Some Updates on My Charles Lindbergh Project

Among other things, taking a February-March break from this blog gave me some more time to devote to my new research project: a “spiritual, but not religious biography” of Charles A. Lindbergh. Most importantly, I got to spend hour after spring break hour in the Weyerhaueser Reading Room at the Minnesota Historical Society, going through that organization’s collection of Lindbergh family papers. (Incidentally, Charles A. Weyerhaueser ran a prosperous lumber mill in Little Falls, Minnesota, where he rubbed shoulders with a prominent attorney and politician named Charles August Lindbergh, father of my subject.)

The main collection of my Lindbergh’s papers are held at Yale University, where I’ll spend the first half of this summer, but the MHS collection is fascinating in its own right. In addition to material from his father and grandfather, those Lindbergh papers include:

  • Lindbergh with a fellow pilot in the South Pacific
    At the end of World War II, Lindbergh flew missions in the South Pacific – Minnesota Historical Society

    Notes from Grace Lee Nute’s never-finished biography of Lindbergh’s father, including interviews with family members conducted in the 1930s and extensive correspondence with Lindbergh himself. (That project fell apart during World War II and wasn’t revived until Bruce Larson completed Lindbergh of Minnesota.)

  • Memorabilia from Lindbergh’s tour of the United States following his historic flight to Paris in 1927. Sample items: banquet menus featuring foods renamed for sites on Lindbergh’s epic journey (e.g., guests in Louisville dined on “Potatoes Fondante Ireland,” “Pear and Cheese Salad Le Bourget,” and “Coupe Newfoundland”).
  • Most intriguingly, Lindbergh’s page-by-page corrections and other comments on biographies by the likes of Walter Ross (“As so frequently happens in his book, Mr. Ross lets his imagination replace fact as a basis for his writing”) and Kenneth Davis (“The author of this book gives me the impression of being a confused and unhappy man. It seems to me he is dissatisfied with the world in general, and particularly with himself”).

I also came across a 1927 letter from a now-infamous Minneapolis doctor named Charles F. Dight. He hoped to give Lindbergh a bronze memorial on behalf of the Minnesota Eugenics Society, which hoped to use Lindbergh’s achievement “to arouse in young people a pride in better heredity and thus begin human betterment at its foundation.” That became the jumping-off point for an Anxious Bench post on Christian responses to eugenics, since one of Dight’s most vocal supporters was the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

That post had little to do with Lindbergh, but I also shared with AB readers a couple of posts on aviation before Lindbergh: one inspired by Joseph Corn’s book on the “winged gospel,” and one on the religious background of the Wright Brothers.

I’ll keep writing Lindbergh-related posts here and at Anxious Bench as my research continues, but if you want to get a fuller preview of my project, join us in the Bethel University Library this Thursday (11:15am): I’ll be giving a talk for Bethel’s “Not Ready for Prime Time” series. If you can’t make it, check back next week for video at our department’s YouTube channel.