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This Day in History

Kidnapped Lindbergh baby found dead The body of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh’s baby is found on this day in 1932, more than two months after he was kidnapped from his family’s Hopewell, New Jersey, mansion. Lindbergh, who became the first worldwide celebrity five years earlier when he flew The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note in their 20-month-old child’s empty room on March 1. The kidnapper had used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and had left muddy footprints in the room. The ransom note demanded $50,000 in barely literate English. The crime captured the attention of the entire nation. The Lindbergh family was inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison, though it of course was conditioned on his release. For three days, investigators had found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000. It wasn’t until April 2 that the kidnappers gave instructions for dropping off the money. When the money was finally delivered, the kidnappers indicated that little baby Charles was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. However, after an exhaustive search of every port, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. On May 12, a renewed search of the area near the Lindbergh mansion turned up the baby’s body. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from the home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the home to charity and moved away. The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. Suspicious of the driver who had given it to him, the gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down his license plate number. It was tracked back to a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found $13,000 of Lindbergh ransom money. Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial again was a national sensation. Famous writers Damon Runyan and Walter Winchell covered the trial. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong. The main evidence, apart from the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann and his connection with the type of wood that was used to make the ladder. Still, the evidence and intense public pressure was enough to convict Hauptmann. In April 1935 he was executed in the electric chair. Kidnapping was made a federal crime in the aftermath of this high-profile crime. Citation Information Article Title Kidnapped Lindbergh baby found dead Author History.com Editors Website Name HISTORY URL https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/body-of-lindbergh-baby-found Access Date May 12, 2019 Publisher A&E Television Networks Last Updated May 10, 2019 Original Published Date November 13, 2009 BY HISTORY.COM EDITORS FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us! ALSO ON THIS DAY GENERAL INTEREST 1970 Harry A. Blackmun confirmed to Supreme Court The Senate confirms President Richard M. Nixon’s nomination of Federal Circuit Judge Harry A. Blackmun to the U.S. Supreme Court. Blackmun, born in Nashville, Illinois, in 1908, was regarded as a staunch conservative when he joined the nation’s highest court as an associate …read more GENERAL INTEREST 1937 George VI crowned King of the United Kingdom At London’s Westminster Abbey, George VI and his consort, Lady Elizabeth, are crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom as part of a coronation ceremony that dates back more than a millennium. George, who studied at Dartmouth Naval College and served in World War I, ascended …read more GENERAL INTEREST 1949 Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens. At the end of World War …read more LEAD STORY 1957 Race car driver A.J. Foyt gets first pro victory On this day in 1957, race car driver A.J. Foyt (1935- ) scores his first professional victory, in a U.S. Automobile Club (USAC) midget car race in Kansas City, Missouri. A tough-as-nails Texan, Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr. raced midget cars–smaller vehicles designed to be driven in …read more WORLD WAR I 1918 Germany and Austria-Hungary sign pact to exploit Ukraine On this day in 1918, the rulers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Karl I, meet to sign an agreement pledging their mutual allegiance and determining to share the economic benefits from their relationship with the newly independent state of Ukraine, one …read more VIETNAM WAR 1961 Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon during his tour of Asian countries. Calling Diem the “Churchill of Asia,” he encouraged the South Vietnamese president to view himself as indispensable to the United States and promised …read more Get More History! Sign up now to learn about This Day in History straight from your inbox. SIGN UP VIETNAM WAR 1971 Heavy fighting erupts in A Shau Valley The first major battle of Operation Lam Son 720 takes place as North Vietnamese forces hit the same South Vietnamese 500-man marine battalion twice in one day. Each time, the communists were pushed back after heavy fighting. Earlier, the South Vietnamese reportedly destroyed a …read more SPORTS 1970 Ernie Banks hits 500th home run On this day in 1970, Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks hits the 500th home run of his career. “Mr. Cub” was known for his engaging personality and love of the game, traits on display even as the dismal Cubs suffered through losing season after losing season. The Chicago White …read more PRESIDENTIAL 1903 Teddy Roosevelt’s trip to San Francisco is captured on film On this day in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt’s trip to San Francisco is captured on moving-picture film, making him the first president to have an official activity recorded in that medium. A cameraman named H.J. Miles filmed the president while riding in a parade in his …read more WESTWARD EXPANSION 1832 Fur trader William Sublette heads west The fur trader William Sublette leads a pack train out of Independence, Missouri, heading west for a disastrous rendezvous at Pierre’s Hole, Idaho. William Sublette was the eldest of five brothers who were all associated with the fur trade. Sometime between 1816 and 1817, his …read more ART, LITERATURE, AND FILM HISTORY 1828 Poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti is born Writer and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti is born this day in London. Rossetti’s father was an Italian patriot exiled to England. The family’s household became a center of liberal politics and lively conversation and produced several talented children, including Dante Gabriel …read more ART, LITERATURE, AND FILM HISTORY 1963 Bob Dylan walks out on “The Ed Sullivan Show” By the end of the summer of 1963, Bob Dylan would be known to millions who watched or witnessed his performances at the March on Washington, and millions more who did not know Dylan himself would know and love his music thanks to Peter, Paul and Mary’s smash-hit cover version of …read more ART, LITERATURE, AND FILM HISTORY 1907 Celebrated actress Katharine Hepburn is born On this day in 1907, Katharine Hepburn, who due to her performances in such films as The Philadelphia Story and On Golden Pond, will become one of the most celebrated actresses of the 20th century, is born in Hartford, Connecticut. The daughter of New England intellectuals who …read more DISASTER 1987 Forest fire sweeps across China Firefighters finally contain a giant fire sweeping eastward across China on this day in 1987, but not before 193 people are killed. The fateful fire began on May 6 in Mohe County of the Heilongjiang Province. From the outset, authorities mishandled the blaze, failing to contain …read more COLD WAR 1975 American freighter ship Mayaguez seized by Cambodian navy The American freighter Mayaguez is captured by communist government forces in Cambodia, setting off an international incident. The U.S. response to the affair indicated that the wounds of the Vietnam War still ran deep. On May 12, 1975, the U.S. freighter Mayaguez and its 39-man …read more CIVIL WAR 1864 North and South see bloody day at the Bloody Angle Close-range firing and hand-to-hand combat at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, result in one of the most brutal battles of the Civil War. After the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6), Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee raced respective Union and Confederate forces …read more INVENTIONS & SCIENCE 2000 Fourth-generation NASCAR driver Adam Petty dies in crash On this day in 2000, 19-year-old Adam Petty, son of Winston Cup driver Kyle Petty and grandson of National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) icon Richard Petty, is killed after crashing into a wall during practice for a Grand National race at Loudon, New Hampshire. …read more AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1780 Americans suffer worst defeat of revolution at Charleston After a siege that began on April 2, 1780, Americans suffer their worst defeat of the revolution on this day in 1780, with the unconditional surrender of Major General Benjamin Lincoln to British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton and his army of 10,000 at Charleston, South …read more Ad Choices Advertise Closed Captioning Copyright Policy Corporate Information Employment Opportunities FAQ/Contact Us Privacy Notice Terms of Use TV Parental Guidelines RSS Feeds © 2019 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History

The body of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh’s baby is found on this day in 1932, more than two months after he was kidnapped from his family’s Hopewell, New Jersey, mansion.

Lindbergh, who became the first worldwide celebrity five years earlier when he flew The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note in their 20-month-old child’s empty room on March 1. The kidnapper had used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and had left muddy footprints in the room. The ransom note demanded $50,000 in barely literate English.

The crime captured the attention of the entire nation. The Lindbergh family was inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison, though it of course was conditioned on his release. For three days, investigators had found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.

It wasn’t until April 2 that the kidnappers gave instructions for dropping off the money. When the money was finally delivered, the kidnappers indicated that little baby Charles was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. However, after an exhaustive search of every port, there was no sign of either the boat or the child.

On May 12, a renewed search of the area near the Lindbergh mansion turned up the baby’s body. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from the home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the home to charity and moved away.

The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. Suspicious of the driver who had given it to him, the gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down his license plate number. It was tracked back to a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found $13,000 of Lindbergh ransom money.

Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial again was a national sensation. Famous writers Damon Runyan and Walter Winchell covered the trial. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong. The main evidence, apart from the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann and his connection with the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.

Still, the evidence and intense public pressure was enough to convict Hauptmann. In April 1935 he was executed in the electric chair.

Kidnapping was made a federal crime in the aftermath of this high-profile crime.

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