A charming manuscript map celebrating the epochal 1927 trans-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh.
Born in 1902 to a Swedish father and American mother, Charles Lindbergh first took to the air in 1922 at an aviation school in Lincoln, Nebraska. He didn’t solo until the following year, in a World War I surplus Curtiss Jenny he had bought in Georgia. After spending the next year barnstorming as “Daredevil Lindbergh” he enrolled in flight training with the U.S. Army, graduating in 1925 first in his class. The Army didn’t need more pilots, however, so he signed up to fly with the Missouri National Guard while working as a mail pilot for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, flying out of Lambert-St. Louis airfield.
By early 1927 Lindbergh had been seduced by the allure of the $25,000 prize being offered by a New York hotelier to the first pilot to complete a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight between New York and Paris. Despite his relative anonymity—any number of eminent aviators were chasing the money and the glory—Lindbergh was able to get a loan from two St. Louis businessmen, with which he funded the design and construction of the Spirit of St. Louis, a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. After taking delivery of the plane in San Diego on May 10, 1927, Lindbergh flew to St. Louis, then on to Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York. From there he took off for Paris on the morning of May 20, 1927, arriving at Le Bourget airfield some 3600 miles and 33 ½ hours later.
The flight made Lindbergh a global celebrity: Some 150,000 people are said to have met the Spirit of St. Louis when it landed in Paris, and on June 13 perhaps 4,000,000 people turned out to a ticker-tape parade in his honor in New York City. Naturally a flood of printed memorabilia followed, as publishers sought to make hay out of Lindbergh’s achievement. One such example is an appealing map issued by Ernest Clegg in 1928.
Offered here is something a little more personal and unique, being a hand-drawn map of Lindbergh’s flight, perhaps by an American schoolboy or -girl. Set against a map of Europe and the Americas, it depicts Lindbergh’s route from San Diego to St. Louis, then New York, and on across the Atlantic to Paris. The whole is greatly enhanced by several decorative elements, including swags surrounding key place names, a large cartouche with scrolled elements, a vignette of the Spirit of St. Louis in flight, and a compass rose framed in a laurel wreath, drawn as if radiating divine light over Lindbergh’s endeavor.
The map is neither signed nor dated, but the attribution to a student is based on the quality of the work, which is careful but hardly expert. The celebratory tone suggests that it was drawn soon after the event.
An interesting relic of one of the great technological milestones, combining superb engineering, human courage and endurance and a measure of dumb luck.