The Passion of Collecting Charles Lindbergh Ephemera and History
my keynote speech at the national ephemera Society
Charles Augustus Lindbergh (CAL) was born on February 4th, 1902. The world has just celebrated his 100th birthday anniversary. Another interesting note is that on May 20th, 2002 we shall then celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the actual flight from New York to Paris which he made at the age of 25!!!
I have been collecting CAL ephemera since 1976 when I made my first purchase of a framed piece of 3 stamps from Puerto Rico with the flag of their country and a medal awarded to each participant at the Banquet in Los Angeles during his Goodwill Tour of 1927-1928.
Someone in every major nation around the world collects ephemera related to CAL as he was the hero of the century. Looking into the actual background of this flight one finds many amazing tidbits which we as collectors love.
CAL built a plane with the assistance of Donald Hall as his Chief Designer and he could not see out the front of the plane. CAL had placed a huge extra gas container at the front of the plane which prevented him from any forward view at all.
CAL chose to take very little on this flight of weight. He wanted to make sure that nothing took from the precious fuel that he would require and weigh him down in any manner. He limited the letters he carried introducing himself to 5 separate letters. One which recently surfaced in the last year brought over $135,000 when it hit the auction block after being unknown for nearly 75 years!!!
CAL did not take a parachute with him as he felt if he went down, he would not need it anyway. It was mostly ocean during his flight and he knew that if he did not stay in the air then it was just going to be a very bad day in history.
It is interesting to note that CAL was the first airmail pilot to demand that parachutes be used during their flights.
In reviewing all of the ephemera which surrounds his flight, I can think of no one else that has garnered as much attention by the manufacturers around the world that created items about the New York to Paris (NYP) flight.
CAL received the Orteig Prize Money of $25,000 for making the flight but did not even meet the requirements of registering enough days prior to his flight!!! Mr. Orteig knew this and still gave the award as many others died attempting to make the first non stop flight in either direction to connect France to America.
The largest ticker tape parade in history was held in New York upon CAL's return from Paris and to this day no other individual has ever had as large a parade either in persons attending or the amount of confetti that was piled over 4 feet high throughout the city.
I collect CAL memorabilia because the man inspires me. To take such risk at the age of 25, to go where no person had ever gone before, to have the guts to do this because he loved flying and NOT for the money was, in my opinion, something I would have done myself if I were living then. CAL hated all of the items that came out around the world that have now become collectibles of the highest order. He was a very humble man and took no glory whatsoever in being "selected" as the most heroic person of our time. He turned down movie offers of millions of dollars, recordings, plays and many other things which approximated over $5 million in 1927!!! Can you imagine what that is worth today? Somebody send me the current valuation of that amount.
James Stewart, who played CAL in the movie, The Spirit of St. Louis moved a plane on the outside of his father's store during the actual flight in 1927 to show people where the flight was currently located. When the movie was made with CAL as the Technical Advisor, no one but Jimmy Stewart would ever get the part.
It is also interesting that the first sound ever added to film was used for the Newsreel of his flight and this was the first time that sound was "rushed" as a process just for this event.
While CAL was still in Europe, the Smithsonian asked for permission to permanently display the actual plane and had it shipped back with CAL aboard with his plane in a crate and is still the most popular item viewed at the Smithsonian to this day.
Needless to say, there are thousands of items which CAL collectors look for. The most expensive items are those which relate to the actual NYP flight. Checks used to pay for the plane and parts are some of the most sought after items. Letters which CAL actually carried on the Spirit command over six figures whenever they appear on the auction block.
It is fun to see all the various items which surround this great person. The Guggenheim family financed a tour of every state in America after the flight and one need only to think in terms of what was issued for each event. We see the original invitations which went out inviting people to attend the town banquet. Menus from the actual event are extremely hard to find and command prices in excess of several hundred dollars. Pins for each city stop were created, medals to commemorate the flight, and medals at the banquets are often seen avidly searched for by collectors. I enjoy collecting the actual ribbon badges that were worn by the dignitaries and attendees of the banquets.
I know of over 165 different sound recordings made about his flight. Lucky Lindy as he was referred to. A term which he hated all his life as this was an event of skill and luck did not enter into it at all.
The research project on Bookends pertaining to CAL has over 26 different types of metal bookends done in various shapes and sizes. I enjoy the ones in my collection that have actual propellers that spin on each bookend.
Event covers of letters postmarked in each town on the day he was there are highly sought after by many collectors. The next level of value would be Good Will Tour covers flown to foreign countries during his foreign tour. I have covers from almost all of the locations where CAL stopped during this tour. Signed covers are extremely valuable whether they be of the mail of the day or menus signed at the event. Ephemera collectors should note the following. CAL normally wrote the date below his signature if the date was not on the item which was being signed or if the item date is different than the date of the signature.
In my collection of Robertson Checks where CAL worked as an airmail pilot, we figured out when the collection surfaced that CAL was receiving $150 every two weeks as an airmail pilot. $300 a month in 1926!!! Not a small sum of money. When CAL started consulting as the plane for the NYP was being built he received $175 a month which you will see in my collection as I own his last paycheck as an airmail pilot and his first consulting check as the consultant while the plane was being built for his famous flight.
Limoge came forward and made plates and ashtrays for the flight. We have found over 5 different plates that were made in 1927 for the flight. One must keep in mind that when the stamp came out to commemorate his flight on June 18th 1927, it only carried a map from America to Paris with the Spirit. The postal authorities do not allow any living person to be on an American stamp. This is as close as one can come while someone is living. Keep in mind that this stamp was made within ONE week of his return to America. First Day Covers (FDC) of his flight can be bought from $25-$300 depending on the cachet artist involved.
A wonderful book was published around 1935 entitled Trophies and Other Materials presented to Colonel Lindbergh that shows over 2,000 different items that were made during his flight and those are only the ones in the book!!!! These are many of the items given personally to CAL as EVERY country participated in the event as the world became a much smaller place and world travel by airplane finally became a reality. Oddly enough, CAL gives a speech nearly 40 years later talking about how we have ruined the value of technology and not used it appropriately. In many ways he was saying that he was almost sorry that he made the original flight when he did. This actual speech is currently being offered for sale in an auction that is being held March 20th, 2002 by Butterfields. It comes from a dear friend of mine whom I represent, Jean O. Saunders, who was the personal administrator to the Lindberghs from 1957 to 1975.
Any object that you can imagine that would have been made in 1927 and still being issued as new commemorative items, was made for CAL. One day a book will exist on collecting CAL memorabilia and I am sure I will participate in that fine project.
I can honor no greater person. I can envision no one with more integrity, honesty and guts than Charles Augustus Lindbergh. He has been much more than my hero. We all need heroes and he stands to this day as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in my opinion.
I am forever grateful to a wonderful person who I would have loved to have met and do meet every day through my passion of collecting his life.