Shortly after Charles A. Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris, the post office decided to break tradition and issue a stamp that honored a living American. Because the law prohibited the use of the portrait of a living person, the central design represented Lindbergh’s airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis. The plane was later suspended in the main entrance hall of the Smithsonian Institution’s Arts and Industries Building (later moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum).
The 10-cent design in dark blue shows the start and finish points of the solo, non-stop flight and the 3,600-mile route, which Lindbergh flew in thirty-three and a half hours on May 20-21, 1927. The stamp was issued less than a month later, on June 18.
The postmaster general requested first impressions of the stamp for presentation to Lindbergh and his mother. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prepared two leather-bound booklets: one with the first impression and one with the second impression. The postmaster general presented the booklets on the evening of June 11 at a reception for Lindbergh at the Washington Auditorium by the National Press Club.
A. W. Hall, director of the Bureau, believed that the engraving of this stamp and the making of the printing plates were accomplished in a shorter period of time than any similar printing job by the Bureau. The model was approved on June 3 and engraving began the same day. On June 6 a proof was made, on June 8 the die was hardened, and on June 9 rolls and plates were made so that the next day the issue went to press.
The Lindbergh stamp replaced the previous 10-cent airmail stamp, and the first sale took place in St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Little Falls, Minnesota; and the District of Columbia. Because of demand for airmail stamps in booklet form, the post office issued booklets with six Lindbergh stamps in panes of three on May 26, 1928. A couple of months later, on July 31, the airmail rate changed, creating a very short time of usage for the booklets.