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James R. Hansen - Historical Biographies

Season four of the Lindberghs Podcast is made possible by:

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Podcast art. Image of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Listen to this episode here, or find The Lindberghs on any podcast player such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

About this Episode

Hi It's Erik. During the first year of the Covid 19 pandemic, The Lindbergh Foundation shut down our external programs and met regularly over the phone. My question at that time was what asset do we have that has the most value to bring to the world?

The answer kept coming back to us that our stories were the most important.

The stories that started with Anne and Charles Lindbergh about their work in the world, and how the ripples that emanated from their exploration, innovation and writing inspired countless people to do leading edge entrepreneurial work that continues to ripple outward. The Jaques Custeau’s, the Neil Armstrongs, the Bertrand Piccards and the Sylvia Earles of the world who were in turn influencing and inspiring others like Gordon Hempton to do positive work on the planet.

I started referring to the "Innovation Ecosystem” that my grandparents obviously cultivated in their lives that allowed them to have such a powerful influence on the 20th century. When our book committee interviewed author and historian James R. Hansen to author a book about this innovation ecosystem we were anticipating that the needed to include my Grandmother as an equal partner, and it should include the people my grandparents influenced and those who the Lindbergh Foundation supported over its 45 year tenure and how those people were continuing to change the world.

Hansen, the author of First Man, a book about Neil Armstrong, was our unanimous choice as the right person to write such a book not only because Neil Armstrong was a friend and had many similar characteristics as my Grandfather, but because Hansen himself reminded us of Charles Lindbergh. He was fact oriented and deeply principaled. He was also fun and interesting to talk to, perhaps as a result of his experience teaching at Auburn University.

His process of research and writing the prospectus for this book led to a conclusion that the best topic would be about my Grandparents relationship together. Life often gives us a place to consider our trajectory and pivot. James' conclusion was that the relationship between Charles and Anne gave us the perfect insight into these two people as we move toward the 100th anniversary of the New York to Paris flight.

This episode is a fascinating discussion about two people who are still changing the world, but are as magnificent and they are flawed. I couldn’t imagine a better time to focus on this relationship than this age of the polarization, cancel culture, and the ever changing questions and needs of people in relationships today.

I have been deeply moved by my conversations with James R. Hansen and hope you enjoy this interview with him.


Erik Lindbergh

Our Favorite Quotes from this Episode

I had thought that as a historian of flight with a long career, I thought I knew everything I might need to know about Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but it blew my head thinking through what I have learned doing my research.


It was me moving through Anne Morrow's diaries that led me to a better understanding of not only Anne, but of Charles and their relationship. I found a number of surprises there that I had not thought of before.


Reeve [Lindbergh] said that the real thing that needs to be looked at to understand [Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh] is their own marriage and their relationship. The only way you can really make the case of the innovation ecosystem is to show how this was at work and growing together through [Anne and Charle's] relationship.


The biographers job is to explain circumstances, attitudes, and decisions as best as I can so people will have a better understanding of what happened. I'm not looking to sensationalize anything, but the best, most thoughtful, and mature way to share the story.