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On This Day in History - June 13, 1927

Charles Lindburgh in front of the Spirit of St. Louis. Credit: charleslindburgh.com

On this day in 1927, the city of New York honored famed aviator Charles Lindbergh with a ticker tape parade to celebrate his flight in the Spirit of St. Louis, the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. At just 25 years old, Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris, and according to the New York Times, an estimated four million people attended the ticker-tape parade throughout the city to celebrate his journey. Over the next several months Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis visited eighty-two cities in forty-eight States. He gave 147 speeches and dropped 192 messages from the air as he promoted the developing aeronautical industry.

Charles Lindburgh in front of the Spirit of St. Louis. Credit: charleslindburgh.com

Lindbergh first learned to fly while serving in the Army. He was a U.S. Mail pilot when New York hotelier Raymond Orteig, who owned two hotels in Manhattan, announced a $25,000 prize for the first person to fly nonstop from either New York to Paris, or Paris to New York. Orteig first proposed his transatlantic flight challenge in 1919 but did not receive his first serious competitors until 1926. A group of St. Louis businessmen funded Lindbergh’s single engine plane. He first tested the plane, called the Spirit of St. Louis, with a flight from San Diego to New York. By the time Lindbergh made his flight, six other competitors had died trying.

Ticker Tape parade in New York City, July 1927.  Credit: charleslindburgh.com

When word came from Paris that Charles Lindbergh had successfully completed the first trans-Atlantic flight on May 21, 1927, the world celebrated. Overnight the young pilot became a household name and hero. Lindbergh arrived in New York City on June 13, 1927 and was shown to a seat next to President Coolidge on stage before an estimated crowd of 200,000. The President welcomed Lindbergh home as “an illustrious citizen of our Republic, a conqueror of the air and strengthener of the ties which bind us to our sister nations across the sea.” He then presented Lindbergh with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the nation’s highest aviation honor.

Following his record breaking flight, Lindbergh worked as a consultant to commercial airline companies. He served both the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. His Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis (1953), describes his historic flight. Charles Lindbergh died on August 26, 1974. Today, Lindbergh's plane is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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