Charles Lindbergh’s airmail flights

The first official airmail flight, April 15, 1926, from what was then Bosa Field (later Lindbergh Field) west of Springfield. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh. (Sangamon Valley Collection, reprinted in Springfield Aviation by Job Conger, Arcadia Publishing, 2008)

The first official airmail flight, April 15, 1926, from what was then Bosa Field (later Lindbergh Field) west of Springfield. The pilot was Charles Lindbergh. (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Before Charles Lindbergh became famous for his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, he flew the U.S. mail between Springfield, Chicago and St. Louis for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation.

The first official flight, piloted by Lindbergh, was on April 15, 1926. Spurred by weeks of advance publicity, an estimated 5,000 area residents thronged the edges of a 60-acre field west of Springfield. (Use of the field had been hastily arranged after Lindbergh’s plane nearly got stuck at the originally planned takeoff spot north of town.)

The turf field, off Hazlett Lane, was owned by Bill Bosa. It was known variously as Bosa Field, Springfield Airport and Conkling Field (the Springfield postmaster was William Conkling) until it was renamed Lindbergh Field in 1927, following Lindbergh’s Atlantic exploit.

Air operations ceased at Lindbergh Field in 1929, and it has reverted to farmland. Local Boy Scouts installed a plaque at the site in 1995.

Airmail flying in 1926 was statistically the most dangerous occupation in the U.S., and Lindbergh was not exempt. An equipment problem with his mail plane forced Lindbergh to land in a farm field in northern Sangamon County on Sept. 30, 1926. Lindbergh got a ride to Springfield to deliver his mail, then stayed the night at the home of a nearby farmer (across the county line in Menard County). Lindbergh made repairs the next day and resumed his flight.

Lindbergh landed about 275 yards from the marker originally attached to these posts, which are on the south side of Irwin Bridge Road. (SCHS)

Lindbergh landed about 275 feet from the marker originally attached to these posts, which are on the south side of Irwin Bridge Road in northern Sangamon County. (SCHS)

Commemorative markers were placed at both the landing site, off Irwin Bridge Road, and the farm home in the 2000s. However, the landing site sign, erected in 2007 by the Sangamon County Historical Society, was stolen some time prior to early 2014.

The marker’s wording was:

Charles A. Lindbergh made an emergency landing here (275 feet behind marker) on September 30, 1926 on his mail run from St. Louis to Chicago. He slept in the Dirks farmhouse in Athens* 1.5 miles north and left the following morning after repairing his plane. Lindbergh made the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris on May 20, 1927. — SCHS

Lindbergh returned to a hero’s welcome in Springfield on Aug. 15, 1927, when the west-side airfield was officially named after him.

“It’s like coming home, flying to Springfield,” he said.

*Editor’s note: The Dirks farmhouse actually is not “in” Athens. It is on Fitschen Road, in a still-rural area several miles south of Athens and nearer to Cantrall. 

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11 Responses to Charles Lindbergh’s airmail flights

  1. Tammy Beck says:

    I have question about Bosa/Conkling/Lindbergh Field. I know that there is a sign there now that says Lindbergh Field, but I was wondering if there had ever been a sign there that said Bosa Field? I thought I remembered one being there when I was a young child, maybe late 70’s or early 80’s, but I am not sure. Mary Brunner Weiskopf Bosa was my great-great aunt, so I’m very interested in information on Bosa Field.
    Thank you for your time!
    Tammy Beck

    • editor says:

      Ms. Beck: I don’t know the answer, but I’ve referred your question to somebody who probably does. I hope to be able to post an answer in a few days. Thanks for reading.

  2. frank weitzel says:

    my great grandmother and her father used to take air mail out to bradfordfton and athens to meet up with lindbergh . she said they called him slim.

  3. Timothy Kane says:

    I believe Lindbergh Boulevard in Springfield is also named for Charles Lindbergh….though I think this has also led to erroneous speculation that the Commercial (later Southwest) Airport (the former property of which Lindbergh Blvd runs through today) was called “Lindbergh Field”. In truth, Commercial Airport replaced Bosa/Lindbergh Field, and to my knowledge, Lindbergh never visited Commercial Airport….

    • editor says:

      Mr. Kane: I believe you’re right about Lindbergh Boulevard and about Lindy not flying into Commercial/Southwest Airport. He returned to Springfield on a triumphal tour in 1928, but that also was to Bosa/Lindbergh Field.

  4. Tonya says:

    Someone told me that Charles Lindbergh made an emergency landing in Calhoun County Illinois, specifically Batchtown Illinois, on one of his mail runs, can anyone tell me if this is true?

  5. Andy Wasilewski says:

    About 20 years ago, i was fortunate to spend a few hours with John Dirks, who was a youngster in the “Dirks’ farmhouse” at the time of the landing, which John indicated was in a bean field. As i recall, John said he was around 12 (give or take). Lindbergh ate dinner with the family and spent the night. John said he was an unassuming man. He asked about their farm and family, but did not offer any details of his experiences, unless asked. In the morning, John went with Charles Lindbergh to see him take off. Lindbergh set the spark and throttle and then got out of the plane to turn to propeller to start it. It chugged and then died. Lindbergh got back in the plane, and adjusted he settings…the same results. It was then, John Dirks told me, that he, John, offered that Mr. Lindbergh could stay in the plane, and John would turn the propeller. After two tries, the engine kicked in and ran just fine. “Lindy, waved to me, and he was off, down the field and into the air.” I could see Mr. Dirks, now in his 80s beaming with pride, and could almost imagine the prop wind blowing in his face. John said from that day forward, whenever Lindbergh flew over the farmhouse, he came in lower and tipped his wings. Mr. John Dirks rightfully carried that experience for a life-time with great pride and sense of patriotism knowing the exemplary life Lindbergh led, and the accomplishments he made.

  6. Kevin J. Cox says:

    My grandfather on my Dad’s side flew the mail with Lindbergh occasionally. (Streator Conkling Cox). Dad told me that Lindy DID. in fact do some flying in and out. Of the Old Southwest Airport near Lindbergh Ave. My father and I did a flight out and back one day in about 1953 with a pilot buddy of his. A couple of those airport buildings still stand and are in use today. I recall being in the brick one with the extant Control “Tower” before and after that flight. That alleged “Tower” is all of perhaps 16′ tall… Pretty paltry by today’s standards.

    • Martin Towsley says:

      Kevin, unfortunately a past owner of the Southwest Airport property removed the tower many, many years ago without notifying anyone he was doing so. It was in a state of disrepair and I can only assume he did not wish to restore or repair it. No money in doing that. I believe the owner of that property passed several years ago. Both of my parents learned to fly at Commercial/Southwest Airport during WWII and my grandfather helped ‘Slim Lindbergh with the mail on the northwest side of town.

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