A Charles Lindbergh Puzzle ~ What's that darned cat doing there? (Page 1)

This web page was updated on May 16, 2015

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Nearly everyone knows the story of Charles Lindbergh and his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic, from New York City to Paris, in a specially designed Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Lindbergh was competing for the $25,000 Orteig Prize, offered in 1919 by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first allied aviator(s) to fly non-stop from New York City to Paris or vice-versa. With the completion of his flight, Lindbergh, dubbed the “Lone Eagle,” became the most famous aviator in the world, and the Spirit of St. Louis the most famous airplane.

I’ve been interested in Lindbergh since 1949, when my family visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the Spirit of St. Louis itself was one of the very few things I remembered about that trip.

A postcard view of the Spirit of St. Louis as it appeared in the Smithsonian Institution in 1949.

Many countries have issued stamps commemorating Lindbergh’s flight. One of those stamps is a one-peso Spanish airmail stamp, issued Sept. 30, 1930 at Seville. It's one of eight designs in a set issued on the occasion of the Pro Union Ibero Americana, in English the Ibero-American Exposition or the Spanish-American Exposition; note that the design includes a cat in the lower right-hand corner.

These Spanish stamps started life as privately produced labels for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, a world's fair held in Seville, Spain, from May 9, 1929 until June 21, 1930. The Spanish Post Office agreed to sell a certain quantity of them for three days. The Lindbergh stamp is circled in yellow.

A cat? Why is a cat watching the Spirit of St. Louis?

Here is the Philatelic Puzzle: Why, you might wonder, is a cat part of the design of the Spanish Lindbergh stamp? I certainly wondered!

Lindbergh items I had collected previously did not include cats, and nothing I had read mentioned Lindbergh in connection with a cat. Well, I just hadn’t done enough reading!

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