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The Flight of the Century: Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of American Aviation (Pivotal Moments in American History) [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Kessner
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In late May 1927 an inexperienced and unassuming 25-year-old Air Mail pilot from rural Minnesota stunned the world by making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. A spectacular feat of individual daring and collective technological accomplishment, Charles Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris ushered in America's age of commercial aviation.
In The Flight of the Century, Thomas Kessner takes a fresh look at one of America's greatest moments, explaining how what was essentially a publicity stunt became a turning point in history. He vividly recreates the flight itself and the euphoric reaction to it on both sides of the Atlantic, and argues that Lindbergh's amazing feat occurred just when the world--still struggling with the disillusionment of WWI--desperately needed a hero to restore a sense of optimism and innocence. Kessner also shows how new forms of mass media made Lindbergh into the most famous international celebrity of his time, casting him in the role of a humble yet dashing American hero of rural origins and traditional values. Much has been made of Lindbergh's personal integrity and his refusal to cash in on his fame. But Kessner reveals that Lindbergh was closely allied with, and managed by, a group of powerful businessmen--Harry Guggenheim, Dwight Morrow, and Henry Breckenridge chief among them--who sought to exploit aviation for mass transport and massive profits. Their efforts paid off as commercial air traffic soared from 6,000 passengers in 1926 to 173,000 passengers in 1929. Kessner's book is the first to fully explore Lindbergh's central role in promoting the airline industry--the rise of which has influenced everything from where we live to how we wage war and do business.
The Flight of the Century sheds new light on one of America's fascinatingly enigmatic heroes and most transformative moments.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kessner approaches the much-analyzed Charles Lindbergh by asking why “other fliers made records but he made history.” Readily detailing the pertinent moments in the aviator’s history, from his childhood to Atlantic flight to the devastating loss of his oldest child, Kessner also writes about media coverage of Lindbergh’s exploits and the intense focus of the press long after he flew from New York to Paris. He concludes that Lindbergh’s fame was based not only on his achievement but also on the fact that he flew alone (his competitors all flew in teams) and that he refuted the trappings of fame, turning down movie deals, sponsorships, endorsements, and outright attempts at monetary gifts. Young and self-deprecating, Lindbergh paid public fealty to the World War I aviators who came before him. Kessner shows how the man converged perfectly with his times. In a field of conventional biographies, Kessner’s (including copious end notes) stands out as he asks what made this man famous and reveals that Lindbergh’s story tells as much about us as it does about him. --Colleen Mondor


"Kessner's fresh perspective breathes new life into Lindbergh's tale." --David Cohen, Philadelphia Inquirer

"It's difficult to imagine how anything new could be written about Charles Lindbergh. But Thomas Kessner has examined his subject more deeply than any other biographer.... Kessner weaves a fascinating tale, chronicling Lindy's many accomplishments but also revealing someone who clearly never appreciated the full extent of his notoriety." --Aviation History

"Proving again that true tales are every bit as strange and sometimes even more compelling than fictional ones, Thomas Kessner's The Flight of the Century not only evokes a critical moment in our history, but re-introduces an iconic American whom we thought we knew, but really didn't. This is great history--a fascinating story told by a masterful storyteller."--David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst

"In his brilliant and sensitively drawn portrait of Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Kessner not only brings this deeply flawed American hero to life; he vividly reconstructs the historical context in which the aviator's life played out. Kessner deftly reveals how and why Lindbergh and his flight became a juggernaut through the years of prosperity and depression, the battle over fascism and the fear of communism, and the moral and social dilemmas prompted by science and technological advances. This book is a must for anyone hoping to understand modern America."--Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers and Civil War Wives

"The splendid, far-reaching analysis of one of American history's most enigmatic figures will satisfy the scholar, and the deft use of colorful anecdotes will appeal to general readers. Highly recommended." --Library Journal

"Mr. Kessner has the skills of a professional historian and a nice turn of phrase." --Daniel Ford, The Wall Street Journal

"Kessner provides an excellent addition to the literature on Charles Lindbergh and his remarkable flight from New York to Paris. The book will provide researchers with a deeper understanding of Lindbergh's complex character, including how this engineering school dropout could plan such a difficult flight while others, better educated and financed, had failed.... This fascinating account will be valuable to readers interested in aviation history. Highly recommended." --Choice

"Lindbergh's life and his influence on aviation in particular has been rendered in all its contradictions in Thomas Kessner's The Flight of the Century." --In Flight USA

"a thoughtful, well-written and well-researched historical synthesis on Lindbergh and his significance for American culture" --American Studies Journal"

Product Details

  • File Size: 890 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199931178
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 31, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003OQUB5Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,074 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once Over Lightly November 13, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I generally don't write reviews, but after reading Flight of the Century, I was puzzled as to why it receive such high ratings. A new genre of history books has emerged in the past decade that basically anthologizes past books and research on a subject, offering little new information. This is one of them. Worse, it seems to me to cast Charles Lindbergh as far more influential to the development of commercial aviation than he actually was.

Granted, Lindbergh was an exceptionally gifted flyer, who combined meticulous preparation with almost supernatural navigational skills. He also devoted extraordinary efforts as a good-will ambassador to publicize commercial aviation following his transatlantic flight. His cross-country travels and tours over Central & South America were extremely dangerous yet helped develop new routes over uncharted territory. In some ways, Lindbergh made flying look too easy, since almost daily, other plane, pilots & passengers were going down for any number of reasons.

The author suggests that only by the development of huge aviation conglomerates, in which Lindbergh participated with great financial reward, was commercial aviation progress to viability. True, but only to an extent. No other figures or technological breakthroughs in the development are mentioned. Thus, no Wiley Post, who advanced high altitude flight, no Jimmy Doolittle and the creation of Sperry's gyroscopic compass & artificial horizon. No Howard Hughes, or the development of high-octane gasoline. Worse, the author ignores the DC 2 & DC3, on which a small company named for it's genius owner, Donald Douglas staked it's success or failure.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Solo We July 15, 2010
`Flight of the Century' does an excellent job of examining the effect, the how and why and importance of both Charles Lindbergh and what his flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis meant. The flaws of the man and of the American press are not missed. Lindbergh's lack of empathy, aloofness and irritation with journalists and public intrusion on his privacy are acknowledged in many instances.

This truly tells the tale of the beginnings of American aviation and of world wide celebrity. The flight itself is documented, especially Lindberg's connection with the Spirit of St. Louis is shown in how, even though his flight was solo, he constantly referred to it as We- his plane was his partner. Lindbergh's diplomatic triumph in Paris upon landing and in Mexico during one of his tours where he erased the stigma of anti-US resentment, resulting in the solving of a 10 year old oil controversy are well documented. He is given credit for many cities building air strips and popularizing flying. During his tour of the US more than 40% of the population saw him and most changed their minds in favor of aviation. His help in building the civilian aviation industry of America is examined.
His boyish good looks and the fact he was a solo hero, showing courage and even better, the fact he was a 'country' boy all contributed to the world wide infatuation with him and then with his wife Anne. The kidnapping of his son and the son's death and the effect on Anne and their relationship is covered

The book's introduction does a credible job in summing up his celebrity and the reason so many powerful men took him under their wing. An epilogue sums up his life from his escape from the US after his son's death and his fall from grace in the support of Germany and its' racist policies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating in depth work of a bygone era September 7, 2010
By Jake12
Thomas Kessners' contribution to this era and to the body of knowledge regarding Lindbergh is immeasurable. This book is a highly enjoyable and interesting read. It is exceedingly well researched and has taught me a great deal about the enigmatic Charles Lindbergh. I highly recommend this book by the very talented author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most worthy book June 9, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In "The Flight of the Century," author Thomas Kessner analyzes the connection between the Lindbergh flight and the growth of the aviation industry, and explores the rise and decline of an international hero along with the great price that heroism brings. In addition, while the book is not packaged as a biography of Charles Lindbergh, much of it reads like one--and a very lucid, engaging one. We feel the ups and downs of Lindbergh's childhood and education, his family relationships and friendships, the tenderness and the tumult of his marriage to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and his personal foibles, down to the specifics of the practical jokes he enjoyed. In one especially noteworthy chapter, Kessner provides a masterful narrative of the flight itself, vividly reconstructing the sights and sounds and even hallucinations that Lindbergh later recalled having experienced. Later sections on Lindbergh's forays into medical research, and his troubling political stances during the World War II years, also illuminate much. This is an outstanding piece of scholarship--and a great read as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Flight of the Century: Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of American Aviation tells of an airmail pilot from rural Minnesota who made the first nonstop transatlantic flight. This recounts his 23-hour flight and the reaction to it on both sides of the Atlantic, explaining how an obscure international competition made history and made Lindbergh the most celebrated pilot of his time. A fine, intriguing story uses Lindbergh's experience to explain the history of aviation as well as his life and influence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good read and interesting.
Published 1 month ago by Dennis
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a monumental achievement.
This is the story of Lindbergh's solo flight from Long Island, New York to Paris, France. It was a monumental accomplishment for the time, so much so that here it is 2015 and I am... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sheridan Nofer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read.
Published 3 months ago by Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lone Eagle Examined
I think Charles Lindbergh is a difficult subject for biographers. I've read twenty one of the works cited in this book's bibliography. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Thomas G. Matowitz Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 6 months ago by patrick richardson
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting biography
I enjoy history and learned quite a bit about Charles Lindbergh from this book. Well written and engaging. Read more
Published 12 months ago by G. Greer
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding scholarship.
Most books on Charles Augustus Lindbergh either canonize or denegrate him. "Flight of the Century" does neither. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mary+cats
5.0 out of 5 stars Flight Of The Century
I found it difficult to put this book down. Thomas Kessner truly gave me a greater appreciation for the Lindbergh flight. Read more
Published 21 months ago by S. P. Sheehy
4.0 out of 5 stars More than a flight
Did not realize all the aspects of Lindbergh's life. Very interesting read. Amazing how long he was revered by all.
Published 21 months ago by Reggiern
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story.
There is a wealth of knowledge in this book, not only about Lindbergh, but the history of flying, how it affected and was affected by war. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Joyce Newsome
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