May, 21 1927 Charles Lindbergh touched down in his custom Ryan monoplane at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The flight lasted over 33 hours, and he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of 100,000.

The image on the left with an atmospheric print showing the Spirit of St. Louis flying over the Atlantic is inscribed by Donald A. Hall - a pioneering aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer who designed the Ryan NYP (known commonly as The Spirit of St. Louis) in only sixty days.

May 21, 1927

Charles Lindbergh Completes First Solo Transatlantic Flight

Fighting fog, icing, and sleep deprivation, Charles A. Lindbergh becomes the first aviator to make a solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight.

Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis” took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York on May 20 and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris 33 hours and 30 minutes later.

He covered a distance of 3,610 miles. By making the flight, Lindbergh collected a $25,000 purse that had been offered by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig.

Read the entire timeline of Lindbergh’s flight here.


May 21,1927 – Charles Lindbergh touches down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

1.  View of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh on platform, during his visit to Detroit, Michigan as part of the 1927 Guggenheim goodwill tour. “Welcome, Lindbergh” sign is displayed overhead. The event took place at Northwestern Field. To promote aviation, Lindbergh visited 48 states and 82 cities during a three-month period. Handwritten on back: “Lindbergh, Charles A. Visit to Detroit, 1927. Northwestern Field, Aug. 10, 1927." 

2.  View of the birthplace of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh in Detroit, Michigan, located at 1120 W. Forest Avenue. Two-story Richardsonian Romanesque house has turret and covered entry porch. Label on back: "John A. Wiederhold, 3861 Rohns Ave., Detroit, Mich. When Col. Charles A. Lindbergh was born in the above house at 1120 W. Forest Ave., Detroit, the event passed almost unnoticed. Now, however, the entire world is awaiting the arrival of a new Lindberg [sic], heir of the Colonel; amid a different setting." 

  • Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Today in 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo airplane crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 33.5 hours.

That same year, Pan American World Airways, Inc. began its services when the airline, founded by Juan Trippe, chartered a small seaplane to carry mail from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba.

A few months later, in January 1928, Pan Am took its first fare-paying passengers over this route, a journey of 90 miles that lasted one hour and ten minutes. The same year, Trippe engaged the services of Charles A. Lindbergh and the famed American aviator served as a technical advisor on Pan Am’s Board of Directors for the next 41 years.

From its founding in 1927 through its closing in 1991, Pan Am was a pioneer in the development of aviation equipment, air routes, commercial passenger service, navigation techniques, and communication systems.

The University of Miami holds the airline’s archives, some 1500 boxes of administrative, legal, financial, technical, and promotional materials as well as internal publications, photographs, audiovisual material and graphic material form this vast resource.

Recently, National Historical Publications and Records Commission (part of the National Archives) funded a project to catalog this material.

Image: Photograph of Charles Lindbergh and The Spirit of St. Louis after Landing in Paris, 1927. National Archives.

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background, 1927
The Spirit of St. Louis (Registration: N-X-211) is the custom-built, single engine, single-seat monoplane that was flown solo by Charles Lindbergh on May 20–21, 1927, on the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris for which Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize. Lindbergh took off in the Spirit from Roosevelt Airfield, Garden City (Long Island), New York and landed 33 hours, 30 minutes later at Aéroport Le Bourget in Paris, France, a distance of approximately 3,600 miles (5,800 km.).


The Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office recently 3D scanned three Milestones of Flight Aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum - Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, SpaceShipOne. Look for these models soon on http://3d.si.edu for viewing and download! 

“Johnston’s Branch Adjoining Saloon, St. Louis, Missouri, 5/1910″

From the series: National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912 - ca. 1912

Taken by investigative photographer Lewis Hine 105 years ago this month, this photograph is one of a series of black-and-white prints given to the Children’s Bureau by the National Child Labor Committee.  

See this photograph on display and learn more about the U.S. Government’s changing approach towards alcohol at the newest exhibit at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC: Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History

This Day in History: May 21

In 1832, the first Democratic National Convention began in Baltimore. The delegates endorsed President Andrew Jackson for reelection, which he won later that year. The last president nominated in Baltimore was Woodrow Wilson during 1912’s convention at the Fifth Regiment Armory (above). (Brown Bros., handout photo)

1844: Artist Henri Rousseau was born in Laval, France.

1881: Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

1927: Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis near Paris, completing the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

1956: The United States exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

Compiled by Laura Lefavor and Paul McCardell.


Photogrammetry dance party with the Spirit of Saint Louis

Lindbergh Artifacts

When Charles Lindbergh succeeded in becoming the first pilot to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic on May 21, 1927, he became the “American Hero” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Tall, handsome and soft-spoken, he certainly made a great impression; but it was his bold belief in the abilities of modern aircraft—especially in terms of safety and reliability—that really made him successful. Lindbergh made the 33-hour flight without an autopilot of any kind, and to save weight (and fuel), he decided against floats, multiple engines, radios, or a copilot (to qualify for the Orteig Prize award he was not required to fly solo). Believe it or not, Charles Lindbergh flew that first non-stop flight from New York to Paris without the use of a front windshield! When he wanted to see forward he would slightly bank the plane and look out the side window. To provide some forward vision as a precaution against hitting ship masts, trees, or structures while flying at low altitude he used a periscope device.

The artifacts you see are the actual goggles he wore on his flight across the Atlantic, and the Medal of Honor that was awarded to him in 1927 “for displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane.” For a good look at the technology of the day—including that periscope sticking out the left side of Lindy’s plane—go back and study our beautiful “Spirit of St. Louis” replica and Lindbergh display in our entrance Rotunda.  


Impressions from Washington D.C. 

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, “the District”, or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country’s East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state.
The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia. The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are in the District, including the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.
Various tribes of the Algonquian-speaking Piscataway people (also known as the Conoy) inhabited the lands around the Potomac River when Europeans first visited the area in the early 17th century. One group known as the Nacotchtank (also called the Nacostines by Catholic missionaries) maintained settlements around the Anacostia River within the present-day District of Columbia. Conflicts with European colonists and neighboring tribes forced the relocation of the Piscataway people, some of whom established a new settlement in 1699 near Point of Rocks, Maryland. On August 24–25, 1814, in a raid known as the Burning of Washington, British forces invaded the capital during the War of 1812. The Capitol, Treasury, and White House were burned and gutted during the attack.