Jacob Desmarais The Power of Fame: Charles Lindbergh and Commercial Aviation During the 1920s and 30s
,Charles Lindbergh was an international celebrity who devoted his life to aviation. In an interview for the November 1927 edition of Popular Mechanics, Lindbergh wrote, aviation “will have a great effect… but no one can tell just how far flying will take us.”1 He committed his life to the airplane and its advancement, expecting “it to usher in a dazzling future, a virtual millennium.”2 He was determined to live on the cutting edge and believed America was meant to lead the world.Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 transatlantic flight, and the subsequent inherited fame, allowed him to more quickly educate a hesitant, but accepting public about the future of aviation. In 1923, Lindbergh was seeking a way to make a living flying aircraft.After the First World War, many pilots returned to America searching to use their new skill. They soon began performing stunts and giving rides to the public in a new form of entertainment called barnstorming. After a short stint as a wing-walker, Lindbergh began a tour of his own through Minnesota, giving five-dollar plane rides wherever he went.3 Although five dollars was a large amount of money in 1923, Lindbergh, as with most other pilots of the time, found it extremely difficult to make an income. Lindbergh wrote “some weeks I barely made expenses,” and that he and the other pilots often “slept right out under the wing of the plane.”4 Flying at the time was not thought of in a serious way. Lindbergh recognized that gypsy and stunt flying would eventually lose their public appeal, and that the real money in aviation lied in commercial uses.
Donald E. Keyhoe, "Lindbergh Tells Future of Aviation," Popular Mechanics, (November 1927): 738. Walter L. Hixson, Charles A. Lindbergh, Lone Eagle (New York: Pearson Longman, 2007), 26. 3 Hixson, 21; Bruce L. Larson, "Barnstorming with Lindbergh," Minnesota History 52, no. 6 (Summer 1991): 231. 4 Larson, 234-235.
2 He was determined to “advance the cause of American and world aviation,” and to do it, flying would have to be recognized as more than a novelty.5 Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in 1902 to Evangeline and Charles Lindbergh. C.A., as the elder Lindbergh was publically known, was a lawyer and aspiring politician in the Minnesota area. After meeting Evangeline, who was a schoolteacher, the couple wed at her parent’s home in Detroit, Michigan and soon had their first and only child, Charles Augustus. The family soon left the confines of Detroit, Michigan to live in rural Little Falls, Minnesota. Lindbergh was an adventurous boy. Truly living out the country life, Lindbergh received his first guns at the age of six. He recounted years later in his Autobiography of Valuesthat, “I owned a twelve-gauge shotgun before I was old and strong enough to hold it steadily to my shoulder.”6 Young Lindbergh played on the Mississippi River, went hunting, fishing, and rode horses.7 Lindbergh was fascinated with his father’s stories of early encounters with Native Americansand, although there was no longer a threat, young Lindbergh fantasized about battles between soldiers and Indians around his house.8 Lindbergh was noticeably technically oriented from a young age. Although he lived on a farm, Lindbergh specifically remembered being called to the window to watch automobiles pass. At the time an automobile was a rare occurrence, even more so in the countryside, but Lindbergh’s fascination of technology did not stop there.He often went to Detroit to visit his grandfather’s dental laboratory.Lindbergh said he was “intellectually drawn to the laboratory.” He was fascinated by “the intangible power found in electrified wires, the liquids that could
Hixson, 21; Larson, 231. Charles A. Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 5. 7 Hixson, 6. 8 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 4; Hixson, 4.
3 dissolve either metal or stone, [and] the lenses through which one could see the unseeable.”9 Lindbergh enjoyed environments that allowed him to think and explore his own thoughts. Like the discoveries he could make in the laboratory, his family’s farm and its wide-open spaces allowed him to discover and dream. In 1905 Lindbergh’s family was forced to move to Minneapolis for the winter after a massive fire destroyed their farmhouse. Although only three years old, he says he remembered watching his house burn from behind the barn.10 As Lindbergh grew older he began to hate urban life and wished he could return to the countryside where he felt he “instinctively” belonged.11 At the same time Evangeline and C.A.’s marriage, perhaps in symbolism to the fire, began to fall apart. Because of his father’s involvement in Congress, Lindbergh spent his winters and school years in Washington D.C. and his summers at the rebuilt family farm, with the occasional visit to Detroit and his grandfather’s laboratory.12 Despite their separation, Lindbergh remained close with both of his parents.13 His father would come and visit Little Falls in the summer time and take Lindbergh on hunting trips. This is where Lindbergh learned many of the skills that would make him independent. Although only a boy of ten, Lindbergh’s father treated him much older, and the two together rafted up and down the Mississippi River, fishing, hunting, and exploring.14 Perhaps the most influential event in young Lindbergh’s life occurred when his father brought a Model T automobile home to Little Falls in 1912. Lindberghbecame obsessed with the modern technology, exploring its every oddity, detail, and mechanism.15 Lindbergh later wrote
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 4-5. Hixson, 4. 11 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 5. 12 Hixson, 7. 13 Hixson, 8. Lindbergh’s parents did not actually file for divorce. Despite distancing themselves from one another, they remained together officially, and occasionally lived together at the farm. 14 Hixson, 8. 15 Hixson, 8.
4 the automobile “brought modern science to our farm,” and that nothing “was as challenging or as symbolic of the future.”Lindbergh’s fixation on figuring out the automobile’s quirks “confirmed [his] growing desire to become an engineer.”16 For Lindbergh, to explore technology was exploring the future. He did not want to be left behind, and wished to “take part in the world’s unprecedented progress,” a virtue that played a large role later in his life with his motivation on the potential for commercial aviation.17 Despite being so interested in technology, Lindbergh strongly disliked formal education. In 1917, with the United States entry into the First World War, Lindbergh capitalized upon the opportunity and immediately dropped out of high school to begin working on the farm, filling in for the men who left for war. By the war’s end he was able to claim an honorary diploma for his efforts, and set his eyes towards the future. Lindbergh realized that he was much more interested in working on the farm than going to university as he still had a distaste for traditional schooling, but after one more year of farm work Lindbergh enrolled at the University of Wisconsin as a mechanical engineering student.18 This dislike for formal education was not solved upon his enrollment however. Lindbergh immediately found himself on academic probation, and by the start of his sophomore year he decided dropping out would be better than being kicked out all together.19 However he was not without a plan. Posters about flying lessons peaked the mechanically-minded Lindbergh’s interest, and a reasonably priced school in Nebraska was an exciting prospect. Flying in the early 1920s was an exciting and dangerous new technology. Although powered aviation only began in 1903 with the Wright brother’s famous flight in Kitty Hawk,
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 6. Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 6. 18 Hixson, pg. 14 – 15; Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 8. 19 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 9.
5 North Carolina, progress had been rapid. The first flight, which lasted a mere 12 seconds and 120 feet, ignited a spark throughout the world to go higher and faster.20 In only two short years the Wrights perfected their design and were reliably able to take off and land their airplane. Eager to show their invention to the world, the Wright brothers went to France where the French military instantly noticed the airplane’s potential usefulness in warfare. But the Wrights price for their design was far too expensive for the French military to pay on an unproven weapon, and in 1906 Frenchman Alberto Santos-Dumont flew 722 feet in his self designed aircraft, effectively ending the Wright brother’s monopoly on the market.21 It seemed as though the airplane was destined for warfare. A technology humans had dreamt of for thousands of years, dating back to the Greek myths of Icarus and Daedalus, which to many promised freedom and the ability to soar above the world’s problems, was certain to be an instrument of war. In 1907, the United States military bought designs from the Wright brothers for the first military aircraft.22 Although the use of aircraft in warfare was unknown at the time, the first ideas were merely for spotting movements on a battlefield.Much like air balloons, which had been used by the military for nearly a century, the aircraft was thought to be a more effective way of following the enemy’s movements and identifying battlefield’s terrain. Despite of the early superiority by the Wright brothers, Europe saw its fair share of aviation development and achievements. In 1909 Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first man to cross the English Channel by air.23 The more advanced French automobile industry allowed them to progress more quickly than the Wright brothers, specifically with their more powerful
Justin D. Murphy, Military Aircraft, Origins to 1918: an Illustrated History of Their Impact (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), 29. 21 Murphy, 30. Alberto Santos-Dumont was actually Brazilian, but is often referred to as an “Honorary Frenchman” because most of his aviation work was done in France. 22 Murphy, 31. 23 "Aviation Timeline," Aviation History, History of Flight, Century of Flight, accessed November 06, 2011, http://www.century-of-flight.net; Murphy, 32.
6 and lighter engines. Flights like Blériot’sincreased public awareness of aviation and, during the time of extreme nationalism and militaristic societies preceding the First World War, swayed public opinion to believe in the aircraft as the future of warfare.24 The increased fascination in aviation prompted governments to spend large amounts of money on achieving “air superiority” as another facet to the never ending national supremacy and weapons-race Europe was entangled in.25 In 1912 alone the Germans spent seven million marks, and the French six million francs on aviation.26 The extraordinary amount of energy and spending poured in to aviation continued throughout the First World War, and helped to evolve the technology more quickly than it otherwise would have. Stories of flying during World War I were extremely popular. The excitement of the ever-developing aircraft and different advancements captivated the civilian imagination. In a war that was excessively bloody and to many pointless, flying returned the chivalry to battle. “In the single combat between air aces above the mud of the trenches, the traditional romance of war enjoyed a very brief revival.”27 Autobiographies like that of famous ace Manfred Von Richtofen, more popularly known as the Red Baron, sold extremely well, reaching a half million copies in just the first two editions.28 By the end of the war, aircraft were much more advanced than before. It was no longer a battle to get off the ground, as aircraft were able to carry considerably greater amounts of weight. Multi-engine aircraft, the ability to fly at night, increased navigational methods and instruments, as well as the foundation of flying organizations are all advancements brought to aviation by the First World War. There were also considerably more pilots than before
Murphy, 33. Suzanne Karpilovsky, Maria Fogel, and Olivia Kobelt, "Causes of World War I," accessed November 02, 2011, http://www.pvhs.chico.k12.ca.us/~bsilva/projects/great_war/causes.htm. 26 Murphy, 33. 27 Michael Howard, The First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 102. 28 Murphy, 97.
7 the war.Prior to the war in 1914there were a total of 14 trained pilots in the United States. By the end of the war there were 185 aero squadrons, 49 actually deployed in France, each made up of at least 20 pilots.29 The increased number of flyers and aircraft promised a prosperous future for flying after the war, but few knew exactly how flight would be used in peace time. By the time of Lindbergh’s discovery of flying school in the early 1920s, barnstorming had become an exciting new form of entertainment in America.Lindbergh, enthralled with the idea of flight, courageously began barnstorming for himself.30 But despite public enthusiasm for the barnstormers, popular opinion was not favorable of flying. Most still thought it was “a novelty, rather than serious transportation.”31 Lindbergh wished to promote aviation as the future for America, but instead found himself signing up for risky stunts, such as landing on the St. Vrain glacier in Boulder, Colorado, which only furthered the damage barnstorming and war had caused to aviation’s image.32 Luckily another potential use for aviation was beginning to appear, and Lindbergh’s involvement and promotion would help transform the public’s opinion of flying. Airmail was one of the first ways aviation was able to prove its usefulness in commercial business and peacetime.It was not in the wake of the First World War the potential use for flying was discovered however;the beginnings of the airmail industry predate powered flight. In the late 19th century during the Franco-Prussian War, a blockaded Paris was among the first examples in using air as a means of transporting mail. Tying their mail and packages to balloons; they tried to send them over the enemy to their allies who would deliver them. Unfortunately, this method of
"Air Power: Aviation at the Start of the First World War," accessed November 05, 2011, http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/Pre_WWI/AP1.htm; "Air Power: United States Participation in World War I," section goes here, accessed November 05, 2011, http://centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/US_in_WWI/AP8.htm. 30 Hixson, 21. 31 Larson, 231. 32 Hixson, 22.
8 transport had as much chance for success as failure, and many of the unguided balloons were never seen again.33 Although this technology is laughable by today’s standards, at the time it was groundbreaking. The first “modern” attemptsat an airmail service began in 1911, only two years after Louis Blériot’s first channel crossing. In India, England, and the United States, there were many demonstrations to show the potential to deliver mail by air.34 The United States’ demonstration took place between Nassau Boulevard, Long Island, and Mineola, New York. Pilot Earle L. Ovington flew a series of round trips, dropping “a total of 32,415 post cards, 3,993 letters and 1,062 circulars” on the Mineola post office.35 Although this experiment was successful, the government refused the Post Office Department’s request for $50,000 to begin a trial service.36 The aircraft used to carry mail in the 1910s were far too unreliable. The technology required to create a sustainable service that could generate substantial profit did not yet exist. Airplanes were extremely light, fragile, underpowered, and especially difficult to fly. Flying was less than a decade old, and still so experimental and unsafe that it is an understatement to call each flight something of an adventure. These early mail flights consisted of deliveries of usually fewer than 30 pounds, making the price of actually sending something extremely unaffordable. Also because of the size of the aircraft, the types and proportions of cargo were highly limited, making the delivery of items larger than paper letters unrealistic.37
Edward A. Keogh, "History of the Air Mail Service," Air Mail Pioneers, August 31, 1927, accessed October 30, 2011, http://www.airmailpioneers.org/history/Sagahistory.htm. 34 Keogh, “History of the Air Mail Service.” 35 Camille Allaz and John Skilbeck, The History of Air Cargo and Airmail: from the 18th Century (London, England: Christopher Foyle Pub., 2004), 28; Keogh, “History of the Air Mail Service.” 36 Keogh, “History of the Air Mail Service.” 37 Allaz and Skillbeck, 29-30. This figure of less than 30 pounds is taken from an average of many different flight logs from this time. There are some cases, as with a 1910 silk delivery made by a French pilot, in which pilots carried much larger weights, sometimes nearly 200 pounds. Despite of this, on average less than 30 pounds was how much the early airmail pilots felt safe carrying.
9 With advancements in aircraft during the First World War, the prospect of carrying mail was much more realistic. By the end of the war aircraft could easily fly up to 125 miles per hour and, because of designs changes made to carry weaponry, had much larger available takeoff weights.38 During the last few months of the war, Congress saw fit to give $100,000 to the Postal Service to establish experimental airmail routes. The Postal Service decided a short 218 mile path between Washington D.C. and New York with a stop in Philadelphia would be the best test for the first flights. On May 15, 1918 operations on America’s first established airmail route began.39 By the early 1920s routes were established throughout the country, ultimately creating one long transcontinental route from New York to San Francisco. This flight took a total of 33 and half hours and delivered mail 22 hours sooner than was previously possible by train alone.40 But the Postal Service did not abandon trains. Routes were set up so airplanes and trains could be used together to get mail reliably where it had to go. Trains were essential also because of the difficulty of night flying. Flying at night was a new idea, only second in danger to bad weather. Both types of dangerous flying involved the use of new instruments many pilots did not trust. At the time it was not uncommon for a pilot to forgo use of “new-fangled gauges” when they encountered poor weather, insteadrelying “on the seat of their pants” feel of the aircraft to guide them.41
Hixson, 22. Keogh, “History of the Air Mail Service.” 40 Keogh, “History of the Air Mail Service.” 41 John T. Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco," Airforce-magazine, March 2008, accessed October 29, 2011, http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/March%202008/0308airmail.aspx.
10 After completing his training at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation, Lindbergh was beginning to become a successful aviator.42 In 1923 he began barnstorming and, for a couple of years, perfected his skills as a pilot. During this time he helped his father travel on a campaign for Senator. Although the “flying tour” ended after an accident during takeoff at one campaign stop, Lindbergh recognized it as an early effective use of aviation.43 Frustrated by the old World War I trainer he flew, Lindbergh decided he would join the Army Air Service so he could learn to fly more powerful planes thatwere only available to government pilots.44 Flying was extremely dangerous during this time, and although Lindbergh went on to graduate from the Army Air Service at the top of his class, being the most intelligent student was not enough to avoid incident. Right before graduation in 1925, he survived an alarming accident when his aircraft suffered a mid-air collision with the plane of a fellow student.45 Both bailed out to safety, but had the accident occurred a few months sooner Lindbergh would not have been so lucky. The Army Air Service had just made parachutes a part of standard equipment, effectively saving Lindbergh’s life.46 Lindbergh embraced safety advancements like these showing that, as technology progressed flying would become more and more safe. After graduating from the Army Air Service School, Lindbergh was disappointed to find out the military was not hiring pilots. But luckily, Bill and Frank Robertson, famous World War I pilots and airmail pioneers, approached him with the offer to fly an airmail route between Chicago and St. Louis.47 No longer having to do stunts and passenger rides for a living,
Patrick T. Ranfranz, "Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer," Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page, accessed October 28, 2011, http://charleslindbergh.com/airmail/. 43 Larson, 237. 44 Hixson, 22. 45 Hixson, 22. 46 Hixson, 22. 47 Ranfranz, "Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer."
11 Lindbergh finally felt at home with flying. “Responsibility for the airmail brought a halt to my itinerant flying and gave me what appeared to be a permanent home.”48 Lindbergh was a meticulous planner and left nothing to chance. Although obvious by today’s standards, he carefullyoutlined different landing spots he could use along his route in case of emergency.49 His luck was fantastic for the first summer, but Lindbergh’s flying began to vary with weather as it became more mixed in the fall and winter months. He was once forced down after a mechanic fitted a new fuel tank, 25 gallons smaller, into the aircraft before he took off.Lindbergh, not having been told of the change, was forced to bail out when his aircraft’s engine sputtered to a halt, only for it to continue flying away from him as it restarted after receiving the last drops of fuel. Despite the bad luck and loss of an expensive airplane, Lindbergh’s determination to prove the usefulness of aviation in airmail compelled him to search for the downed aircraft and retrieve the mail, which he sent by rail to its destination.50 In 1926 Lindbergh became aware of the highly publicized Orteig Prize, the prize being offered to the first pilot who could successfully fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. Although many famous pilots had already failed since the competition began in 1919, Lindbergh doubted the flight’s difficulty, writing, it “couldn’t be more dangerous or the weather worse than the night mail in winter.”51 After finding Ryan Aircraft, a small aircraft company thatagreed to build the plane required for the flight, Lindbergh, who was quite famous in St. Louis because of his mail route, secured $15,000 from St. Louis businessmen to fund all of the expenses.52 Lindbergh was going to attempt the long journey solo; something that very few believed would even be possible. He decided to christen his aircraft the Spirit of St. Louis to say
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values 11. Hixson, 24-25. 50 Hixson, 25. 51 Hixson, 28. 52 Hixson, 29.
12 thank you for the funding he received, and he quickly flew to New York to begin preparing for his flight. Lindbergh was ready to fly in May, 1927. The last obstacle standing in his way was poor weather over the Atlantic. As he waited for the weather to pass he received several visitors, including Harry Guggenheim, a successful World War I naval aviator, who expressed interest in Lindbergh if his flight was successful, and his mother Evangeline, who tried to convince Lindbergh not to go.53 Despite her plea, on May 20, 1927 Lindbergh received word the weather had cleared, and he took off from New York at 7:54am, headed for Paris, France.54 Perhaps Lindbergh’s biggest enemy in his flight was his lack of sleep. Despite his prediction of the flight being easy, he did not plan on having not slept the night before.Lindbergh stayed awake by constantly checking his instruments, sticking his head out the window, eating sandwiches, and doing just about anything else he could think of.55 After 33 and a half hours of flying, Lindbergh reached Paris to a frenzied crowd of French supporters.56 Upon his landing he was not prepared for the massive amount of attention from the French public. Walter L. Hixson encapsulates the moment with, “the irony was that after flying solo longer than any human being before him, Lindbergh would soon find it virtually impossible ever to be so alone again.”57 Although he never welcomed his fame, Lindbergh certainly used it to his advantage. He decided the best way to deal with his unwelcomed popularity was to “exploit opportunities thatbuilt public support for commercial aviation.”58 Faced with a country eager to learn more
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80; Hixson, 31. Hixson, 33. 55 Hixson, 37. 56 Edwin L. James, “Lindbergh Does It! To Paris in 33 1/2 Hours; Flies 1,000 Miles Through Snow and Sleet; Cheering French Carry Him Off Field,” New York Times, May 22, 1927. 57 Hixson, 38. 58 Hixson, 50.
13 about flying, Lindbergh was dedicated to show it to them. In his own words Lindbergh had “found [himself] symbolizing aviation.”59 Upon his return,Harry Guggenheim kept his promise and approached Lindbergh with a business idea. Guggenheim was in charge of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics.60 The fund had been set up by Harry and his father Daniel to “encourage aviationrelated research.”61 Although Harry Guggenheim would later admit to having doubts as to whether Lindbergh would actually be successful in his transatlantic flight, the resulting relationship proved valuable.62 Despite being offered one million dollars to not fly by a group of businessmen who thought flying was too dangerous to risk a “national treasure,” Lindbergh and Guggenheim worked on planning a tour of the United States to take place as soon as possible.63 The tour would help Lindbergh achieve his dream of promoting commercial and civil aviation by bringing flight to the people who could possibly have never seen an airplane.64 Paid for by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund, the tour left on July 20, 1927, just two months after the transatlantic flight, andbrought Lindbergh and the famous Spirit of St. Louis to 48 states, visiting 92 cities along the way.65
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80. Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80. 61 Patrick T. Ranfranz, "Guggenheim Tour," Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page, accessed October 22, 2011, http://www.charleslindbergh.com/history/gugtour.asp. 62 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80. 63 Hixson, 49. 64 Hixson, 51. 65 Ranfranz, “Guggenheim Tour.”
Figure 1: Lindbergh 1927 Guggenheim Tour,Ranfranz, Patrick T. "Guggenheim Tour." Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page. Accessed October 22, 2011. http://www.charleslindbergh.com/history/gugtour.asp.
Like on his mail route, Lindbergh’s foresight of aviation’s usefulnessmaybe seen in his meticulous planning for the trip. Lindbergh wanted to make sure he arrived everywhere punctually. He thought it was important to prove to people that “aviation can come through on time.”66 In prospective aviation businesses, such as airmail, cargo, and passenger services, being on time was almost as important as getting off the ground. After all, there were already ways to get people from one place to another; the point of flying would be that it was much quicker and more reliable. To have Lindbergh show up late to stops on his tour would ruin the public’s vision of the future for flying.67
Hixson, 51. Hixson, 51.
15 Lindbergh also wanted to make sure he arrived safely, and that no one on the ground got hurt. It is hard to imagine that it was not common sense to stay off of the runway while a plane was landing. But often people were so excited by the arrival of Lindbergh and seeing his airplane, they would run out to greet him. Despite precautions, such as explicitly printing in event programs that Lindbergh would not land if people were on the makeshift runway, there were several instances where Lindbergh had to take off directly after landing because large numbers of people ranonto the field. During such a fragile time for aviation, an accident or injury could have spelled disaster for the whole tour, the future of aviation, and Lindbergh’s reputation. Luckily none occurred, and the trip was nothing short of spectacular.68 The tour brought large crowds to nearly every stop and increased the awareness of aviation.69 Lindbergh said he “spoke in scores of cities, [and] dropped messages on still more.”70 During speeches he explained that he thought the future of aviation was bright, and America was the country that was meantto lead the way.71 He pleased the crowds, participating in low flyovers, stunts, and formation flying.72 He also entertained the popular press, always teasing them by withholding the information they wanted to know about his private life. The popular magazines wanted to hear the heroic flying tales and details about his personal life, but “Slim,” as the press called him, never gave them exactly what they wanted, perhaps enticing them to follow him to the next city.73 Lindbergh had truly become a national celebrity, whether he wanted to be or not, and the tour cemented his fame.
Ranfranz, “Guggenheim Tour;” Hixson, 51. Hixson, 52. 70 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values,, 83. 71 Hixson, 51; Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 83. 72 Hixson, 51. 73 Hixson, 52.
16 In Sioux Falls, South Dakota,hisvisiton August 27, 1927 was called “Lindbergh Day.”74 Lindbergh Day began at “9:30 o’clock,” as the program flyer read, with some entertainment from the local Sioux Valley Band. R.B. Montgomery, the President of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, was the day’s host.Specific parking instructions were of the upmost importance, no doubt because of the massive number of people expected to come see the famous aviator. While spectators waited for the action to begin, a baseball game in a nearby field took place to entertain them.75 At 11:30am an aircraft arrived over the horizon. The spectators were urged to keep off the field, just as Lindbergh requested, being told specifically “Lindbergh will not land at all if the field is not clear.”76 But to the crowd’s disappointment theplane was not the Spirit of St. Louis with Lindbergh at the controls, instead it was the pilot plane, used to carry extra guests on this particular stop. The pilot plane had Phillip R. Love and Donald E. Keyhole onboard, who represented the Guggenheim Fund and the United States Department of Commerce.77 But the crowd did not wait long. At noon the Spirit of St. Louis, which had become almost as famous as Lindbergh himself, roared over the Sioux Falls field and made an uninterrupted safe landing after a four and a half hour flight from Fargo, North Dakota.78 As soon as Lindbergh stopped his aircraft, the Sioux Falls Reception Committee greeted him with a short reception ceremony. The newspapers and press then had a short time to unsuccessfully
Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, August 27, 1927. accessed October 22, 2011, http://charleslindbergh.com/images2/ProgramForLindberghDay.jpg 75 Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 76 Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 77 Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 78 Charles A. Lindbergh, The Spirit of St. Louis (New York: Scribner, 1953), 457; Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Patrick T. Ranfranz, "Charles Lindbergh's Visit to Fargo, North Dakota," Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page, accessed October 22, 2011, http://charleslindbergh.com/plane/nd.asp.
17 coax some personal information from the aviation-minded Lindbergh before the focus was directed to the edge of the field, where a stand had been set up.79 First to speak was Ben B. Lawshe, the Secretary of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. His speech covered aviation and its importance to Sioux Falls in the future.80 Undoubtedly the establishment of a permanent airport was important, as the whole event was taking place on a field rather than a proper airstrip.81 Lawshe then welcomed the mayor of Sioux Falls, Thomas McKinnon up to the stage to present the man everyone came to see. Charles Lindbergh only spoke for a short fifteen minutes, but addressed all of the things he preached on the tour, most importantly the future of aviation, and America’s purpose in it.82 But as soon as Lindbergh had arrived, he was gone; just a total of 45 minutes and he was on his way to Sioux City for a couple days.83 Despite the carnival-like atmosphere, throughout all of the excitement Lindbergh never lost sight of the trip’s purpose. He spoke with city officials and politicians about building airports in cities across America. He explained that for aviation to progress it would have to start “first [on] the continents” before becoming world-wide.84 Because of Lindbergh’s work and the increased enthusiasm across America for aviation, events like the Guggenheim tour increased the
Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 81 Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, 457; Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The airport in Sioux Falls was not established, however, until 1937. Called Joe Foss Field, the airport now has nonstop flying service to many major U.S. cities including Chicago, Denver, and Detroit. See: "History," Sioux Falls Regional Airport. Accessed October 22, 2011. http://www.sfairport.com/history.php. 82 Hixson, pg. 51; Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 83; Program for Lindbergh Day, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 83 Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, 457. 84 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 83.
18 number of airports in America 72% from 1927 to 1930. Airmail was also on the rise, increasing 80% in the same timeframe.85 Besides speaking to politicians and the public on his tour, Lindbergh also attracted the attention of some important people. During anAugust 10, 1927 stop in Detroit, Michigan, Lindbergh struck up a relationship with famous automobile pioneer Henry Ford.86 Ford agreed to a short ten-minute airplane ride and, despite being “hunched up on the armrest of the pilot’s seat” because the Spirit of St. Louis was a single seat airplane, he was hooked on flying.87 Lindbergh had convinced Ford that flying was the future, and the two began working together on perfecting Ford’s earlier attempts at constructing passenger aircraft in his Michigan manufacturing plant.88 Ford’s first experience with aviationbegan in 1925 when the government was looking for companies to take over the airmail industry. Ford was among the first in line.89 He was already transporting automobile parts by air and could make extra money by transporting mail as well. With his increased enthusiasm for the future of air travel after receiving the government contract, Ford produced one of the first passenger airplanes called the Ford Trimotor in 1925. The distinct three motor, all-metal airplanes were a giant leap forward in safety and reliability in air travel.Because of the all metal design, the later advice of the famed Lindbergh, and the trusted Ford name, the Trimotor helped persuade a skeptical public aviation was safe and could be relied upon for travel.90 The Guggenheim tour accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Lindbergh used his fame in a productive way to popularize flight, and to demonstrate the profitable uses of it.The
Hixson, 54. Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, 456; Hixson, 52. 87 Lindbergh, Spirit of St. Louis, 456; Hixson, 52. 88 Hixson, 52. 89 Ranfranz, "Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer." 90 Ranfranz, “Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer.”
19 immediate success of his transatlantic flight allowed him to capitalize on a time when “airplanes and flying had suddenly gripped the imagination of Americans.”91 More importantly he planted the idea of flying in the heads of many influential people, like Henry Ford, who would help to ensure the success of aviation in the years to come. The tour was not the only way the Guggenheims helped Lindbergh promote and advance aviation. Two years later in 1929, Lindbergh heard of Robert Goddard in Worcester, Massachusetts, who was launching liquid fueled rockets 100 feet in the air.92 Goddard interested Lindbergh because the scientist believed “rockets would be practical either for aircraft or for flights into space.”93 Lindbergh had been searching for ways that might make aircraft go quicker. He was concerned the airplane’s speed was limited to “the propeller’s grip on air,” and that another way to propel them had to be found if aircraft would ever go faster.94 Lindbergh approached Harry and his father Daniel Guggenheim about possibly funding Goddard’s experiments after the U.S. military failed to see the potential in them.95 The Guggenheim fund gave nearly $150,000 to Goddard over the next decade, and the newly founded National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, made up of Harry Guggenheim, Orville Wright, Lindbergh and others, watched eagerly as Goddard conducted his experiments in Roswell, New Mexico.96 The money given to Goddard was done without Lindbergh’s name attached to it; Lindbergh feared he would distract attention from the man truly responsible for the experiments. By 1941 Goddard was able to launch rockets 9,000 feet into the air. Lindbergh dreamed of the
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80. Hixson, 92. 93 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 15. 94 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 15. 95 Hixson, 93. 96 Hixson, 93.
20 possibilities of space exploration and the very real potential to send a rocket to the moon.97 Lindbergh secretly gave rocketry the funding and encouragement that allowed it to develop, culminating in the United States landing on the moon in 1969. Although his contributions to rocketry were unknown, Lindbergh played a much more public role with the development of the airmail industry, and became one of its main spokespersons. Airmail had established itself by the early 1930s, but the Roosevelt administration decided more control was needed. The “Airmail Fiasco” resulted when the government, unhappy with the number of accidents and unreliability of the private airmail industry, took away private contracts and made airmail the responsibility of the military.98 Roosevelt did this without consulting the airlines responsible for founding and maintaining the airmail business, creating a lot of anger in the aviation community. The decision proved costly because military pilots lacked the training in night and poor-weather flying conditions that private airmail pilots already had.99 Worse,they did not know the route that had been flown for years by the private companies, and wasted time and money to come up with their own.These changes took effect in winter 1934, and in just the first month of service the Army Air Corps lost ten pilots, with the rest of the year not promising much better.100 As the nation’s most “renowned aviator,” Lindbergh played an active role in the debate.101 He believed that although something needed to be done about the private company’s unreliability, Roosevelt’s decision was “contrary to American justice” because none of the airlines were consulted before their contracts were revoked.102 He publically attacked Roosevelt,
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 15; Hixson, 93. Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco." 99 Ranfranz, "Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer." 100 Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco." 101 Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco." 102 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 141.
21 sayingArmy aircraft were not fit for flying airmail, nor were their pilots.Lindbergh noted the high fatality rate was receiving “public criticism,” and that the “military operation had to be discontinued.”103 His criticism was powerful. With help from famous World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker, he effectively ended Roosevelt’s military airmail operations and returned the airmail industry to the private companies.In perhaps a final attempt to prove his control, Roosevelt wrote in the legislation that the contracts would be returned to private airlines, as long as no airline inherited the same route as before.104 Naturally with aircraft, buildings, and routes already in placethis decision was very costly.Almost comically, the airlines were able to work around the slight speed bump by simply changing their names. United Aircraft became United Airlines, and American Airways became American Airlines, etc,allowing them to resume theiroriginal routes, and return airmail to normal.105 Lindbergh’s efforts to promote the airmail industry had long lasting effects. Many airmail carriers went on to offer passenger services, while some later converted solely to carrying passengers.The privatization of the airmail industry offered aquicker, safer, and more reliable service.Lindbergh went on to work with several of the companies as a consultant, pilot, and spokesperson, most famously allowing Transcontinental Air Transport to use the slogan “Lindbergh Line” as an advertising technique to make the public feel they would be safe on a Lindbergh plane.106 Lindbergh’s experience as an airmail pilot and his respect for the promising future for aviation helped lay the foundation for the entire future of commercial aviation in America.
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 141. Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco;" Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 141-142. 105 Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, pg. 141-142; Correll, "The Air Mail Fiasco. " 106 Hixson, 63-64.
22 As Lindbergh reached the end of his life, he played a less active role in aviation. After receiving heavypublic criticism for his speeches against going to war with Germany in the Second World War his fame dwindled. He was finally able to find the privacy he wanted so badly by moving tothe island of Maui in Hawaii. Lindbergh passed away August 26, 1974 at the age of 72. In his lifetime he saw the dawn of aviation and its quick technological progress. He heard stories about its use in the First World War and directly participated in its development afterwards. He saw the full horror it could bring with the drop of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War and again witnessed its triumph as it brought the first man to the moon. Charles Lindbergh’s persistence and dream of aviation, laid the groundwork for today’s modern commercial airlines that transport thousands of people across the globe. His use of fame to draw people all around the United States to come see him and his airplane on the Guggenheim Tour excited the nation. His work with the airmail industry, and participation in legal battles for the preservation of it, convinced a skeptical public that aviation could be reliable. Because of his fame, Lindbergh’s knowledge offlying, and his promotion of its future was heard by an entire country, if not the world.He recognized his importance and willingly accepted the role as the spokesman for aviation.107 Today we think of the airplane as a way to travel the globe and visit new places, but without Lindbergh’s contributions, aviation’s development may have had a very different outcome.
Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values, 80.
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24 Murphy, Justin D. Military Aircraft, Origins to 1918: an Illustrated History of Their Impact. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Ranfranz, Patrick T. "Charles Lindbergh's Visit to Fargo, North Dakota." Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page. Accessed October 22, 2011. http://charleslindbergh.com/plane/nd.asp. Ranfranz, Patrick T. "Guggenheim Tour." Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page. Accessed October 22, 2011. http://www.charleslindbergh.com/history/gugtour.asp. Ranfranz, Patrick T. "Lindbergh: U.S. Air Mail Service Pioneer." Charles Augustus Lindbergh Home Page. Accessed October 28, 2011. http://charleslindbergh.com/airmail/.