was; well, his name was Theodor Seuss Geisel. You might recognize him as Dr. Seuss, the writer of half the books you read as a little kid!

Dr. Seuss FactsWikimedia Commons

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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