What is it about the Lindbergh case that so fascinates us, almost ninety years later? And what was it about this drama that caused such a media circus at the time?
Mark Falzini, Archivist at the New Jersey State Police Museum, wrote about this enduring mystery in his 2006 report, “Studying the Lindbergh Case: A Guide to the Files and Resources Available at the New Jersey State Police Museum”:
Bruno Richard Hauptmann [who was convicted for the murder] was executed in Trenton, New Jersey on April 3, 1936. Just prior to his execution, Hauptmann declared that “They think when I die, the case will die. They think it will be like a book I close. But the book, it will never close.
== View the Lindbergh Case Resource Guide (PDF) ==
If you want to dig deeper into the Lindbergh Story, the NJSP Museum has an amazing breadth of collections, as detailed in Falzini’s report, including original investigation files, correspondence, newspapers, trial transcripts, audio interviews, news and documentary videos, photos, FBI files, and numerous file collections including from police, government, and legal personnel.
The 40-page document also contains an introduction to the Lindbergh case, research advice and tools, and an extensive survey of the many books on the case.
As Falzini notes, the interest in the case had not diminished at the time of his report:
Over seventy years later, interest in the Lindbergh Case is greater than ever. On October 9, 1981 the Governor of New Jersey, Brendan Byrne, issued an executive order in which he declared that all of the files pertaining to the Lindbergh Case held by the New Jersey State Police were historical in nature and thereby available to the public for research. With that, the floodgates were opened.
And he puts the sensational media focus on this “crime of the century” into the perspective of its time:
The kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. and the ensuing investigation occurred during the height of the Great Depression that began when the stock market came crashing down on October 29, 1929. With millions of Americans out of work anything that could serve as a distraction from their plight was most welcome. This was the era of the great detective magazines … [which] led to the growing trend of “armchair detectives”. These “detectives” were eager to contribute their time and talents to the investigation of the Lindbergh Kidnapping. Thousands of letters were sent to the police and FBI offering opinions and suggestions on how to best solve the crime.
Thanks to Mark Falzini for kindly sharing this Resource Guide, which also nicely sums up the way the case lingers in our collective memory:
The Lindbergh Case is riddled with contradictions and unanswered questions. It is truly America’s “soap opera”, complete with a cast of characters and happenings worthy of Peyton Place. Illegal aliens, alcoholics, con men, money launderers, the rich and famous, the police and mafia, suicides, promiscuousness, lies and deceit, kidnapping and murder.
See the companion post on the 1932 Hopewell Phone Directory, with local businesses and numbers for all the newspapers in residence.