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CHARLES LINDBERGH - "I owned the world that hour."
Shown: Charles Lindbergh with aviator's goggles and head gear.
Charles Lindbergh was born in Detroit, MI and grew up in Washington, DC and Little Falls, MN. Lindbergh learned how to fly in Lincoln, NE.
In 1923, Lindbergh bought a surplus aircraft from the military and after several practice flights, spent the rest of the year performing stunts for small crowds. At the time, there was no such thing as commercial airlines. Pilots who did not fly in the military either taught or barnstormed. In 1924, Lindbergh entered flight training for the military. He graduated first in his class and earned his Army pilot wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service Reserve Corps. In 1927, Lindbergh oversaw the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis - the plane that would take him from New York to Paris, France.
Record Nonstop Flight to Paris, France
Raymond Orteig, a New York hotelier, offered a $25,000 prize ($346,318 in 2016 dollars) for the first aviator to fly nonstop from New York to Paris, France. Prior to Lindbergh’s attempt, six pilots had already lost their lives in pursuit of the Orteig Prize.
Lindbergh attracted the support of two St. Louis businessmen, Harry H. Knight and Harold M. Bixby who helped him get a loan and choose the aircraft manufacturer. The plane was custom built by the Ryan Aircraft Company according to Lindbergh’s specifications and input from their engineer.
On May 20, 1927 at 7:52 am, Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in New York and landed on May 21st at 10:22 pm at Le Bourget Airport in France. When he landed, more than 150,000 people greeted him. He was carried around by excited well-wishers for nearly a half an hour.
"I owned the world that hour as I rode over it, free of the Earth, free of the mountains, free of the clouds, but how inseparably I was bound to them."
For his trans-Atlantic flight, Lindbergh was featured in virtually every major publication and media outlet. The French President appointed him to the Légion d’honneur. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross. Lindbergh participated in a ticker tape parade in New York City and was received by the city's mayor, Jimmy Walker, and New York’s governor, Al Smith. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp with a picture of Lindbergh’s plane and the route he flew.
Lindbergh wrote prodigiously, including contributing to 15 books and receiving the Pulitzer Prize. After his first bestseller book, We, the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics sponsored a three-month, 48-state tour in which Lindbergh stopped in 82 cities, covered 22,350 miles, and delivered 147 speeches. Nearly ¼ of all Americans (estimated to be 30 million people at the time) saw Lindbergh during this tour. Lindbergh also went on tours throughout Latin America, including Haiti, The Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Lindbergh’s achievement was celebrated all over the world. He is credited with increasing the number of pilots, airplanes, and airline customers. In 1926, 5,782 intrepid souls traveled by U.S. airlines. In 1929, that number reached 173,405 people.
He died in 1974 in Maui, HI.