Yesterday, Erica Vetsch shared a little about our amazing Minnesota Historical Society and the twenty-five sites that dot the map of our beautiful state. One of those sites is the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls, Minnesota.
I'm especially fond of this historic site because it sits right across the river from where I live in my hometown, and I spent ten years of my life working there as a site guide, an assistant site manager, and later as an interim manager.
Charles Lindbergh is one of the most fascinating men I've ever studied. On the surface, many people know him as the shy, handsome hero who made the first non-stop, transatlantic flight in his monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, in May 1927.
Others may know him as the father of the baby who was kidnapped and murdered on March 1, 1932. The horrible event became known as The Crime of the Century and an important law, known informally as the Lindbergh Law, was enacted from that event, which allows federal authorities to step in and pursue kidnappers once they cross state lines with their victim.
Some may be more familiar with Charles Lindbergh's wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote several books, her most famous being A Gift from the Sea. It continues to change women's live, over half a century after it was written.
And, yet, many others remember Charles A. Lindbergh for his stance on America's entry into WWII and his connection with Nazi Germany.
For a few, when they think of Charles Lindbergh, they think of his conservation work toward the end of his life, his design of the perfusion pump, which was the first apparatus to keep organs alive outside of the body, his work on the first rocket with Robert Goddard, and the routes he and Anne mapped out for air traffic, many of which are still used to this day.
Still others see Lindbergh as the father of illegitimate children in Germany, who came forward in 2003. DNA test proved their story was true, and they are now able to claim one of the most famous men in history as their father.
But, for me, I see Charles Lindbergh as a young boy, growing up on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River in Little Falls, Minnesota. A quiet, curious boy whose father was a lawyer and U.S. Congressman, and whose mother was a school teacher. He loved nothing better than working on the family farm until he left for college in 1920.
If you thought of any of those things, you'd know exactly who Charles Lindbergh was--yet, how many people really knew him? I spent ten years studying his life, reading his journals, letters, biography, and autobiographies--yet, I learned something new about him all the time.
He was a quiet, reserved man who was thrust into the world's spotlight as the first super-hero. He became the most famous person in the world in 1927, and despite his attempts to "retire" from his public life, he could never escape the fame. Very few people know what it was like to be Charles Lindbergh. He was hounded his entire life. Out of desperation and survival, he learned to keep things hidden, to shy away from reporters, and he drew into himself more and more.
There are points in his life that I admire--and others that I abhor. He was an American icon, a role-model for millions, yet he did unthinkable things throughout his life. He invented devises that saved lives, he was a pioneer for aviation, and he was tireless in his work for conservation efforts--yet, his respect for Nazi Germany is questionable, his marital affairs were deplorable, and his relationship with his wife and children was less than commendable.
Lindbergh is an American Legacy, and I applaud him for the great advancements he made. I even understand a few of the choices that shaped his life. But I still like to think of him best as the young man who made the transatlantic flight in 1927, or the child who roamed the woods of his family's property in Little Falls, before fame changed him forever.
He's also an enigma. A man hard to understand, who led a life that few will ever experience.
When I look at his life, I have to look at it through the lens of all these things. Not one individual moment, but the accumulation of seventy-two years of remarkable events that changed the world forever.
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