Charles Lindbergh Atlantic Flight Invoice from New York Times
Half-page invoice entitled "Lindbergh Atlantic Flight" typed on watermarked cream paper. Issued from the Auditing Department of the New York Times on February 8, 1928. In good to very good condition, with expected folds and wrinkles. A few paper clip ghost impressions and chipped edges. Measures 8.5" x 5.5".
Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974), a rather nondescript Midwestern air mail carrier, became an overnight celebrity after his record-breaking solo non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris on May 20-21, 1927. During the 33.5-hour-long journey, "Lucky Lindy" traveled over 3,600 miles aboard the Spirit of St. Louis, braving fog, ice, and fatigue.
This 4-column invoice shows that, sometime after his famous flight, the New York Times negotiated a $35,000 contract with Charles Lindbergh. The invoice's 8 entries itemize such expenses as "Payment to Lindbergh guaranteed by contract," "Balance distributed to Lindbergh," and "Total Payment to Lindbergh." Lindbergh was paid a total of $53,151.84, reflecting his $35,000 contract as well as a percentage of the paper's domestic and foreign sales. This sum, which equals 3/4 million dollars in 2018 money, was 30% more than the original prize Lindbergh received for making his New York-Paris flight!
Lindbergh had been just one of several aviators vying for the Orteig Prize, named after the New York hotelier Raymond Orteig, who offered a $25,000 cash prize to the first pilot to cross the Atlantic under specific parameters. Lindbergh had approached at least one news agency, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to help finance his flight back in Missouri. But Lindbergh's chance of success was so unlikely that no news agency had agreed to fund him in return for a scoop.
On May 21, 1927, Lindbergh's plane at Paris's Le Bourget Aerodrome was swarmed by news reporters desperate to secure an exclusive. Two New York Times correspondents, Edwin L. James and J. Carlisle Macdonald, assured their readers that they had been first in line. In his May 22, 1927 article "Lindbergh Does It!," James reported that "A New York Times man was one of the first to reach the machine [the Spirit of St. Louis] after its graceful descent to the field." Macdonald reported in "Could Have Gone 500 Miles Farther," published May 22, 1927, that "The New York Times correspondent [was] first to greet him" while Lindbergh recuperated at the American embassy. Clearly, then, the New York Times was caught off guard by Lindbergh's initial success, but its reporters wasted no time jockeying for subsequent first position.
Lindbergh completed several publicity tours once he returned to the United States. Between July 20-October 23, 1927, Lindbergh conducted an exhausting 82-city tour of the contiguous United States. His "Good Will Tour" through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean started in mid-December and wrapped up on February 8, 1928, the very day this invoice was issued. It's more than likely that Lindbergh's $35,000 New York Times contract covered one or more of these publicity tours.
Lindbergh became an aviation consultant for Pan American World Airways in 1928; his relationship with the airline would continue until after World War II. Between 1929-1931, Lindbergh partnered with Pan-American developing flight routes and negotiating landing rights in the Arctic Circle, Caribbean, and Latin America. He helped found what would later become TWA in 1929, and legitimized the nascent American airline industry by developing rules and regs and even conducting publicity campaigns. In the 1930s, Lindbergh traveled around the world evaluating air power capabilities. Later, Lindbergh worked with Longines Watch Company to produce a navigation-friendly pilot's watch, and even invented a glass heart pump that facilitated heart surgery!
Edwin L. James (1890-1951) covered World War I for the New York Times, eventually becoming their chief European correspondent. Between 1932-1951, James was the paper's managing editor.
J. Carlisle Macdonald (1894-1974) served as the New York Times Paris correspondent. He covered Lindbergh's New York-Paris flight, his brief tour of Belgium and the United Kingdom, and his American return.
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