Lindbergh historic site is a treasure

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Charles A. Lindbergh was a trailblazer and a risk-taker.

Charles Lindbergh participated in Mayo's aviation research program during World War II.

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Charles A. Lindbergh was a trailblazer and a risk-taker.

The Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls shares his life and legacy.

Lindbergh is best known for his historic transatlantic flight in 1927. However, most folks don't know he grew up on a 110-acre dairy farm and attended Little Falls High School. In fact, Lindbergh left high school to earn academic credit by running the farm during World War I.

"Charles wrote that World War I rescued him because he thought he was going to flunk," said Historic Site Manager Melissa Peterson. She laughed and added, "His grades weren't that terrible."

Peterson noted Lindbergh's farm duties involved mechanizing the farm and adapting horse-drawn equipment to work with the new tractor, which saved the family from having to buy new equipment. He also tried his hand at selling Empire Milking Company milk machines.


That career path didn't work out.

"The only one he ever sold was to himself, nobody else was taking his sales pitch," Peterson said.

Visitors to the historic site can see milking equipment and sketches of the tractor Lindbergh used. Also, they can go on a guided tour of the childhood home. Every first and third Saturday in June, July and August and on Labor Day, visitors can experience "Living History: Meet the Lindberghs." During these events, tours will be hosted by guides wearing costumes.

Lindbergh left the farm in 1920 to pursue his education at the University of Wisconsin but quickly left to study aviation and become a mail pilot. During this time, he learned of the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first pilot to make a transatlantic flight.

Lindbergh had heard a pilot had crashed. Instead of deterring the 25-year-old Lindbergh, it inspired him to try his hand at the journey.

"Lindbergh had a very different philosophy," Peterson said, when it came to designing an aircraft to make the trip. She called his plane "a flying gas tank."

The visitor center at the Charles Lindbergh Historic Site includes a full-sized replica of his transatlantic aircraft, The Spirit of St. Louis. Visitors can sit inside and experience a flight simulator with three sequences, including a simulation of what it was like for Lindbergh to fly through an ice storm.

The visitor center spans two floors with exhibits that show the history of his life. Other features at the center range from a short documentary played in a 1920s-style theater to the 1959 Volkswagen Beetle Lindbergh left after his last visit.


"As far as I can tell, there is no other museum in the nation that is trying to cover the totality of Lindbergh's life like we do," Peterson said. After his early years on the farm and his historic flight, Lindbergh stayed in the limelight for reasons both good and bad. The visitor center collection doesn't shy away from the infamous kidnapping of Lindbergh's child or his controversial pro-German stances during World War II. It also shares in his triumph as he helped to create a perfusion pump that aids in keeping organs alive for transplant.

Peterson said through her work, she wants to inspire young people to dream big, perhaps as big as a farm kid from the middle of Minnesota.

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