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The Spirit of St Louis Bookends

28 Jun

There is an abundance of bookends commemorating the historic 1927 flight of Charles LIndbergh across the Atlantic from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, NY to LeBourget Airport, France.  Lindbergh is captured in profile, in bust, in flying outfit, in front of the plane,…………..    

Photo of Spirit of St Louis bookends

Spirit of Saint Louis.  Iron, Height 5 inches. Inscription on the front:  FIRST NON STOP FLIGHT  NEW YORK TO PARIS MAY 21st TO 22nd 1927. TIME: 33HRS: 21MIN.  PILOTED BY CAPT. CHARLES A. LINDBERGH.  on the back:  WM P CO 1120.  circa 1927. (Note – the dates are wrong.)

This bookend, showing the Spirit of Saint Louis, reminds us that the historic significance of the flight was about more than just Lindbergh.  It was about a PRIZE and $$$, it was about GLORY, it was about ENGINEERING, and INGENUITY, and IMAGINATION, and it was about CELEBRITY and REPUTATION.  And it was a competitive race to be FIRST!

The Orteig Prize of $25,000 was originally offered in 1919 for the first non-stop flight from New York City to Paris, or the reverse, by an Allied Aviator.  Offered for 5 years there were no competitors.  It was re-offered in June 1925, and since aviation had made significant advances, a competitive field showed up.  Six aviators died in their attempts and others were hurt.  In 1927 there were several groups prepping for attempts at the prize, including one headed by polar explorer Richard E. Byrd.  April and May of 1927 found everyone gathering at Roosevelt Field and Curtis Field testing their planes and waiting for the right conditions for the flight. 

An Airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh, managed to convince 9 Saint Louis, Missouri businessmen to back him;  and a small aeronautical firm in San Diego to deliver a plane, to his specifications, in sixty days.  He was convinced that a single-engine monoplane using a whirlwind engine could take him to Paris.  The “Ryan NYP” (for New York to Paris) was built.  On May 10 -12 he flew it to Curtiss Field on Long Island, NY, setting a new North American transcontinental speed record, stopping in St. Louis on the way.    Byrd offered Lindbergh the use of the longer Roosevelt Field runway.  Lindbergh takes off on May 20 and thirty-three and half hours later captures the Orteig Prize by landing in Paris on May 21.  

The plane designed by Donald A Hall and built in San Diego which carried Lindbergh to success now rests in the Smithsonian, while a reproduction built in 1978-79, the Spirit of Saint Louis 3, resides in the rotunda of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park.  Spirit 3 was last flown on the 75th anniversary of the 1927 flight. 

Photo of Spirit 3, Air and Space Museum, San Diego

Spirit of Saint Louis 3. Reproduction at the Air and Space Museum, Balboa Park, San Diego. It was flown on the 75th Anniversary of the original flight. The Bookend Collector, Bob Seecof, gives perspective to the plane’s size.

 
 

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