Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Atlantic Crossings

On May 20, 1927, at 7:53 in the morning, Charles Lindbergh took off from an airfield on Long Island, New York, headed east. He was alone, except for 450 gallons of gasoline, a Wright Whirlwind J-5C radial engine, coffee and sandwiches. The fabric-covered Spirit of St. Louis had no radio, no navigation equipment and no forward window for him to see where he was going. Lindbergh was 25. The flight to Paris took him 33 1/2 hours. When he arrived at Le Bourget Field he was greeted by a crowd estimated at 150,000 people. He was very tired, but he was suddenly the most famous man in the world and would remain so for many years. Lindbergh appears seven times in A Book of Ages.

May 20th is also the birthday of the actor James Stewart, who played Charles Lindbergh in the film The Spirit of St. Louis. He was born in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a hardware store. Stewart also appears seven times in A Book of Ages.

Christopher Columbus died, largely forgotten, on May 20th, 1506. He was 54. He'd crossed the Atlantic in 1492, landing in the Bahamas, but he died still believing he had reached the coast of Asia, unaware or not believing that he had discovered (or actually rediscovered) a new continent. A few months after his death a mapmaker in France named the New World after somebody else. Columbus appears twice in A Book of Ages.

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