Lindbergh and the first Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua

Researching the way Lindbergh was depicted in editorial cartoons in the 1920s, I ran across this terrific website prepared by Michael Schroeder, professor of history at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, about the Sandino Revolution in Nicaragua.

One section of the website– “AirToons”-– is a gallery of editorial cartoons, mostly from US newspapers, criticizing the air war conducted by US armed forces in 1927 and 1928 against the rebels in Nicaragua, led by Augusto Sandino.   Many of the cartoons reference Lindbergh, usually in an ironic way, drawing a contrast between the uplifting “aviation achievements” he represented and the gruesome destructive power of aerial bombardment of rebel-held towns by US Marine aircraft.  [The cartoon here is from the Louisville Courier-Journal, 21 July 1927, and is entitled “Another American Aviation Achievement,” and refers to the Marine aerial bombing of Ocotal days earlier.  The sign at the bottom says: “200 Nicaraguans Killed.”]

Charles Lindbergh actually visited Nicaragua at the height of the rebellion in January 1928 as part of his “Goodwill Tour” of Central America and the Caribbean.  The “aerial diplomacy” tour was a public-relations extravaganza conceived by the American ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow, in the wake of the ecstatic welcome Lindbergh, flying the Spirit of St. Louis, had received during his August-September 1927 tour of all 48 states.  (Morrow was the father of Anne Spencer Morrow, who met Lindbergh during his sojourn to Mexico CIty, and later became his bride.)

In this cartoon, from the January 6, 1928, edition of the Detroit News, a US Marine is telling a “Nicaraguan citizen” who is fleeing in terror from an approaching airplane, that “Lindy doesn’t carry bombs.”

“Plane Crazy”– Mickey Mouse meets Charles Lindbergh

“Plane Crazy” is the first animated cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse.  It was released as a silent film in May 1928, but was quickly withdrawn.   Sound and music were later added, and it was re-released, but by this time three other Mickey Mouse cartoons had been completed and released, including the famous “Steamboat Willie,” officially considered Mickey’s “debut.”

Much of American society was, indeed, going crazy for aviation in 1927 and 1928.  Lindbergh’s New York-Paris flight in the Spirit of St. Louis on May 20-21, 1927 was, in a way, symptomatic of this rush of enthusiasm as it was to become the cause of so much more of it, rather immediately in fact.

The Mickey Mouse cartoon, produced and animated by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney (who was, coincidentally, just two months older than Charles Lindbergh), depicts an impish Mickey building and flying his own plane.  He uses a big manual called “How to Fly,” which features a full-page portrait of his hero, “Lindy.”  Mickey even tousles his hair (mouse fur?) to look more like Lindy.  Very quickly it becomes clear that Mickey expects the plane to be a babe magnet; he soon entices a girl mouse (whose name we will come to know later as Minnie) into flying with him and even kissing him.  Quite risqué.

Watch the whole six-minute cartoon here:

Ticker-tape parade for NY Giants– and Lindbergh

The Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants will be greeted by a ticker-tape parade through what is invariably called the “canyons” of New York City.  These days, the “ticker-tape” is actually tons of confetti manufactured for the occasion (probably in China).

Charles Lindbergh, of course, received a famously extravagant New York welcome in June 1927, including a ticker-tape parade through the city, while sitting in an open convertible, accompanied by the city’s flashy major-domo, Grover Whalen.  The photo on the header of this blog is from that moment.

Lindbergh’s was not the first such parade– that honor belongs to General John Pershing and the US troops home from the Great War, who paraded in 1919.  Lindbergh’s parade was reputed to have attracted a million people (and quite a few horses, it appears)–far more, certainly, than the number who turned out the year before for English Channel swimmer Gertrude Ederle, or those who showed up in later decades for Albert Einstein or Van Cliburn.  

Here’s a clip from the Lindbergh parade:

Dale Evans, “Angel Unaware,” 1953

You’re probably wondering why this blog about Charles Lindbergh has a post with that headline up there.  Let me tell you:  In 1953, six of the top ten non-fiction bestsellers in the United States were books with an overtly religious or spiritual theme.  One of them was Angel Unaware, an enormous success for country singer, movie star, and TV cowgirl Dale Evans, then at the peak of her TV-land popularity, shared with her husband and co-star, Roy Rogers.  The presence of so much religious feeling in the popular literary sphere in 1953 provides one of the contexts for assessing the impact of Lindbergh’s thrilling memoir/adventure story, The Spirit of St. Louis, which was also on that list of top ten books that year.  The Spirit of St. Louis was, in its way, another book of popular spirituality, a successor volume, in fact, to Lindbergh’s intensely meditative bestseller, Of Flight and Life (1946).   More on both of those, and more on the 1953 religious book boom, another time.

But now, what about Dale Evans?  Her 1953 book was–and still is–widely hailed as a breakthrough in public acceptance and understanding of children with mental disabilities. The “angel” of the title is Robin, the only biological child of Roy and Dale, born in 1950 with Down syndrome (“Mongoloid” or “retarded” in the parlance of the day), who died after a bout with the mumps in 1952.  Evans states clearly at the outset:  “Both Roy and I are grateful to God for the privilege of learning some great lessons from his tiny messenger,” and the rest of the book is suffused with Christian devotion.

I, too, was born in 1950, and as long as I can remember– say, from about 1954 on– I knew about (and idolized) Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  I vaguely remember hearing about the Rogers’ family tragedies, unspecified at the time, but now I know.

One more Lindbergh-Dale Evans connection, though it’s not with Charles.  Dale Evans Rogers and Anne Morrow Lindbergh died on the same day, February 7, 2001.  Obituaries for both ran side-by-side the next day.  William Powers, writing in The National Journal, called attention to the pairing:

Dale Evans and Anne Morrow Lindbergh met all the requirements for obit nirvana. Each had been a cultural deity, and each lived to such an advanced age—Evans was 88, Lindbergh 94—that younger readers had but a faint (if any) awareness of them. Evans was “the Queen of the West,” as most of the obits noted. And Lindbergh was, in a way, the Queen of the East—the embodiment of an ideal to which a certain kind of elite East Coast woman aspired during the 20th century. Her 1929 marriage to Charles Lindbergh was the lead story on the front page of The New York Times. Later, she wrote a presciently feminist book, Gift from the Sea, which spent 47 weeks at the top of The Times‘ nonfiction best-seller list. 

Both women’s stories had built-in dramatic tension. They owed their success partly to their marriages, yet both were so talented on their own that the marriages seemed to rob them of full credit. The Lindberghs were global celebrities who hated fame; the kidnapping and murder of their eldest child was the original media shark feast. Known as a singer and a cowgirl actress, Dale Evans wound up wishing she’d found her second career—Christian evangelism—before the first.