When Charles Lindbergh succeeded in becoming the first pilot to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic on May 21, 1927, he became the “American Hero” of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Tall, handsome and soft-spoken, he certainly made a great impression; but it was his bold belief in the abilities of modern aircraft—especially in terms of safety and reliability—that really made him successful. Lindbergh made the 33-hour flight without an autopilot of any kind, and to save weight (and fuel), he decided against floats, multiple engines, radios, or a copilot (to qualify for the Orteig Prize award he was not required to fly solo). Believe it or not, Charles Lindbergh flew that first non-stop flight from New York to Paris without the use of a front windshield! When he wanted to see forward he would slightly bank the plane and look out the side window. To provide some forward vision as a precaution against hitting ship masts, trees, or structures while flying at low altitude he used a periscope device.
The artifacts you see are the actual goggles he wore on his flight across the Atlantic, and the Medal of Honor that was awarded to him in 1927 “for displaying heroic courage and skill as a navigator, at the risk of his life, by his nonstop flight in his airplane.” For a good look at the technology of the day—including that periscope sticking out the left side of Lindy’s plane—go back and study our beautiful “Spirit of St. Louis” replica and Lindbergh display in our entrance Rotunda.