The Kidnapping of Baby Lindbergh
By Stephen Sherman, Dec. 2007. Updated July 28, 2011.
In 1929, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. That same year, he flew again to Mexico, again stayed with the Morrow family, and soon proposed to the Ambassador's daughter, Anne. They became "The First Couple of the Air," flying all over, notably flying a Lockheed Sirius to Japan and China, which Anne later described in North to the Orient.
In 1930, Lindbergh was hired by Transcontinental Air Transport to promote their hybrid rail-and-air transcontinental service, which took 48 hours, rather than 100 by rail. The New York to Los Angeles route included three stops/changes, including one at the Santa Fe Depot and Reading Room in Waynoka, Oklahoma.
The next year, 1930, their first child, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., was born.
Lindbergh was unprepared for the attention that accompanied his fame. He and his wife were constantly hounded by the press, and the more reclusive and uncooperative they became, the more intensely the press pursued them. Determined to escape from "yellow journalism," he built a house on a 390-acre tract in a remote area of New Jersey, near the small town of Hopewell. During construction, Charles and Anne lived at Next Day Hill, her parents' secure mansion in New Jersey.
While living in Hopewell, in 1932 with Anne and their toddler son, tragedy struck. On the night of March 1, young Charles disappeared, kidnapped. A note demanding $50,000 ransom was left. Hoping to save his child, Lindbergh was willing to pay. An unlikely intermediary, John F. Condon, "Jafsie," emerged and communicated with the ransomer through newspaper ads. At a spooky night-time meeting in a Bronx cemetary, they paid up, using gold certificates with carefully noted serial numbers. But the baby was never returned, his remains found in the Hopewell woods two months later. Anne wrote about these agonizing times in Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead: 1929-1932
For protection against the crush of reporters and for security, the Lindberghs moved in with Anne's mother in Englewood, New Jersey, where their second son, Jon, was born in August, 1932. With a young child and a measure of privacy afforded on the grounds of Next Day Hill, their lives resumed a semblance of normalcy in 1933. Anne returned to the manuscript of North to the Orient. Charles became absorbed in the biological work of Dr. Alexis Carrel. In mid-1933, the couple undertook a survey flight around the Atlantic.
For two years after the kidnapping/murder, no arrests were made. Then in 1934, Bruno Hauptmann, an immigrant German carpenter, was charged with the crime, after passing one of the ransom money bills at a New York gas station. More than $14,000 of the ransom money was found concealed about his home. In 1935, he was tried in the most sensational,"trial of the century," in a circus atmosphere not seen until the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.
A key piece of evidence was the ladder used to gain access to the baby's second floor room, and left at the Lindbergh house. The ladder had been made with wood from Hauptmann's attic. A sketch of the ladder was found in Hauptmann's papers. Handwriting experts confirmed that Hauptmann's handwriting matched the ransom note. The note included numerous peculiar mis-spellings, like "signature", which Hauptmann unwittingly repeated on the witness stand. A large portion of the marked ransom notes were found in Hauptmann's garage. Witnesses swore they had seen him spend the notes. Hauptmann quit his job the day after the ransom money was paid! Among his possessions was a complete carpenter's tool set, missing only a three-quarter inch chisel - which was found at the Lindbergh house on the night of the kidnapping. Jafsie's phone number and address were written in a closet in Hauptmann's house. Unlike Simpson, Hauptmann was found guilty, and electrocuted in 1936.
The famous trial has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories and alternative explanations. Hauptmann's widow, Anna, maintained his innocence until her death. Lindbergh himself never doubted Hauptmann's guilt.
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping website covers the case factually and in detail, not a "conspiracy theory" site. After the trial ended, the Lindberghs' second son, Jon, was born. Continued unwanted attention and security concerns prompted Charles and Anne to move to England. They moved into a run-down old country estate outside of London.
- PBS - The American Experience, Lindbergh episode - lots about his America Firster days and his peculiar political ideas
- Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping website - very factual and well-done, not a "conspiracy theory" site
- Lindbergh Foundation website
- FBI Lindbergh Files - released through Freedom of Information Act
- Charles A. Lindbergh and the Battle Against American Intervention in WWII, Wayne Cole, Harcourt Brace, 1974.
- We by Charles A. Lindbergh
- The Spirit of St. Louis (Scribner's Classics) by Charles A. Lindbergh
- Autobiography of Values by Charles A. Lindbergh
- Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- Bring Me a Unicorn: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1922-1928 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1929-1932 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- Locked Rooms and Open Doors: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1933-1935 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- The Flower and the Nettle: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1936-1939 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh