Nation Mourns: Charles Lindbergh’s Kidnapped Son Found Dead
In what the press called the “Crime of the Century,” the murdered infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was found in the woods near Hopewell, New Jersey, on May 12, 1932. The body was discovered just a few miles from the Lindbergh’s home. The 20-month-old infant had been kidnapped from the second-story nursery of his parents’ home 10 weeks prior, sparking a nationwide search and causing worldwide expressions of concern.
The outpouring of support for Lindbergh and his wife was an expression of the admiration and high esteem the aviator earned when he electrified the world on May 20-21, 1927, by completing the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The obscure U.S. Air Mail pilot was catapulted to hero status, feted with parades and speeches, and awarded the Medal of Honor for his historic flight.
With the passage of time, few people now remember how shocked and upset the world was when little Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was kidnapped. His abduction, and the frantic 10-week search for the boy, made continuous front-page news. The Lindberghs made public appeals, paid a $50,000 ransom, and acknowledged enlisting the aid of underworld figures to get their infant son back. Church congregations throughout the nation prayed for the boy’s safe return. All to no avail.
By tracing some of the Gold certificates used to pay the ransom, authorities eventually arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann in the Bronx, New York, on Sept. 19, 1934. Hauptmann was found guilty of kidnapping, extortion and first-degree murder, despite his insistence that he was innocent. He was electrocuted on April 3, 1936.
The following newspaper articles give details of the discovery of the murdered infant. They also dramatize how the entire public was caught up in concern over the Lindbergh’s plight, and absolutely devastated by news the boy had been killed.
These copyrighted articles were all printed in the “Sixth Lindbergh Extra” edition of The Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington) on May 12, 1932:
Sixth Lindbergh Extra
Tot Dead 2 Months
2 Blows on Skull Killed Lindy’s Baby
By United Press.
Hopewell, N.J., Thursday, May 12.—Baby Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., probably was murdered by his abductors the night of the kidnapping.
This belief was expressed by police tonight after Coroner Charles H. Mitchell’s autopsy. The proximity of the body’s place of concealment led to the theory the baby had been killed as the kidnappers were fleeing from the Lindbergh home.
By Associated Press.
Hopewell, N.J., Thursday, May 12.—The kidnapped son of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh was found murdered at 3:15 this afternoon at Mount Rose, N.J., near the Sourland Mountain estate from which he was stolen the night of March 1. Two tremendous blows on the head ended the baby’s life, said the autopsy report of County Physician Charles E. Mitchell. One of the blows left a hole in the head about the size of a quarter. No weapon was found.
The tragic end to a worldwide search for the baby came with an announcement by Col. Norman Schwarzkopf, state police head, that the body had been found in the brush along the road from Trenton, N.J., by William Allen and Orville Wilson, who were driving along the highway with a load of lumber. The child apparently had been dead for a considerable time.
The body was identified by the discovery of a flannel undershirt and band which compared with clothing worn by the child on the night of the kidnapping.
The baby was lying on his face, indicating that attempts had been made to conceal or bury it. The body was taken to the flyer’s home, where Colonel Lindbergh completed the identification.
Colonel Schwarzkopf tonight issued the following emergency bulletin:
“A preliminary telephone report from the county physician indicates that a number of positively identifying characteristics have been discovered in the body found today which would identify it as being the body of the Lindbergh baby.”
Reporters were directed to the Lindbergh garage and told to take seats at the long headquarters table. The first to arrive were those quartered in the village of Hopewell proper, and they were told they must wait for the newspaper men from Trenton. The latter were escorted to the estate by state police.
The formal police statement follows:
“We have to announce apparently the body of the Lindbergh baby was found at 3:15 p.m. William Allen, a Negro, was riding from Mount Rose, N.J., to Hopewell with Orville Wilson on a truckload of lumber. They stopped the truck near a woods. He, Allen, went into the woods on the Mount Rose Hill in Mount Rose, N.J. Going under the bush he lowered his head and as he raised a branch he saw a skeleton on the ground, and a person’s foot.
“He called back to Wilson who ran into the woods, saw what it was and decided to go to Hopewell to get police. They notified Chief Wolf of the Hopewell police, who notified these headquarters. Inspector Walsh of Jersey City, Sergeant Moffett of the Newark police, Lieutenant Keaton of the New Jersey state police and a number of other detectives immediately went to the scene.
“They reported finding the body of a child estimated to be between 1½ and 2 years old in a bad state of decomposition, having blond hair and wearing what appeared to be an undershirt and a flannel band around the body.
“The body was pretty well concealed by leaves, dirt and brush.
“Not satisfied with the identification the men sent back to Hopewell to the Lindbergh estate to get samples of the undershirt the baby wore and of the flannel shirt the baby had on the night of the kidnapping (March 1). This flannel shirt had an embroidered collar on it. These articles were taken back to the scene and were compared with the clothing found on the body and were matched closely enough to afford an identification of the body as that of the Lindbergh baby.
“The skull had a hole in it about the size of a 25-cent piece above the forehead. There apparently had been an attempt to bury the body face downward. It was in a bad state of decomposition. Mercer County coroner and the county physician were immediately called. The physician is Dr. Charles H. Mitchell. The coroner is Walter Swayze, both of Trenton.
“The body was found about seventy-five yards off the road in the woods.”
The statement was read to reporters by Colonel Schwarzkopf.
Charles Williamson, deputy police chief of Hopewell, said tonight that Orville Wilson and William Allen, who found the body, were remaining at police headquarters at the flyer’s estate to supply any details authorities might desire.
Second Statement Made
Later Schwarzkopf issued the following second statement:
“As long as there was a possibility of the baby being alive, the police have been acting with a certain amount of suppressed activity in order not to interfere with any negotiations that might result in the safe return of the baby.
“Now that the body of the baby had been found every possible effort will be used and all men necessary will immediately exercise every possible effort to accomplish the arrest of the kidnappers and murderers. We have had under suspicion a group of persons suspected of being the kidnappers and immediate steps will be taken and are being taken to accomplish their arrest.
“Emergency telephone lines for this case are lying on the ground where they were placed by telephone men within seventy-five feet of where the body was found.”
Colonel Lindbergh was not in evidence as the statement was read to reporters. Neither was Mrs. Lindbergh nor her mother, Mrs. Dwight Morrow, but both were understood to be in the residence.
Crowds Jam Streets for Times Extra
The Times Information Bureau was deluged with telephone calls on all its trunk lines within a few seconds after the first blast of The Times whistle announcing The Times extra, first to tell Seattle the news of the Lindbergh baby’s death.
The first copies of The Times extra left the building at 2:40 p.m. and many circulators had been sold out and had received new supplies of papers at 2:50 o’clock when the evening opposition paper received its first telegraph “flash” of the body’s discovery.
Newsboys, hurriedly assembled for the extra edition, were swamped by a suddenly-born traffic jam of automobiles attracted to The Times Building by the siren. The boys, arms full of extras, were unable to get away from the building until after three or four trips apiece for new stocks of papers.
Motorists Dash Up
Motorists would drive up, coins outstretched, and buy out the newsboys’ wares before they could get across the street.
Meanwhile fast trucks, piled high with Seattle’s first word of the tragic ending to the search for the Lindbergh child, were rushing the news to more distant parts of the city and to points north, south, east and west, where queues of persons were forming at newsstands.
Hundreds of persons, faces blanched by the sorrowful news, thronged Times Square, uptown, to stare at The Times bulletin board, placarded with the New Jersey dispatch. They literally tore papers from the fingers of the newsboys who came dashing into the Square.
Similar scenes on a smaller scale were enacted at virtually every street intersection where news vendors were swamped by demands for The Times’ exclusive news.
Chief George Comstock ordered all precinct stations notified by teletype, crediting The Times and the Associated Press with news of the discovery of the baby’s body as neighborhood police stations, too, were being deluged with telephone calls for news.
Meanwhile, the “machinery” of getting out an extra edition had functioned so swiftly that the “Extra! Extra!” calls of running newsboys soon carried the printed story of the kidnapping climax into every corner of the city.
Main 0-300 Gives Sad News to Seattle
‘Lindbergh Baby Is Dead!’ Repeat Girls of Times
At Rate of 2,000 Calls an Hour Exchange Operators Answer Calls as Entire Community Mourns Event
While hundreds of tiny lights flashed white on The Times switchboard this afternoon five sad voices chanted a dirge.
A dirge that no one of them will ever forget—
“The Lindbergh baby is dead,” they repeated over and over and over again. It seemed that all Seattle wanted to know. From Everett and Bellingham and Tacoma, too, the queries poured in.
At the rate of 2,000 an hour came the “Main 0300 Girls” answer to that same eager, apprehensive question, “What’s the news?”
Or sometimes it was worded, “Why did the whistle blow?”
And again, “Is it true about the Lindbergh baby?”
Followed always by a gasp, and by the futile protest, “Oh no!”
Sad Task Performed
Tears dampened both ends of the forty-two trunk lines that lead into The Times Information Bureau. Those who asked and those who answered were both crying. Only, of course, the Main 0300 Girls couldn’t let themselves cry very long. They had a whole city dependent on their voices. They couldn’t let their words be choked. They had to say what they so hated to say:
“The Lindbergh baby was found dead.”
News All Feared
Everyone wanted to know more.
Where had they found little Charles. What about his mother—and his father?
It was the news the whole world had feared, had prayed it would never be forced to hear. It was the news they guessed when The Times whistle blew intermittently for five minutes—Seattle’s first announcement of the tragic discovery.
And so from the moment the first dispatch arrived in the Associated Press office at The Times, the girls on the switchboard were prepared for the inevitable paralysis of their whole telephone system.
They were prepared—and yet they weren’t prepared.
The flood of calls far exceeded those that came in, five years ago this month, when the Lindbergh baby’s father landed in Le Bourget. It was the greatest response in the history of the exchange, which became Seattle’s official information bureau seventeen years ago.
Stacked Hundreds Deep
The switchboard girls’ fingers flew as fast as they could. They pushed at the rubber-tubed pluggers into the sockets where the lights flared one-after-one-after-one. But even then their boards remained alight. Calls were literally stacked hundreds deep—it would have taken a staff of 100 girls to catch up with them.
As for any calls being put through from The Times to the outside world—it wasn’t possible until long after the second and third extras had been sent out to enlighten the waiting city.
Not for an hour only was Main “Oh-Three-Hundred” the phrase on everyone’s tongue. The rush lasted far into the night. In a way it will last for days—until the last small detail of the dreadful crime has been set before a mourning public.
It was early afternoon when the dirge was begun.
“The Lindbergh baby was found—dead.”
Night came—and still—
“The Lindbergh baby was found—dead.”
Mother Bearing Up Well under Shock
By United Press.
Hopewell, N.J., Thursday, May 12.—Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf tonight said that although the finding of the body of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., had been a terrible shock to her, Mrs. Charles A. Lindbergh, the mother, was bearing up well.
By Associated Press.
Hopewell, N.J., Thursday, May 12.—A state policeman responding to telephone inquiries at the Lindbergh estate said Col. Charles A. Lindbergh was not there. He gave no information as to the colonel’s whereabouts.
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