Lindbergh, baby

Charles Lindbergh flies over Keene’s Central Square in the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 as admirers wave from the roof of the Cheshire House.

On the morning of July 27, 1927, the faint sound of an engine was heard in the sky above Keene. The sound grew louder, and a small airplane appeared over the city.

The plane circled above Keene several times and then, at 11:10 a.m., Charles A. Lindbergh reached out of the Spirit of St. Louis and dropped a large parchment down into the city. Lindbergh then flew out of sight. John Rule of Keene picked up the document, a greeting to the city, and presented it to city officials.

Lindbergh had made his famous solo flight from New York to Paris two months earlier. He became a national hero and soon undertook a promotional tour to encourage commercial aviation. On July 20, he began a three-month, 22,350-mile tour of the United States in the Spirit on behalf of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. During the tour, the aviator visited 82 cities in all 48 states, delivered 147 speeches, rode in dozens of parades and was seen by more than 30 million Americans.

Lindbergh had landed in Concord on July 25 and gone on to Springfield, Vt., the next day. Leaving the Springfield airport on the morning of July 27, Lindbergh flew over President Calvin Coolidge’s hometown of Plymouth, Vt., then headed toward Keene. Keene did not have an airport in 1927, and Lindbergh’s fly-by and hand-delivered greetings were the extent of his visit to Keene during the tour.

The large document that Lindbergh signed and dropped onto Central Square still survives. A portion of the greeting reads as follows: “To the city of Keene. We wish to send you this greeting from the air to express our sincere appreciation of your interest in the tour and in the promotion and expansion of commercial aeronautics in the United States.”

The Spirit tour went west from Keene, circling over Brattleboro and Bennington, Vt., before crossing into New York state and ending the day in Albany. From there, Lindbergh continued his marathon national tour, arriving back in New Jersey in late October.

Lindbergh’s solo flight and visit to Keene undoubtedly fueled the dreams of several Keene residents who were already interested in aviation. Keene’s first airport was opened 14 months later, in September of 1928.

Alan F. Rumrill is executive director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, which has been collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the region since 1927. It’s on Main Street. To learn more about its public programs and collections, visit hsccnh.org.