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The Legend of Lindbergh shows how the outstanding flying career of Charles Lindbergh can be traced through Aerophilately. The stamps and covers have an interest not only for philatelists but also for historians and aircraft enthusiasts. The original text for 'The Legend of Lindbergh' was written to provide a pamphlet to accompany a number of displays given to specialist philatelic societies and local stamp clubs. It was extended to be part of the National Philatelic Society's 100th anniversary celebration displays at STAMPEX and at The Royal Philatelic Society, and was completely rewritten for Stamp Magazine. The article in Stamp Magazine was one of a number of similar contributions by National Philatelic Society members to celebrate their Centenary. It has now been further updated and précised for use by electronic media.

Derrick Pillage
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born in Detroit in 1902 and from an early age was mechanically minded, and wanted to be a pilot. 

In April 1922, he went to Nebraska Aircraft Company with another youngster, Bud Gurney, who became a close friend, and both took their first flight in a Lincoln Standard. Lindbergh could not afford his own aircraft so in 1922 he joined up with Erold Bahl and in May and June of that year toured Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, barnstorming with Lindbergh wing-walking and parachute jumping. He soon became known as 'Daredevil Lindbergh'. 

Having saved all his money and with a loan from his father be bought a Curtis Jenny in 1923 for $500, then continued to barnstorm from Mississippi to Minnesota. Unfortunately he wrecked the aircraft, which he then sold. It has since been rediscovered and restored.

In 1924, Lindbergh joined the National Guard to be an army pilot. After a one-year stint as a pilot with the rank of Lieutenant he went on to do some more barnstorming with Wray Vaughan. 

The U.S. had pioneered the carrying of mail by air since 1919 and had built up an impressive network of routes, and the Post Office had in excess of 200 planes and found it hard to manage so many. On 2 February 1925, the U.S. Congress passed the Air Mail Act and offered routes to private operators, which were called Contract Air Mail Routes. 

Lindbergh French Stamp Spirit of St Louis
Fig. 1 
French stamp of 1927 
showing the "Spirit of 
St Louis" and the SS Paris.
Whilst flying around St Louis Lindbergh had met two war veterans, Bob and Frank Robertson and together they applied for the Chicago to St Louis route, which was known as Contract Air Mail Route No 2. Lindbergh flew a de Haviland DH-4 over the route, with stops at Springfield and Peoria. During this period he twice had to bail out from the mail aircraft, and although on the first occasion the mail was destroyed, some of the mail is believed to have survived the second crash, as one piece has been found.

While flying mail from Chicago to St Louis, Lindbergh decided to compete for the $25,000 prize for the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris. 

It is thought that Lindbergh carried 5 covers only on this flight, although it is also believed that he was offered $1000 to carry a small package of mail, which he turned down because of his concern over weight. (Two of the five known Trans Atlantic covers have come on the market in the last two years). The plane cost Lindbergh $13,000 and he had to be sponsored by friends and businessmen from St Louis, which is the reason that the plane was called the 'Spirit of St Louis'.

He worked with the designers from the Ryan factory in San Diego to produce a plane in 90 days. The design to best enable it to fly the 3,600 miles resulted in Lindbergh having his view obscured so he resorted to using a periscope or looking out of the door! He left San Diego on 10 May 1927 at 3.55 p.m. to fly to New York via St Louis on its first real test flight. At that time it was the longest non-stop flight across the U.S. and took 14hrs 6mins to St Louis. Then on 12 May he took off for New York where he arrived 7hrs 15mins later. 

On 20 May Lindbergh left Roosevelt Field near New York arriving at Le Bourget, Paris after a 33hrs 30mins non-stop flight. For the flight he carried a couple of sandwiches and two bottles of water, but when he arrived in Paris he still had one sandwich and one bottle of water left, and enough fuel to fly another 300 miles! 

Fig. 2 1927 "Goodwill Tour" cover

Fig. 2 
1927 "Goodwill Tour" cover

Lindbergh's life was never the same again. This good-looking young man was feted throughout the world. He stayed in Paris until 30 May, and then flew to Croydon airport, London. It was estimated that over 150,000 people were there to greet him. He contemplated flying the 'Spirit of St Louis' through Europe, to Africa and across the South Atlantic to South America before returning to the U.S. But there was pressure put on him by President Collage to return home immediately. The USS Memphis was sent to carry him and his plane back to the U.S. The American public was so keen to see him that he was paid $200,000 to make a Goodwill Tour and between 20 July and 23 October 1927 he visited every one of the 48 states. He flew some 22,000 miles

Lindbergh was then offered the post as Technical Advisor to the President of Pan American, to pioneer routes around the Caribbean. On 3 December he 1928 flew from Washington to Mexico City, in the record time of 27hrs 15mins. While on this Caribbean trip, Basil Rowe, a friend and fellow pilot, asked him to carry some sacks of mail and this was the only time 'Spirit of St Louis' actually carried mail. One sack was carried from Santo Domingo and two from Port-au-Prince: both to Havana. On its return to the U.S., 'Spirit of St Louis' was retired and is now in the Smithsonian. 

Then Lindbergh joined Trans Continental Air Transport as a Technical Consultant and in July 1929, TAT merged with Western Air Express and was renamed Trans World Airlines. Between 1929 and 1939 the coast-to-coast route from New York to Los Angles was inaugurated and became affectionately known as 'The Lindbergh Line'. 

On 10 March 1929, Lindbergh flew the inaugural flight from Brownsville, Texas to Mexico City via Tampico, in a Ford tri-motor aircraft. However numerous bags of mail went missing for one month, and consequently this became known in the philatelic world as the Lost Mail Flight.

Fig. 3 Brownsville, Texas - Mexico City "Lost Mail Flight" cover

Fig. 3 
Brownsville, Texas - Mexico City "Lost Mail Flight" cover


On behalf of Pan American Airways, in September 1929 Lindbergh flew from Miami to San Juan in a Ford tri-motor aircraft, and then in a Sikorsky S38 to Dutch Guinea - routes FAM 6 & 10. He made 14 stops en route. From Trinidad he returned to the U.S. via Venezuela, Colombia and the Canal Zone to Miami. This completed what was to become known as 'The Lindbergh Circle'. Following these flights he was to look further afield and attempted to find a route to the Orient via Alaska and Russia in his Lockheed Sirius. He thought it was a too complicated route and suggested going from San Francisco to Honolulu and onto Manila, which is the route used to this day. He then turned his eyes to a northern route to Europe via Greenland, landing in Copenhagen and returning to the U.S. via Africa and South America.  Fig. 4 A Lindbergh Circle" cover of September<BR> 1929 bearing stamps from Surinam (Dutch Guiana)
Fig. 4 
A Lindbergh Circle" cover of September
1929 bearing stamps from Surinam (Dutch Guiana)


It was in 1934 that Lindbergh fell out with President Roosevelt over the cancellation of the Contract Air Mail Routes. Also the President and the public believed that Lindbergh was a Nazi supporter, as he thought that the German air power was so strong and was recommending that the U.S. should not go to war. 

Following World War Two, General George Kenny put his own reputation at stake by showing the help Lindbergh had given to the U.S. armed forces and the thousands of American lives he had saved. 

Fig. 5 A tribute from Panama - overprinted stamps of 1928 During Eisenhower's Presidency, Lindbergh was reinstated as a Major General in the Army reserve. He died on 25 August 1974. 

Derrick Pillage is a Council Member of the National Philatelic Society and has only been interested in philately for the past 5 years. In this short time he has undertaken extensive research into early US airmails and has won numerous philatelic competitions at club, federation and national level. At the London Stamp 2000 International he was awarded a Vermeil for his US Airmails in the Aerophilately class. He has also won a number of gold medals for his 'airmails' in the USA, the latest being at SECAL held in Los Angles in October 2000. He currently heads up the British Chapter of the American Air Mail Society.

Fig. 5 A tribute from Panama - overprinted stamps of 1928