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Before the Fortune and Fame - February 8, 2019

Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane in which he flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.

Q: In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and became a worldwide celebrity. "Lucky Lindy," as he was called, was also named Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1927. About five years earlier, Lindbergh lived in Kansas, where he worked as a barnstorming pilot and acrobat. Where, in Kansas, did Charles Lindbergh live?
A: Bird City (in Cheyenne County) Before the Spirit of St. Louis made the successful solo flight from New York to Paris in May of 1927, pilot Charles Lindbergh lived in Bird City, in northwest Kansas. According to the Kansas Historical Society, Lindbergh was enrolled in the school of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but dropped out in 1920 to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to begin flight training. In May 1922, Lindbergh worked as a mechanic and helper on a barnstorming trip through southeastern Nebraska. There he learned to do wing-walking and parachute jumps. He earned extra money working in the Lincoln Standard aircraft factory.

Lindbergh learned that an exhibition company needed a parachute jumper in northwest Kansas and he took a train to Bird City, a small town in Cheyenne County. Between exhibitions, he lived in Bird City, where he became known as “The Daredevil.” He entertained crowds in Montana, Wyoming and Kansas with his wing-walking feats and parachute jumps. Lindbergh claimed he had gained considerable respect for the wind in Kansas and Nebraska. By 1923, Lindbergh was ready to purchase his own airplane, a military surplus Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane, which he flew for his barnstorming exhibitions.

Lindbergh became interested in the Orteig Prize of $25,000, which had been offered in 1919 to the first successful nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. Lindbergh watched as several challengers attempted to win the prize, resulting in crashes, deaths, and disappearances. Finally at 7:52 a.m., on Friday, May 20, 1927, he departed from a muddy runway at Roosevelt Field in New York. He flew for 33.5 hours, cruising at 10,000 feet, and landed at 10:22 p.m., on Saturday, May 21, at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. The airfield was not marked on his map, but the car headlights of tens of thousands of eager spectators shown the way. The crowd, estimated at 150,000, stormed the field and carried Lindbergh above their heads. Lindbergh’s successful flight immediately made him among the most famous people of his day.  

Earning the nickname, “Lucky Lindy,” he was Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1927. He wrote an autobiography of his flight that became a bestseller. He toured the Spirit of St. Louis around the world before retiring the plane and donating it to the Smithsonian. Lindbergh lived his later years on the island of Maui in Hawaii. He died August 26, 1974.

Fun Factoid: There's only one town in the entire United States named Bird City... and it happens to be located in Kansas!    

Discover more Kansas Trivia by checking out our online trivia trove.

Today's Kansas Trivia Question comes to us from the Kansas Historical Society. Learn more Kansas stuff -- log on to!


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