Charles A. Lindbergh arrival and reception in Washington D.C.
NBC radio broadcast
June 11, 1927
It was a triumph of the imagination. That’s the only way to explain the world’s reaction to Charles Lindbergh’s successful solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Such raucous celebrations and wild hero-worship had not been seen before and would not be matched later, even by the reception for the returning Apollo astronauts. Everyone loved Lucky Lindy.
He was not the first to cross the Atlantic in a plane; two men had accomplished that feat eight years earlier. But he was the first to do so as an embodiment of the American hero – young, solo, cocky, with a head for gadgets. He was a typical fresh-faced America boy, no cynical professional but an idealist with a dream, and the means and will to make it happen. He was the new continent go-get-‘em spirit personified.
Lindbergh in his monoplane The Spirit of St. Louis took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island on May 20, 1927. He landed at Le Bourget Field outside of Paris 33 hours and 30 minutes later. An excited crowd of 150,000 was present to greet him. Unwieldy crowds flocked to see him in Belgium and Britain. Finally, he sailed back with his plane to Washington, D.C.
There thousands more watched him proceed in a parade from the Navy Yard to the Washington Monument, where President Coolidge made a speech and presented Lindbergh with the Distinguished Flying Cross.
NBC turned the event into one the entire country could witness. The radio network set up microphones at three stages along the route, and excited reporters, chaired by veteran broadcaster Graham McNamee, covered the progress live.
The primary importance of this entry is not in its content, which was not recorded, but in its use of technology. Never before had there been nationwide, real-time coverage of a historical event (manufactured an event as it was). Radio was nimble; it could provide reports from anywhere. It would soon become a dominant medium.