From the museum archives: Lindbergh buzzes Craig
On a sleepy Saturday morning in 1927, all indications were for calling for a typical day in downtown Craig, but something fantastic was fast approaching from the east.
Suddenly materializing out of the sky, a plane buzzed downtown and startled everybody into the middle of Yampa Avenue. Thirteen years earlier, almost to the day, Northwest Colorado was astonished with its first glimpse of an airplane in flight. There was something equally special about the one now overhead.
The plane made a hard U-turn and realigned itself for another swoop, this time a little lower. On this pass, a few astute observers noticed the number N-X-211 printed underneath the wings. This had recently become a hallowed number. Speculation was now rampant, and a frantic phone call was made to the Rocky Mountain News in hopes of confirming what most were already speculating. On the next pass, this time nearly clipping the rooftops, the plane suddenly made a hard bank directly above the crowd.
There it was. Plain as day. “Spirit of St. Louis” was neatly inscribed directly in front of the cockpit. The most famous person in the entire world was situated mere feet above the town of Craig.
Just four months earlier, nobody had ever heard of 25-year-old Charles A. Lindbergh. But on May 21, 1927, the entire world awoke to headlines proclaiming “LINDBERGH DOES IT!” and “WORLD HERO” after he became the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a “landing on the moon” moment. When he touched-down in Paris after leaving New York 33.5 hours earlier, he was greeted by an estimated 150,000 cheering Parisians gathered to witness history.
Upon his return to the U.S., Lindbergh was given a ticker tape parade in New York City with an estimated four million in attendance. He was even awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. One reporter observed that people were “… behaving as though Lindbergh had walked on water, not flown over it.” Lindbergh’s feat had swung open the door to the viability and acceptance of air travel. Transportation would never be the same.
And now, here he was, a man of near-mythical proportions waving down at the people gathered on Craig’s Yampa Avenue.
Lindbergh had just published a book detailing his record flight and was on an 82-city promotional tour in all 48 states. He had just left Cheyenne that morning en route to Salt Lake City.
On Lindbergh’s sixth pass over downtown Craig he held out his hand and dropped something. It floated slowly towards the earth and landed in front of Craig National Bank (today’s Victory Vision). It was a message from Lindbergh, hand-addressed to “City of Craig” explaining that, while he regretted he couldn’t land at every city, he was thankful for the support of his tour. Underneath the letter, signed by the legend himself, was the name Charles A. Lindbergh.
This amazing artifact still exists and is now on display in the Museum of Northwest Colorado in downtown Craig. It is generously on loan from the Moffat County Library.
Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. This article originally appeared as a “Museum Monday” post on the museum’s Facebook page. To learn more about Charles A. Lindbergh, as well as other stories and artifacts from our area’s rich Western history, drop by the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 590 Yampa Ave., or visit the museum’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MuseumNorthwestColorado.
This week’s picture book for children was written and illustrated by David Litchfield who lives in the United Kingdom. “The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle” is a sequel to “The Bear and the Piano,” a best-selling picture book.