History is full of quirky stories. We got one of those stories this morning, when Frederick Larson dropped off an envelope with a letter and several photocopied news articles. Frederick was donating the envelope off on behalf of his sister Louise Larson, who had received the envelope from Larry Ross in 1990.
Little Falls is known for being the boyhood home of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Jr., who flew his Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1927. His was the first ever solo trans-Atlantic flight. When Frederick handed me the envelope, he asked me if I knew how the Spirit of St. Louis came back to the United States. I knew that Lindbergh didn’t fly it, but wasn’t quite sure how it returned. The documents in the envelope answered Fred’s question – the plane came back in two giant crates onboard the U. S. S. Memphis. Lindbergh was also on the ship, escorting his plane back. Lindbergh had wanted to fly the plane back, but U.S. military and political big-wigs thought it would take too long. They wanted to celebrate Lindbergh’s feat immediately, not wait months for Lindbergh to shilly-shally back.
Who would ever think anything special about a couple of packing crates? But Rear Admiral Guy A. Burrage knew an historic occasion when he saw one and prior to the ship setting sail, he asked Lindbergh if he could have one of the crates in order to build a bungalow for his daughter. Lindbergh agreed. The crate became a summer cottage in Contoocook, New Hampshire. The land on which is was built remained in Admiral Burrage’s family until around 1985, when it was sold, crate cottage and all, to Larry Boutwell. The cottage had been occupied on and off by a variety of people, who were allowed to stay there free. By the time Boutwell bought it, the crate cottage had fallen into disrepair and he decided to sell it.
Larry Ross purchased the crate for $3,000 in February 1990 and moved it to his home in Canaan, Maine. He was intent on restoring the crate cottage. He also wanted to gather as much information as he could about the crate, Lindbergh’s flight, and the return of the Spirit of St. Louis aboard the ship. Within the documents found it the envelope donated to MCHS by Louise Larson, there is a copy of a photo that shows “young Frankie Larson,” who was appointed as part of a committee to receive Charles Lindbergh on his return to Little Falls, MN, in August 1927. Without knowing the exact connection between Frankie and Louise, I’m assuming there is one and that’s why Larry Ross sent this envelope to Louise. (Once I get this info – the connection – I’ll add a note to the documents in the envelope.**)
There you have it, a quirky story about an unusual artifact. Perhaps even more strange is that Larry Boutwell, who owned the crate after the Burrage family, had “one of the big iron rings by which the crate was fastened to the deck of the U. S. S. Memphis,” and was more proud of this artifact than the crate itself.
If you’re interested in reading more about the story of Lindbergh’s crate, thanks to Louise and Fred Larson, we now have the documents on file for you to peruse.
**Addendum (May 16, 2008): I asked Frederick Larson about any connection between his family and Frankie Larson. There wasn’t any, but Larry Ross thought there was, so he wrote to Louise in order to follow up the potential lead.