When Charles A. Lindbergh flew from Long Island to France in 1927—the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic—he became an international sensation. His fame intensified five years later when his infant son was kidnapped and eventually killed in what came to be known as “the crime of the century.” The rise of mass media coupled with Lindbergh's shrewd maneuvers helped created a bona fide modern celebrity. Who better to parse through the myth with a clear, unbiased eye than John Lardner, who weighed in on “The Lindbergh Legends” with this long profile in 1949. Originally published in The Aspirin Age and featured here with permission, please enjoy Lardner's classic account of one of the Jazz Age's superstars.
In May 1927, a slim, comely man of 25 years flew an airplane from New York to Paris all by himself, without stopping. His performance was instantly recognized as the climactic stunt of a time of marvelous stunts, of an epoch of noise, hero worship, and the sort of “individualism” which seems to have meant that people were not disposed to look at themselves and their lives, in general, and therefore ran gaping and thirsty to look at anything done by one man or woman that was special and apart from the life they knew. The farther the hero went—whether he went upward, downward, sideways, through air, land, or water, or hand over hand on a flagpole—the better, provided he went alone.