Lindy’s quest for privacy on the Maine coast
Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927. The handsome 25 year-old air mail pilot and his single engine monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, became world-famous, overnight. Along with fame came public adoration and the omnipresent paparazzi… even in remote Maine waters.
“Lindy” – as the press had nicknamed him- was already overwhelmed by all the attention when he flew to Maine two months after his record-breaking flight. A man had been killed by an unruly crowd during his public appearance on the Boston Common, July 22, 1927. The tragedy was fresh in his mind as thousands gathered to see him land his famous monoplane at Scarborough Airport. Pea-soup fog obscured the runway for two days and the pilot was finally forced to land at the less secure Old Orchard Beach airstrip. After dutifully fulfilling several promotional obligations to massive crowds in Maine, the pilot made his way back to his plane at Old Orchard Beach. There he found another mob pressing up against the Spirit of St. Louis as he tried to take off.
When Lindy asked Ann Morrow to marry him in 1929 the whole world speculated about the details of their nuptial plans. Rumor had it that the Lindbergh wedding would take place in late June at the Morrow summer cottage in North Haven, Maine. One Monday afternoon in late May, a small group of family and friends were invited to attend a charity event hosted by the bride’s mother at her Englewood, NJ home. After lunch, they were surprised to discover that they were all guests at a wedding. The understated affair was over in a flash. Ann wore a simple dress and carried a handful of larkspur that the groom had picked from his in-law’s backyard.
By the time the press got wind of the secret marriage the couple had slipped away on a 38-foot honeymoon yacht Lindy had purchased a week earlier. The owner of Elco Boatworks in Bayonne, NJ, resisted the free publicity as long as his professional ambitions would allow but finally gave reporters a very detailed description of the aviator’s new yacht, the “Mouette”.
The honeymooners were tracked from New London, Ct to Provincetown, MA by land, sea and air. In an effort to thwart positive identification the Lindberghs broke marine law by covering the name of the vessel with a piece of canvas. Newspapers all over the world carried a daily account of the little boat’s movements.
They were spotted off Isle of Shoals on June 6th by two New York press planes. The next day the Mouette tied up for gas and provisions at Hartley Philbrick’s fish wharf in York, Maine. Try as he might, Hartley could not engage Mr. Lindbergh in meaningful conversation. While they were loading supplies in relative silence, a 13 year old girl recognized Lindy and ran off to spread the word at the town’s high school graduation celebration. Within minutes, more than 100 people crowded onto Philbrick’s wharf to get a snapshot of the elusive aviator. Anne Lindbergh remained inside the cabin until the Mouette was safely offshore.
The boat put into Cape Porpoise Harbor and anchored very near Goat Island Light for the night. Melville Freeman wrote in his 1953 “History of Cape Porpoise” that residents of Cape Porpoise were unimpressed by Lindy’s visit and were completely discreet out of respect for his privacy. An article that first appeared in the Portsmouth Herald June 8, 1929, told a different story.
Captain Jim Anderson, keeper of the lighthouse, was offended that the little launch failed to answer his customary salute of three bells. He grabbed his powerful binoculars and was able to identify Lindy and Anne moving about the boat. Anderson called to his wife and children so that they might get a glimpse of the celebrities. The following morning, the lighthouse keeper revealed to a Portsmouth reporter that the honeymooners turned out their cabin light at 8:25 p.m.
Jack Seavey and John Martin rowed out to the Mouette under a cloak of darkness. They quietly made their way to the stern of the yacht and lifted the canvas that covered her name just as Lindbergh appeared on deck. Thinking quickly, the Kennebunkport boys claimed they were there to see if he needed assistance. After thanking them wryly for their kind offer, Lindy said if they wanted to help they could leave him alone. The boys left as requested but not before studying the woman silhouetted in the cabin door.
The Lindberghs left Cape Porpoise Harbor first thing the next morning and made their way up the coast to Cape Elizabeth, Pemaquid Point, Rockland, and Swan’s Island. Everywhere they went they were greeted with prying eyes.
On June 13th, the honeymoon cruiser was spotted offshore near Old Orchard Beach. The Linberghs witnessed the lift off of aviators, Jean Assolant, Rene LeFevre and Ameno Lotti on the first French transatlantic flight. The tail of the plane “Yellow Bird” dipped perceptibly as she became airborne. Lindbergh and the rest of the world would later discover that Arthur Schreiber, 22 year old son of a Portland fur salesman, had stowed away on the French plane and was not discovered until some time after takeoff.
Later that afternoon, the Mouette tied up at Cape Porpoise Pier for two hours to get provisions and fuel for the trip back to New York.
When the Lindbergh’s first born son was kidnapped and tragically murdered in 1932, the press mercilessly dissected the family’s every moment of grief, driving them to move to England. Lindy lost public favor for his vocal opposition to American involvement in WWII but he changed his views after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and flew many celebrated combat missions in the Pacific Theater.