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Lindbergh, Charles A., Sr. (1859–1924)

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Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.

Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. ca. 1918, the year in which he ran for governor as the Nonpartisan League's nominee.

Charles August (C. A.) Lindbergh, father of the aviator Charles Augustus Lindbergh, was a Little Falls lawyer who represented Minnesota’s Sixth District in the United States Congress for five terms. He was a leader of the progressive wing of the Republican Party and opposed the United States’ entry into World War I. As the nominee of the Nonpartisan League, he waged an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Governor Joseph Burnquist in the bitterly fought 1918 gubernatorial Republican primary.

A few months after Lindbergh was born in Sweden in 1859, his parents immigrated to Minnesota, where they settled near Melrose in Stearns County. His father, a former member of the Swedish parliament and a liberal reformer, held several local offices in Melrose and helped organize the town’s first school. Young C. A. Lindbergh attended this school and, later, a nearby preparatory school.

In 1881, Lindbergh entered the law school at the University of Michigan. When he graduated in 1883, he set up a law practice in Little Falls. He soon had an impressive list of commercial clients, including local banks and Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s nearby lumber operations.

In 1887, Lindbergh married Mary LaFond. The couple had three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. In 1898, Mary died after unsuccessful surgery; in 1901, Lindbergh married Evangeline Lodge Land, with whom he had one son: Charles Augustus, the future aviator. The Lindberghs then built a large home on the Mississippi River. When that house burned down in 1905, they built a smaller home (designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976). At about that time, the Lindberghs separated, although they remained close and never divorced.

Except for one term as Morrison County Attorney, Lindbergh did not seek public office until 1906, when he campaigned for the Republican nomination for Sixth District Congressman. Identifying himself as a progressive, he beat the incumbent and went on to win the seat in the general election. He successfully held his seat in the 1908, 1910, 1912, and 1914 elections. In Congress, he sided with the “insurgent,” or progressive, Republicans against the “stand pat,” business-oriented faction. He was best known as a critic of the “money trust,” the big Wall Street financiers led by J. P. Morgan, and as a reformer who sought to bring banking under democratic control.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Lindbergh vocally opposed United States involvement. He argued that only the bankers and other “war profiteers” would benefit from a war with Germany. In 1916 he supported the Gore–McLemore resolution, which responded to German submarine warfare by urging Americans to avoid booking passage on the armed vessels of belligerent nations.

In 1916, Lindbergh chose not to defend his House seat in order to pursue an unsuccessful run for senator. Shortly before his term ended in March 1917, he was part of a small minority that voted against arming US merchant vessels. After the US declared war on Germany, he published Why Is Your Country at War—a book in which he blamed the “inner circle” of the most wealthy for pushing the nation into the conflict.

The legislature created the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety (MCPS) in April to govern the state for the duration of the war. It included Governor Burnquist, the attorney general, and five other men, mainly conservative business leaders. John F. McGee emerged as the dominant force, and under his leadership, the commission demanded “100 percent loyalty” and classified any criticism as treasonous.

Meanwhile, the Nonpartisan League began a major drive to elect its candidates in the 1918 elections. Lindbergh became the league’s candidate in the Republican primary against Governor Burnquist. The MCPS branded the NPL as “disloyal” and encouraged local Home Guard units and county sheriffs to disrupt the Lindbergh campaign. Lindbergh was hung in effigy, barred from speaking, pelted with rotten eggs, shot at, and briefly jailed. Although Lindbergh carried thirty counties, Burnquist won, with 199,326 votes to Lindbergh’s 150,626.

The 1918 campaign encouraged farmers and trade unionists to build the coalition that formed the Farmer-Labor Party. Lindbergh played a role in the development of this new party, and in 1923 ran unsuccessfully in the Farmer-Labor primary for US Senator. He died in 1924 while campaigning in the Farmer-Labor Party’s primary for governor.

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P1675
Charles A. Lindbergh and family papers, 1808–1987
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Family papers and political correspondence of Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/P1675.xml

Chrislock, Carl. Watchdog of Loyalty: The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety During World War I. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1991.

Haines, Lynn, and Dora B. The Lindberghs. New York: Vanguard Press, 1931.

Jenson, Carol E. “Loyalty as a Political Weapon: The 1918 Campaign in Minnesota.” Minnesota History 43, no. 2 (Summer 1972): 42–57.
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/43/v43i02p042-057.pdf

Larson, Bruce L. Lindbergh of Minnesota: A Political Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1973.

Lindbergh, Charles A. Sr. Banking and Currency and the Money Trust. Washington, DC: National Capital Press, 1913.

——— . Why is Your Country at War, and What Happens to You After the War and Related Subjects. Washington, DC: National Capitol Press, 1917.

Morlan, Robert L. Political Prairie Fire: The Non-Partisan League, 1915–1922. Reprint with new introduction by Larry Remele. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985.

Neuberger, Richard A. "The Hero Had a Father: Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr., An Even Greater Hero Than His Son, Was a Martyr to Mob Stupidity." Esquire 7, no. 3 (March 1937): 35, 206–209.

Related Images

Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1910.
Black and white photograph of Charles August Lindbergh with his son Charles Augustus Lindbergh, c.1910.
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. speaking at a Nonpartisan League meeting
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. speaking at a Nonpartisan League meeting
Black and white image of Charles A. Lindbergh featured on the cover of The Nonpartisan Leader, the NPL's official publication, 1918.
Black and white image of Charles A. Lindbergh featured on the cover of The Nonpartisan Leader, the NPL's official publication, 1918.
Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh
Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. at a Nonpartisan League meeting
Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. at a Nonpartisan League meeting

Turning Point

In 1906, Charles A. Lindbergh Sr., who is forty-seven and has not been previously involved in party politics, declares his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Sixth District congressman, beginning his career as a leader of the progressive movement in Minnesota.

Chronology

1859

Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. is born in Sweden; in the same year, he and his parents immigrate to Minnesota and settle near Melrose in Stearns County.

1883

Lindbergh graduates from University of Michigan Law School, is admitted to the Minnesota bar, and sets up a law office in Little Falls specializing in real estate.

1880s–1890s

Lindbergh represents Weyerhaeuser lumber interests in Little Falls and has success as a developer of residential and commercial real estate.

1887

Lindbergh marries Mary LaFond, with whom he has three daughters. (One died in infancy; Mary herself died in 1898 following surgery to remove a tumor).

1901

Lindbergh marries Evangeline Lodge Land. They have one son: Charles Augustus, the future aviator. They build a grand house south of Little Falls on the Mississippi River.

1906

Lindbergh wins the Sixth District seat in the state congress, running as a Republican. He would retain the seat in the 1908, 1910, 1912 and 1914 elections.

1907

After fire claims their home, the Lindberghs build a smaller house on the same site. They separate but maintain friendly relations and never divorce.

1913

Lindbergh, a leading member of the “insurgent” Republican caucus in the House, publishes a book attacking the “money trust” and arguing for stricter banking regulation.

1914

When war breaks out in Europe, Lindbergh becomes a vocal critic of US involvement, arguing that the war serves only the interests of wealthy bankers.

1916

Lindbergh abandons his House seat to mount an (ultimately unsuccessful campaign) to win the Republican nomination for US senator.

1917

Lindbergh publishes a book criticizing Wall Street and big industry for pushing the US into war with Germany for their private economic gain.

1918

Lindbergh runs against Governor Burnquist in the Republican primary as the Nonpartisan League’s nominee. The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety makes campaigning difficult and even dangerous. Lindbergh loses but garners 41 percent of the vote.

1920

Lindbergh, running as an independent, fails to regain his House seat.

1923

Lindbergh places third in the Farmer Labor Party primary for senator.

1924

Lindbergh dies of an inoperative brain tumor. Honoring his request, his son distributes his ashes over his family homestead near Melrose from an airplane.