Philatelically Speaking The Lindbergh Kidnapping

The Rich & Famous,
     Philatelically Speaking
The Lindbergh Kidnapping
By Bill Chandler

Unattainable philately. Buried in the archives and museums of America are numerous gems of the hot that will never be in the a of a collector. Such is the shown here. As postal history, this is a simple 1932 overpayment of the then one-cent postcard rate. But it falls deeply into the category of “historical philately as a piece of evidence in the New Jersey State Police archives on the kidnapping the son of Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh on March 1, 1932.

Few collectors are aware—-but many historians are—of the unusual postal history like this is on file in locked vaults often long-since-forgotten. And since such evidence will perpetually remain in illustrated here is only one of many postally-used items in the evidence files of one of the most infamous crimes in American history.

Was this a legitimate communication from the kidnapper? Here is some background: Bruno Richard Hauptmann was eventually arrested, tried and convicted and executed as kidnapper. But the story doesn’t end there. Many experts believe Hauptmann was not, in fact, the kidnapper though he was caught after passing bills from the ransom money.

Handwriting analysts were unanimous in their verdict that this written communication was received by the Lindberghs from the kidnapper. But this much is known: this post card postmarked March 3, two days after the crime. Though not taken seriously at the time it was received (many crackpots tried to send messages to the victim’s family), the card turned out to be in the handwriting of the actual kidnapper, whoever he was.

More attention, at the time, was paid to a letter received by the Lindberghs’ attorney, Col. Henry Breckinridge, on March 5. However, handwriting comparisons between that and the message appearing on this card and on other kidnapper correspondence turned out to be the same.

Subsequent to Hauptmann’s arrest—and after he had been directed to duplicate in his in his hand some of the words and phrases from the kidnapper correspondence—several experts agreed that the handwriting of Hauptmann and examples received from the kidnapper were one and the same. This, however, was disputed at the trial by other experts.

In essence, we have a philatelic gem photocopied from a secondary source for us by postal historian Stephen Suffet. Other messages received from the kidnapper(s) were determined, by virtue of information only the real kidnapper would know, to be legitimate and in fact, were in the same hand on this card.

But the question may always remain: was Bruno Richard Hauptmann the kidnapper or was he the willing victim of one Isador Fish, the man who Hauptmann said gave him the ransom money for safekeeping before Fish left the country only to die of natural causes in his German homeland? In private hands, the postcard would be a major philatelic rarity perhaps more intriguing than any mail from the RMS Titanic or any Lindbergh flown cover—and perhaps worth as much as $500,000. For now, we can only marvel at it because we can only picture it here. Trivia sidebar: the chief investigator for the NJSP was a Col. H. Norman Schwartzkopf, who had an even more famous son.