“Lindbergh’s Paris Trip Makes Him World Hero” Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

When the Wright brothers achieved the first engine-powered flight in 1903, their initial report was not accepted by their hometown newspaper because the editor thought it was a fraud. When leaked to other papers the next day, the story captured the public’s imagination. From that time forward, newspapers aggressively sought news about the latest achievements in aviation. The public expected their main source of news to carry stories about the conquest of the air. The more dangerous the challenge, the greater the public interest. Flying across the ocean, an emergency landing impossible, was seen as the ultimate challenge. When attempts were made to cross the Atlantic, people watched closely. This report on Lindbergh’s success, carried in the Augusta Chronicle, and other major papers, was widely read. It helped convey the excitement of the event experienced by the crowd in Paris, helping people around the world share in this jubilation and in Lindbergh’s success.

Summary Overview

When the Wright brothers achieved the first engine-powered flight in 1903, their initial report was not accepted by their hometown newspaper because the editor thought it was a fraud. When leaked to other papers the next day, the story captured the public’s imagination. From that time forward, newspapers aggressively sought news about the latest achievements in aviation. The public expected their main source of news to carry stories about the conquest of the air. The more dangerous the challenge, the greater the public interest. Flying across the ocean, an emergency landing impossible, was seen as the ultimate challenge. When attempts were made to cross the Atlantic, people watched closely. This report on Lindbergh’s success, carried in the Augusta Chronicle, and other major papers, was widely read. It helped convey the excitement of the event experienced by the crowd in Paris, helping people around the world share in this jubilation and in Lindbergh’s success.

Defining Moment

Although steady progress had been made in aircraft development prior to World War I, the war effort rapidly pushed the technology forward. A transcontinental flight (over a fifty-day period) had been made prior to the war, but it was only after the war that such a trip became practical to carry out it within one day, and then without refueling. The fame of early pioneers spread rapidly, and others were eager for the next challenge. In 1919, Raymond Orteig offered a prize of $25,000 to the first person, or persons, to fly from New York to Paris, or Paris to New York. Although a nonstop flight from New York to San Diego was accomplished in 1923, going to Paris increased the distance by about fifty percent. Thus, it was not for another few years until the technology advanced to the point where individuals believed it was feasible to attempt a transatlantic flight. Individuals and companies from several countries tried to be a part of the first successful flight. Most were investing much more money than the prize which was offered, because it was all about being first.

One individual who was interested in being the first across the Atlantic was Charles Lindbergh. A pilot who flew the airmail route from St. Louis to Chicago, Lindbergh had many hours of flight time in all sorts of conditions. He had begun flying in 1922, barnstormed for a few years, and then, in 1925, graduated from the Army’s Air Service Reserve Corp, being commissioned a Second Lieutenant. In early 1927, he and three other backers from St. Louis invested $18,000 in the effort. Lindbergh worked with the Ryan Company to design and build a new airplane, for $10,580, adapted from the design of a plane the Ryan Company had built for carrying mail.

Less than a month before Lindbergh took off for Paris, he took possession of the Spirit of St. Louis, and then, on May 10, he flew it from California to New York. Other teams were already in place to make an attempt to fly to Paris, all with larger budgets and larger planes. There had been several fatalities among the many who were trying to achieve the goal, including two Frenchmen less than two weeks prior to Lindbergh’s takeoff. People around the world knew that within the next few months someone would be successful. In less than ideal conditions, Lindbergh took off from New York on May 20, 1927. The aviation community held its breath until he was sighted passing over Ireland. When he entered French airspace, crowds gathered at the Paris airport to witness his historic landing. Although others (in two-person teams) had flown from Newfoundland to Ireland years earlier, this city-to-city, continent-to-continent, first solo transatlantic flight captured imaginations around the world.

Author Biography

The Augusta Chronicle, published in Augusta, Georgia, bills itself as the oldest newspaper in the South. Tracing its roots back to the Augusta Gazette, which was founded in 1785, it is indeed one of there are very few active newspapers originating in the eighteenth century. In 1927, the Augusta Chronicle was locally owned. Affiliated with the Associated Press (AP) news organization, stories such as the one originating in Paris came from AP reporters who were assigned to a location–in this case, Paris. Some reporters had their own bylines, but most were anonymous individuals who reported the national and international news for, at that time, the member newspapers. Reports, such as this one, were trusted by the readers, as both the newspaper and the AP were understood to be honest, reliable sources of information. In 1927, newspapers were the major source of news, although radio was starting to develop a strong rivalry.

Document Analysis

The May 22, 1927, edition of the Augusta Chronicle could have been titled the Lindbergh Paper. Eight columns made up the width of the front page; all except the left column were about Lindbergh and his flight. The material reprinted above covered the top of the four columns on the right, and then continued down the right side of the page as a double column width article. This brief excerpt illustrates the jubilation that was felt in Paris at Lindbergh’s accomplishment. It was a celebration of human achievement. This was what aviation offered the world. The scars of the First World War were still evident in Europe, and there was turmoil in many countries. However, for at least a brief instant, people from a variety of backgrounds could unite in joy over this technological and individual triumph. Mixed in with the picture of unity, however, is the newspaper editors’ apparent delight at the fact that it was a plainspoken American who had accomplished the feat.

The material standing above the Associated Press (AP) credit was written by the staff of the Chronicle and focused on the American aspect of Lindbergh’s success. Thus, the mention of Lindbergh’s hometown, a small city in the Midwest, exhibits the news staff’s interest in highlighting Lindbergh’s all-American aspect. His unassuming greeting to those in Paris, “Well, here we are,” was placed in the opening paragraph to reinforce Lindbergh’s downhome quality. The fact that this was largely an individual achievement–as opposed to a grand collective effort–accentuated the American quality of Lindbergh and his small team. Reference to his mother’s “tears of joy” also speaks to Lindbergh’s identity as a regular American. (Lindbergh’s father had died in 1924.)

In the Associated Press section of the article, the outlook is more international. It is in this section that the unity of the world’s people is lifted up in the celebration of the flight. While details of the flight were given in other articles printed in the same newspaper, the “recklessness” to which the AP section refers points not only to Lindbergh’s having flown alone, but also to his effort to save weight by not having navigation equipment or taking along a parachute. The fact that such seat-of-the-pants flying was able to succeed, when more elaborate schemes had failed or gotten bogged down in non-aviation matters, made Lindbergh all the more endearing. As the article points out, although Lindbergh was American and not French, he was still seen by the crowd in Paris as “the greatest of heroes” in aviation’s short history. Officials could not keep the crowd from reaching Lindbergh and showing the greatest admiration for the man and his accomplishment. The communal joy in the face of success, as brought out in the article, reached across the normal boundaries that, then as now, divide the human race. As eloquently illustrated in the article, such was the social triumph of Lindbergh’s flight.

Essential Themes

Charles Lindbergh and his backers achieved a feat that would have been impossible less than a decade earlier. The attempt to fly from New York to Paris had captured the public’s imagination, like no previous aviation goal. Not until the first moon landing was the public as focused on an aviation-related goal or a specific flight. The fact that one man was able to endure the thirty-three-and-a-half-hour flight made it an even greater achievement to the public. The stripped-down plane in which he flew made his success even more amazing to other aviators. Thus, when he arrived in Paris everyone cheered his arrival. The newspaper article accurately records the fact that it was possible for a technological achievement to draw crowds to witness the event. The crowds could not be stopped, as they desired to be close to Lindbergh. While it was Lindbergh who was carried across the airport by the adoring crowds, it was also the airplane that was celebrated. Many other planes had not survived the preparations or the flight, making this relatively inexpensive long-range airplane a celebrity in itself. Less than a year after arriving in Paris, the Spirit of St. Louis was given to the Smithsonian Institution, and has been a premier exhibit in the museum ever since.

While the article justly focuses on the fact of Lindbergh’s accomplishment and his safe arrival in Paris, the other major point it conveys is the transnational celebration of the occasion. The “welcome from the hearts of the common people of France” was, in the journalist’s opinion, an indication of the way in which people from different countries could and should get along. The lack of “bitterness” in the American success was a model for people in other places and on other occasions. Even with the pro-American slant of the story, joy at the success of others was communicated by the newspaper, implying that, under the best of circumstances, this spirit might be the norm in all situations. In other words, Lindbergh’s success was more than an aviation achievement; it was a social triumph that many hoped would be the model for the future.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Berg, A. Scott. Lindbergh. New York: Berkeley Books, 1998. Print.
  • James, Edwin L. “Lindbergh Does It” (May 21, 1927). New York Times. Web Learning Network, 2010. Web. 15 Jul. 2014.
  • Van Der Linden, F. Robert, Dominick A. Pisano, & Reeve Lindbergh. Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2002. Print.
  • “Lindbergh.” 1990. American Experience. Narr. Stacy Keach. PBS. WGBH, Boston, 1999. Web. 15 Jul. 2014.
Categories: History Content