Charles Lindbergh collectibles
Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 - August 26, 1974) was an American aviator and pilot who achieved fame for becoming the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1920s.
On May 20-21 in 1927 Lindbergh, an Air Mail pilot, flew his plane, the Spirit of St Louis, from New York's Long Island to Paris, France. He covered a distance of almost 3,600 miles (5,400 km).
His flight in the custom-built single-seat, single-engine monoplane, which lasted 33 hours and 30 minutes, wrote his name into the history books and made him world famous.
The reason for Lindbergh choosing to attempt the flight in the first place was because he was trying to win the Orteig-prize. First announced by New York Hotel owner Raymond Orteig on May 19, 1919, the reward for completing the non-stop flight was $25,000.
He first put the reward on offer for a period of five years, but nobody accepted the challenge. As a result, he renewed the contest when the five years was up, when technological advances meant there was a greater chance of successfully completing the flight.
Many pilots died in the process of trying to win the prize, with six men dying trying to ahcieve the feat and three others injuring themselves.
Lindbergh's flight and fame
Unsurprisingly, Lindbergh faced obstacles in completing the flight, including travelling with the heavy weight of the 450 gallons of fuel carried by his plane, storm clouds, 'icing' (conditions which lead to ice forming on parts of the plane) and flying through fog for long periods of time.
When he landed in Paris at Le Bourget Airport, thousands of spectators turned up to celebrate his success, with some people also taking parts of the Spirit of St Louis as souvenirs, which would later become sought after collectibles.
After the flight he became an instant American hero, and was treated as a celebrity. The French Foreign Office flew the American flag, the first time it had done so for anyone other than a head of state.
He was even presented with the French Legion d'honneur by President Gaston Doumergue, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross medal awarded to him by American President Calvin Coolidge, which honours 'extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight'.
He had become such a prominent figure that he was even given a personal ticker-tape parade on June 13, 1927, on 5th Avenue in New York, and a grand banquet at the Hotel Commodore attended by 3,700 people the following night.
Lindbergh's place in the history books is assured, and even though the flight took place more than 84 years ago and he has since died, there is still a large amount of interest in his accomplishment and he maintains a place in the public imagination.
As a result many pieces of memorabilia either connected to him, the plane or the flight itself have become highly valuable and regularly sell for significant amounts on the open market, in auctions or sales. These objects are likely to improve futher in terms of value as more time passes since the event, and many of them are already extreme rarities.
Notable sales and items
In 1999 a collection of Lindbergh rarities sold for $178,000. They included a five-line typewritten endorsement signed by Lindbergh, some other pieces of mail carried on the Spirit of St Louis and an autographed note.
A landing certificate at Le Bourget, received after Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, dated to 22 May 1927, sold for $32,5000 in 1993.
An ‘Air Mail’ cover accompanied by a typewritten letter signed by Lindbergh sold for over $126,000, including hammer.
In November 2002, a lot of items, including an American Flag with a typed note signed by Lindbergh, sold for $57,500. The same year saw the $75,000 sale of a one page letter from the historic flight.
November 2006 saw the sale of another lot for $60,000. This lot included a small American Flag carried by Lindbergh on the Spirit of St Louis during his 1927 transatlantic flight, with a typed note autographed by the aviator.
A remarkable piece of Lindberg memorabilia currently available is a collection of original parts from the Spirit of St Louis itself. The collection, including spark plugs, shock absorber bungee cords and a rocker arm from the Wright J5-C "Whirlwind" engine is the only set of parts for the historic plane ever to appear on sale, and is currently available for £125,000.
Main article: Aviation memorabilia