5 Things You Didn't Know About Charles Lindbergh

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Charles Lindbergh was born 109 years ago today. In honor of the famed aviator’s birthday, let’s hop onto five things you might not know about The Lone Eagle.

1. He Was Time’s First Man of the Year

After Lindbergh made his celebrated transatlantic flight in May 1927, he found his picture splashed on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the country. Well, almost every magazine. Time made the curious decision not to run with Lindbergh as its cover subject for the next edition, a choice that editors quickly regretted.

By the end of the year, though, the same editors struck on a clever way to rectify their omission and also move some magazines. When faced with a slow news week, they decided to devote an entire issue to Lindbergh’s influential flight. The magazine slapped a portrait of Lindy on its cover and dubbed him “Man of the Year.”

Although the article began a beloved tradition for Time’s readers, it reads a little awkwardly now. The article begins by listing Lindbergh’s height, age, eye color, cheek color (pink, in case you were wondering), and foot size. (“Large. When he arrived at the Embassy in France no shoes big enough were handy.”) The article then lists Lindbergh’s habits: “Smokes not; drinks not. Does not gamble. Eats a thorough-going breakfast. Prefers light luncheon and dinner when permitted. Avoids rich dishes. Likes sweets.” The piece an analysis of his handwriting, which showed “Superiority, intellectualism, cerebration, idealism, even mysticism.”

2. He Helped Invent an Artificial Heart

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Lindbergh gained international renown for his transatlantic flight, but most people aren’t quite as familiar with the contribution he made to medical science. Lindbergh became keenly interested in cardiology when his sister-in-law was fighting against what proved to be fatal mitral stenosis in 1930, and he wondered why it was impossible to surgically fix a damaged heart.

As Lindbergh’s interest in heart surgery grew, he ended up working with Dr. Alexis Carrel at New York’s Rockefeller Institute on a system to keep organs alive outside of the body by circulating nutrient-rich fluids through them. Carrel wasn’t some quack who wanted to capitalize on Lindbergh’s fame, either; at that point in his career the doctor had already won a Nobel Prize for his work on organ transplants.

Lindbergh lent his unique mechanical acumen to his research with Carrel, and the pilot eventually perfected a glass perfusion pump that could maintain a heart in a sterile environment. The breakthrough helped other scientists eventually create the first artificial heart. Lindbergh and Carrel even coauthored the 1938 medical text The Culture of Organs, which included an early description of how an artificial heart would work.

3. He Only Drew a Steady Paycheck Once

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While Lindbergh enjoyed early success as a pilot and became a reserve airman for the Army, a 1974 New York Times profile by Alden Whitman noted that the aviator only held down one “paycheck job” over the course of his life. Lindbergh worked on the side as an aviation instructor and a circus stunt flier for fairs as a young pilot, but the only steady gig he ever held was a post as chief pilot on a mail run between St. Louis and Chicago that he started in 1926.

According to Lindbergh, it was on one of these runs for the Robertson Aircraft Company that he had the epiphany that a nonstop flight from New York to Paris was possible. Upon returning to St. Louis after the run, Lindbergh started scaring up funding for his historic trip. A group of St. Louis businessmen staked him for $15,000, which was part of the reason Lindbergh dubbed his plane The Spirit of St. Louis. The less-exciting working name of the plane had been “the Ryan NYP,” which reflected the plane’s maker (Ryan Airlines) and its objective (New York to Paris).

4. He Became a Big Advocate for Conservation

Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Later in his life Lindbergh turned his attention from aviation and cardiology to conservation. The same Whitman article from the Times includes a quote on Lindbergh’s 1964 realization that he should devote his energies to conservation. On a trip to Africa, Lindbergh said, “Lying under an acacia tree with the sounds of the dawn around me. I realized more clearly the facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane for instance, is simple when compared to the evolutionary achievement of a bird; that airplanes depend on advanced civilization, and that where civilization is most advanced few birds exist. I realized that if I had to choose I would rather have birds than airplanes."

Lindbergh spent the rest of his life vigorously campaigning for various conservationist causes. In 1968 he made his first public speech in 27 years to implore the Alaska Legislature to consider conservation legislation. He made trips to the Philippines to work with President Ferdinand Marcos to establish a sanctuary for the tamaraw, an endangered hoofed mammal.

5. He Had a Secret German Family

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It’s anyone’s guess how one of the world’s most famous people pulled it off – it probably didn’t hurt that Lindbergh was famously camera-shy in his later years – but Lindbergh managed to father an entire secret family in Germany during the 1950s and 1960s.

Lindbergh met hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer while visiting Germany in 1957, and the two began an affair that produced two sons and a daughter. Lindbergh would visit the family several times a year, but the children never knew that their father was the famous aviator. Instead, they thought he was an American writer named Careau Kent.

After his death, though, they found bundles and letters and photographs of Lindbergh and realized they were his children. Their mother confirmed their suspicions but asked that they not reveal their paternity until after her death. When she passed away in 2003 the Hesshaimer children finally told the media about their famous father. DNA tests confirmed their claims.

The story gets even wilder, though. According to the Hesshaimer children, Lindbergh was simultaneously having an affair with their mother’s sister, Marietta. These trysts allegedly produced two more sons, although a 2005 Telegraph story noted that Marietta Hesshaimer’s sons were remaining mum about their paternity out of respect for their mother’s wishes.

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

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Amazon

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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

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2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

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3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

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4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

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5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

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6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

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7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

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8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

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9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

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10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

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The Library of Congress Needs Help Transcribing More Than 20,000 Letters Written to Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt would want you to transcribe these letters.
Theodore Roosevelt would want you to transcribe these letters.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

With some historical figures, the best we can do is speculate about their innermost thoughts and imagine what their lives might really have been like. With Theodore Roosevelt, we don’t have to. In addition to a number of books, the 26th U.S. president wrote speeches, editorials, diary entries, and letters that document virtually every aspect of his self-proclaimed strenuous life both in and out of the Oval Office.

When it comes to letters, however, only reading those written by Roosevelt can sometimes be like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. Fortunately, the Library of Congress possesses tens of thousands of letters written to Roosevelt, too—and they need your help transcribing them.

The collection includes correspondence from various phases of his career, covering his time as a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War; his stint as William McKinley’s vice president (and abrupt ascent to the presidency when McKinley was assassinated); his own campaign and two-term presidency; and his work as a conservationist. Overall, the letters reveal the sheer volume of requests Roosevelt got, from social engagements to political appointments and everything in between. In January 1902, for example, Secretary of State John Hay wrote to Roosevelt (then president) on behalf of someone who “[wanted] to be a Secretary to our Special Embassy in London.” A little over a week later, The Gridiron Club “[requested] the pleasure of the company of The President of the United States at dinner” that weekend at the Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Of more than 55,000 documents in the digital archive, about 12,000 have already been transcribed, and nearly 14,000 need to be reviewed. There are also roughly 24,000 pages that still have yet to be touched at all. If you’d like to join the effort, you can start transcribing here.