On May 20, 1927, 25-year-old pilot Charles Lindbergh strapped into his famous airplane, “The Spirit of St. Louis,” and took off on the first ever non-stop flight from New York to Paris. The 33.5-hour crossing vaulted Lindbergh to international stardom, but he was later visited by tragedy in 1932, when his 20-month-old son was kidnapped and murdered in what was dubbed “the Crime of the Century.” Below, learn 10 surprising facts about the heroic and controversial life of the aviator known as “The Lone Eagle.”
In the years before Charles Lindbergh’s New York to Paris flight, dozens of other pioneering aviators completed airborne crossings of the Atlantic. Most made the journey in multiple stages or used lighter-than-air dirigibles, but in 1919, British pilots John Alcock and Arthur Brown famously flew nonstop from Newfoundland to Ireland in a Vickers Vimy biplane before crash landing in a bog. Lindbergh’s major achievement was not that he was the first person to cross the Atlantic by airplane, but rather that he did it alone and between two major international cities.
Along with the perils of navigating the foggy Atlantic, Lindbergh’s biggest challenge during his transatlantic flight was simply staying awake. Between his pre-flight preparations and the 33.5-hour journey itself, he went some 55 hours without sleep. Lindbergh went so far as to buzz the surface of the ocean in the hope that the chilly sea spray would help keep him awake, but 24 hours into the journey, he became delirious from lack of rest. He later wrote of mirage-like “fog islands” forming in the sea below, and of seeing “vaguely outlined forms, transparent, moving, riding weightless with me in the plane.” Lindbergh even claimed the apparitions spoke to him and offered words of wisdom for his journey. The hallucinations eventually faded, and only a few hours later, the exhausted aviator landed in Paris to a crowd of more than 150,000 jubilant spectators.
Almost as soon as Lindbergh touched down after his historic flight, manufacturers of every item imaginable started to prepare and market their ‘Lindy.’ A few were licensed by Lindbergh, but the majority were not. Shelby, a leading cycle maker, turned their current ‘motobike’ style of boy’s bicycle into a ‘Lindy Flyer’ with the addition of the name to its tank and a ‘Lindy’ fender mascot. It was the company’s top-of-the-range bicycle.
Because of the licensed Lindy bicycle, if another cycle company tried to cash in on the name they would be sued not by Lindbergh but by Shelby. Cycle companies were professional litigants, so the Shelby was the only full-size bicycle to bear his name. There was a ‘tot’ size Lindy pedal tricycle and also a Lindy Flyer coaster wagon. Lindbergh’s nickname was ‘The Lone Eagle’ and I’m not sure if that name was copyrighted. There are a few (rare and very expensive) original Shelby Lindys that have survived, and some others built up as replicas. But this boy’s velocipede bicycle appears to be the only surviving ‘Lone Eagle.’
1928 ‘Lone Eagle’ Boy’s Bicycle, Velocipede Style
19″ Wheels with Solid Tyres
Even without the Lindbergh connection, this ‘Lone Eagle’ is a well-built and attractive style of velocipede bicycle.
In addition to the bicycle and its Lindy airplane mascot, I’ve accumulated a collection of interesting Lindy ephemera, which can be seen further down the page. There is:
- A ‘Lone Eagle’ illustrated children’s book that tells his story
- A Spirit of St Louis table lighter
- A Spirit of St Louis field telephone (replica) of the type fitted to airplanes
- An example of the various products that used his name – a tin of ‘Lindy’ hand cleaner
Together with the bicycle, these items will make a superb museum display.
THE LONE EAGLE CHILDREN’S BOOK
LINDY ‘SPIRIT OF St LOUIS’ TABLE LIGHTER
LINDY HAND CLEANER:
‘The First Hand Cleanser to make Dirt Fly’
Lindbergh info with thanks to – http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/10-fascinating-facts-about-charles-lindbergh