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How there came to be a statue of Charles Lindbergh on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol

Commissioned by the Lindbergh Fund and the Minnesota Historical Society, it honored the aviator’s 1927 transatlantic flight and his childhood roots in Minnesota. It did not address Lindbergh’s support of American isolationism and antisemitism leading up to World War II.

Paul Granlund’s statue “Charles A. Lindbergh—The Boy and the Man,” installed on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol.
On May 24, 1985, the sculpture “Charles Lindbergh — The Boy and The Man” by Paul T. Granlund was dedicated in front of a crowd of approximately 1,000 people on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol. Commissioned by the Lindbergh Fund and the Minnesota Historical Society, it honored the aviator’s 1927 transatlantic flight and his childhood roots in Minnesota. It did not address Lindbergh’s support of American isolationism and antisemitism leading up to World War II — additional dimensions of his complex legacy.

In August 1984, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) made an agreement with sculptor Paul T. Granlund to create a sculpture of Charles A. Lindbergh in honor of his 1927 transatlantic flight. Extant sources do not show who first proposed the idea, but contributors included the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund, then headquartered in Minnesota; MNHS Director Russell Fridley (who had developed a friendship with Lindbergh during the development of Lindbergh’s childhood home as a historic site); and former Minnesota governor Elmer L. Andersen. Funds were raised through individual donations to the Minnesota Historical Society to cover the $65,000 commission fee plus the costs of final installation. The committee requested that the sculpture be installed on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol, and the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB) approved its choice.

At the time of his commission, Paul T. Granlund was the sculptor-in-residence at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where he specialized in a sculptural process called lost-wax bronze casting. In considering how to capture the aviator, Granlund said, “What these resources revealed to me was that while Lindbergh’s heroic flight was epic in character his boyhood years in Little Falls had a lyric quality. I decided to combine the lyric and the epic qualities in a double portrait of Lindbergh the boy and the man.”

On Saturday, May 25, 1985, Granlund’s sculpture of Lindbergh, titled “Charles Lindbergh — The Boy and The Man” was unveiled on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol as part of Lindbergh Heritage Week. Approximately 1,000 people present attended the dedication, including Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Reeve Lindbergh Brown, and Elizabeth Brown — Charles Lindbergh’s wife, daughter, and granddaughter.

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When asked for her reaction to the sculpture, Anne Morrow Lindbergh responded, “It’s a beautiful piece, very much alive. He’s there. His spirit is there… I don’t always see my husband in the pieces of sculpture that have been done, but he’s there — the spirit of the man is in it.” The Associated Press image of Anne Lindbergh holding the hand of the sculpture depicting her husband appeared in newspapers across the nation. The sculpture and the quotes surrounding it are intended to honor Lindbergh’s contributions to aviation.

Two years later, coinciding with the sixtieth anniversary of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, two additional castings of Granlund’s sculpture were dedicated. In May 1987, a sculpture was dedicated at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, as a gift from the Charles A. Lindbergh Fund and the State of Minnesota to the people of France. In September, a sculpture was dedicated in San Diego to recognize that the Spirit of St. Louis was built in that city.

“I am disappointed that the Minnesota Department of Development has chosen to spend $50,000 of state money on the “Lindbergh — Man and Boy” [sic] statue in Paris. The link between the statue in Paris and tourism in Minnesota will be tenuous, at best…I am further offended that the state is willing to spend our money to honor a man who once said: ‘The greatest danger of Jewish power lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.’ Charles Lindbergh was not ‘the world’s greatest hero.’ He was a human being with faults who was courageous in his successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.”

In June of 2020, the toppling of a memorial to Christopher Columbus installed on the Capitol grounds renewed conversations about the appropriateness of other monuments on the site, including “The Boy and the Man.” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, stated in July, “There are many different Charles Lindberghs, he’s a complicated personality. The Jewish view of Lindbergh is profoundly disturbed over all these years by his rhetoric in favor of America First.”

Editor’s note: This article uses the unhyphenated spelling “antisemitism” instead of the more common “anti-Semitism” in response to the recommendations of the Anti-Defamation League, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.