Due to maintenance, services may be interrupted Sunday, April 21, 7-10 a.m.: library catalog, user accounts, e-media will be unavailable

Charles Lindbergh

Kelly Wallace, Librarian, History Department,
Charles Lindbergh, wearing helmet with goggles up.

Since today is National Aviation Day, let's take a brief look at Charles Lindbergh. Like some of you, I’m sure, I was only passingly familiar with the story of Charles Lindbergh. I’d never done any extensive reading or research on the man or his historic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, so I found the details of his story told in One Summer to be fascinating.

It’s been said that the Spirit of St. Louis was “little more than a flying gas tank.” His plane was built by a small and unknown San Diego company, Ryan Airlines. It had only a single-engine and no radio. The wood and steel frame was covered in Pima cotton painted with six coats of varnish. It was, to quote Bryson, “rather like crossing the ocean in a tent.” To conserve gas, everything unnecessary was eliminated, even a lifeboat. Lindbergh was so fanatic about cutting weight; he even trimmed the margins off his maps. And he was flying alone. To fly an unstable plane for 36 hours through bad weather and darkness while controlling fuel flow through 5 tanks and navigating over the ocean without any landmarks would be tough for a crew of 3, seemingly impossible for a single man.

It is hard to for us today to imagine the hysteria and mania caused by Lindbergh’s accomplishment. In the first four days following his safe landing, U.S. newspapers printed approximately 250,000 stories on Lindbergh. The song “Lucky Lindy” was the most popular of the, at least 250 songs written about Lindbergh. By the way, he hated the sobriquet “Lucky Lindy.”

When he met with the King of England, the monarch was more interested in how Lindbergh went to the bathroom than in other details of the flight. (Lindbergh used a pail.)

There is a lot more information on Charles Lindbergh in the book club selection, One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. If you are inspired to read further about Charles Lindbergh, I suggest the following titles:

"We": the daring flyer's remarkable life story by Charles A. Lindbergh

Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg

The flight of the century: Charles Lindbergh and the rise of American aviation by Thomas Kessner

The following titles detail all the larger-than-life personalities involved in the race to cross the Atlantic:

Atlantic fever: Lindbergh, his competitors, and the race to cross the Atlantic by Joe Jackson

The big jump: Lindbergh and the great Atlantic air race by Richard Bak

You may view the LA Times coverage of Lindbergh’s flight and triumphant return through the Historical Los Angeles Times database, accessible with an LAPL library card through our web site.