Feb 04 2017

Helck Family Collection: George Robertson’s Eyewitness Account of Lindbergh’s Journey to History

One more treasure from the Helck Family Collection- George Robertson, winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race, documents his role in Charles Lindbergh's historic transatlantic journey on May 20, 1927.


Howard Kroplick

George Robertson wrote this letter on May 12, 1953 to his friend artist Peter Helck. He began the letter congratulating Helck on a story he wrote on driver Camille "Old Red" Jenatzy.

Robertson noted that sometimes you need to "doubt the truthfulness" of stories.

Robertson describes  his "story" of the morning of Lindbergh's historic take-off from Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927,  26 years earlier and shortly after Lindbergh published his own account in the Saturday Evening Post.

"I was very friendly with Frank Tichenor, who was owner and publisher of Aero Digest. I was in charge of the Lincoln Division of the Ford Motor Company in the East at the time. Frank called the day before the next morning take-off and asked me to take him to Garden City that night in order that he could talk with "Slim", as they were very good friends. I agreed and we went to Garden City that night, also having on board my young son, Crawford and a neighbor's young son, Red (Ned) Scott."

George Robertson in 1930

"We arrived at the Garden City Hotel too late, as "Slim" had gone to bed early... we sat around in the big chairs half asleep until the time came for "Slim" to show up... Finally Frank asked me if I would take "Slim" with us to the hangar (all this dope about a crowd of newsmen crowding around him when he came down is a lot of bunk, as there was NO ONE, yes, No ONE, meeting "Slim" he came down is a lot of bunk, as there was NO ONE, yes, NO ONE, meeting Slim" when he came down but Frank Tichenor, George Robertson and the two young boys.)

"Anyhoo-"Slim" got into the Lincoln in the rear bewtwee the two boys, and we started for the hangar at Roosevelt Field in a down pour of heavy rain. We all unloaded at the hangar and got out of the rain."

"Slim", Frank and I with the two boys stood in the middle of the hangar for much over an hour, maybe two- talking about his plans when he reached his destination...He asked about the best hotel to stop in Paris ..I told him the newest hotel was the Ambassador."

"When he reached the field, a very large crowd had surrounded the plane..Lindbergh called out "Ambassador", "Ambassador"...The outcome was the people on the field thought he was calling for the American Ambassador and someone called the American Embassy...Instead of the Ambassador Hotel, the American Ambassor was the result."

"I am sorry that "Slim" didn't give use just a passing mention- but life is wonderful- anyway, particularly having friends such as the Helck family.."


More documentation on this story will be posted next week.


This website features four amazing videos of Lindbergh's flight from Roosevelt Field to Paris.

Part 2 describes the night of May 19, 1927 and the morning of May 20, 1027.

Part 3 shows a spectacular film of the takeoff. Watch Lindbergh barely make it over the telephone wires on Merrick Avenue.


Feb 05 2017 Laura and Kenneth Harris 9:56 AM

Actual videos of Lindbergh’s flight—very impressive.


Feb 05 2017 Earl Gandel 12:15 PM

Nice story, Howard.  One we haven’t seen before.  I had a good friend of some 70 years, passed on recently; he was John Robertson Martin.  His middle name came from a grandfather he said was a Lindbergh backer from St. Louis. (Hence the name of the plane). Now I have to do some research to find out if it was the same Robertson. Thanks, he would have appreciated the story,

Feb 05 2017 Oren Bloom 4:30 PM

Howard, I enjoyed this story, paricularly since it deals with links to another mode of transportation, particularly important in LI history.  A few other obvious ones:
    Vanderbit family fortune made with ferries and railroads. 
  Alco, maker of Black Beast, primarily manufacturer of steam railroad locomotives

Can you and your readers come up with additional LIMP and Vanderbit Cup links to other transportation modes?

Feb 05 2017 S. Berliner, III 6:16 PM

Oren, try my own old site, <http://sbiii.com/limtrpwy.html>, just for starters, with many links thereon.  What made me write, though, is that lead (and hangar) photo.  Look again; there’s no prop or spinner!  Does anyone know why?  Sam, III

Feb 07 2017 Gary Hammond 11:11 PM

The photos taken prior to the flight with the “Spirit” missing the spinner & prop are taken at Curtiss Field where the plane was housed.  It would take off from the field to the east - Roosevelt Field.  As per the NASM website: “While Lindbergh was flying the “Spirit” on its maiden flight from San Diego to Long Island on May 12, 1927, a crack developed in the aluminum behind the propeller, forcing him to replace the propeller spinner and nose cone just before his historic flight from New York to Paris.”  The original damaged nose cone is in the NASM collection.

Feb 11 2017 Howard Kroplick 11:56 AM

From Michael L:
Thank you so much for the wonderful story about Lindbergh’s flight and the priceless film that goes with it.  I blew the dust off my Peter Helck books and read them again.  Wonderful books, and a wonderful story. Thanks again, Michael.

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