Charles Lindbergh, Jr., was kidnapped from his home in East Amwell, New Jersey. His body was found more than two months later in nearby Hopewell, N.J.

Image courtesy the Federal Bureau of Investigation

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  • On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindberg, Jr., the 20-month-old son of celebrity aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped. The toddler was taken from his second-floor bedroom in East Amwell, New Jersey, and a ransom note demanding an initial $50,000 (about $850,000, adjusted for inflation) left in his place. More ransom notes followed, but law enforcement personnel were unable to either identify the kidnappers or find the baby. The body was discovered two months later near the Lindberghs’ home, apparently killed the night he was kidnapped.
     
    Media coverage of the Lindbergh kidnapping was extensive, with controversial elements that still draw readers today: celebrities, tragedy, children. Charles Lindbergh was one of the most famous and admired men in the United States, having flown the first solo transatlantic flight just five years earlier. His wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was an acclaimed writer and aviator herself. The kidnapping was Time magazine’s cover story in May 1932, the week before the body was discovered. The kidnapping was the first “trial of the century,” and, according to journalist H.L. Mencken, “the biggest story since the Resurrection.”
     
    Sensationalist” news coverage of the Lindberg kidnapping case continued for years in print and radio. A German immigrant carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, was eventually identified, tried, convicted, and executed for the crime. Public interest in the case inspired Congress to establish the so-called “Lindbergh Law,” which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    celebrity Noun

    famous person.

    Congress Noun

    legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    controversial Noun

    questionable or leading to argument.

    extensive Adjective

    very large.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    initial Adjective

    first.

    journalist Noun

    person who reports and distributes news.

    kidnap Verb

    to hold a person hostage, usually for ransom.

    law enforcement Noun

    individuals or organizations that make sure people obey government rules.

    nanoparticle Noun

    material that has an average particle size of 1-100 nanometers.

    ransom Noun

    fee associated with the release or return of property.

    sensationalist Adjective

    having to do with the use of exaggerated, lurid, or provocative details in reporting an incident.

    transatlantic Adjective

    across the Atlantic Ocean.