Eighty-seven years ago today, Charles Lindbergh, age 25, landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris, 33 and 1/2 hours after taking off from New York City–the first nonstop, solo flight across the Atlantic.
A few weeks later, Lindbergh–now the world’s most famous man, hero to adoring millions– moved into the Long Island mansion of aviation enthusiast Harry Guggenheim in order to have the privacy and focus that would allow him to write a book about his feat. The move was something of a last-minute decision. A manuscript for the book, which would eventually be called simply “We” (always written with the quote marks), had actually already been produced, start to finish, by a ghostwriter, New York Times reporter Carlyle MacDonald (sometimes spelled Carlisle) who had accompanied the aviator on his trip back from Paris to America on a specially dispatched American destroyer. “Lindbergh” (almost surely all MacDonald) had been by-lining daily stories starting just a few days after the landing in Paris. For the man who was responsible for bringing out the book, publisher George Palmer Putnam (who would later become the spouse of aviatrix Amelia Earhart), the surest solution to his problem was to continue the relationship with MacDonald. Lindbergh was handed–not a manuscript, but the entire book set in galleys, and was expected to sign off on it. After going over it for a few days, he got exasperated and rejected the whole idea, and pledged to deliver his own manuscript on a tight deadline.
The cramming session at “Falaise” (the Guggenheims’ French medieval-style “cottage”) was concocted. The photo here is of the relatively tiny room where Lindbergh holed up and wrote “We,” all day, every day, for just about three weeks. Lindbergh’s manuscript, along with the ghostwriter’s galleys, are in the collections of the Missouri Historical Society.