In the latest issue:

Consider the Hermit Crab

Katherine Rundell

Emigrés on the Make

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Autopsy of an Election

James Butler

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

‘Cosmo’ for Capitalists

Stefan Collini

Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’

Cora Gilroy-Ware

So many ships and fleets and armies

N.A.M. Rodger

British Sea Power

Paul Rogers

Richard Holbrooke

Samuel Moyn

Four poems after Callimachus

Stephanie Burt

‘Your Duck Is My Duck’

Christian Lorentzen

On Paul Muldoon

Clair Wills

Leanne Shapton

Namara Smith

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton

‘Parasite’

Michael Wood

Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn

Two Poems

Rae Armantrout

Diary: In Monrovia

Adewale Maja-Pearce

Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Case and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann 
by Ludovic Kennedy.
Collins, 438 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 0 00 217060 4
Show More
Show More

The greatest story since the Resurrection was how Mencken described the 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. Among the three hundred-odd reporters present, besides Mencken, were Damon Runyon, Ford Madox Ford, Edna Ferber, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Walter Winchell and Joseph Alsop, who was required to write no less than ten thousand words a day for the Herald Tribune. Celebrities who dropped by included Ginger Rogers, Moss Hart, Lynn Fontanne, Jack Dempsey, Robert ‘Believe-it-or-not’ Ripley, Elsa Maxwell and Jack Benny. They were in court less because of Hauptmann than because of Lindbergh, the biggest celebrity of them all. It is a sign of the passing of time that on the dustjacket of this book the name of Ludovic Kennedy is five times bigger than Lindbergh’s. Half a century ago, nobody’s name was bigger than Lindy’s.

Lindbergh was born in Little Falls, Minnesota, the son of a Congressman; his parents parted when he was 14. He left school at 16, learned farm work, dropped out of an engineering course at the University of Wisconsin, and joined a flying circus. To drum up business, he would climb onto the wing of a plane and wave to the people in the streets below; attached by straps, he stood upright on the wing while the pilot looped the loop. He was billed as ‘Daredevil Lindbergh’.

A decade later, Lincoln Kirstein’s sister told Harold Nicolson, who was writing a life of Lindbergh’s father-in-law, that but for his pioneering solo flight to Paris Lindbergh would have been in charge of a gas station on the outskirts of St Louis. This sounds like snobbery. Lindbergh’s marriage to Anne Morrow, the daughter of Dwight Morrow – banker, ambassador and millionaire – took him into a more elevated society than that of Little Falls; Lincoln Kirstein, the balletomane, and his sister were part of it. Harold Nicolson also made a social judgment – though he found Lindbergh ‘as nice as can be’. He described him as ‘like a bright, young chauffeur’. Ludovic Kennedy draws attention to a disagreeable side of Lindbergh’s character: a taste for aggressive practical jokes. But he was fearless, and an inspired mechanic. When he took off at dawn on 20 May 1927 for his historic flight across the Atlantic, the runway at Roosevelt Field, New York, was sodden; The Spirit of St Louis was carrying a thousand pounds more weight than ever before, and its engine was not generating full power because of the damp; Lindbergh had had only two hours sleep. The aircraft cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway by 20 feet. It was ten hours before Lindbergh crossed Newfoundland, 33 hours before he landed in Paris. The French President decorated him; King George V received him at Buckingham Palace; President Coolidge sent a cruiser and an admiral to bring him home. In Chesapeake Bay, Mr Kennedy tells us, the cruiser was met by four destroyers, two army dirigibles and a fly-past from all three services. Ashore in Washington, the entire Cabinet entertained him to dinner, and the Secretary for War promoted him to colonel in the US Army Air Corps. In New York, three or four million people watched a ticker-tape parade. ‘Colonel Lindbergh, the city is yours,’ said the mayor. Lindbergh was 25.

Two years later he married Anne Morrow, and on 1 March 1932 their son Charles Augustus junior was kidnapped from their home near Hopewell, New Jersey. Three months after that, the baby was found murdered in nearby woods. In early 1935, at the ‘trial of the century’ at Flemington, New Jersey, Lindbergh took the stand to give evidence against Hauptmann. He committed perjury. Why?

Mr Kennedy has a shocking story to tell. The subtitle of his book is ‘The Lindbergh Case and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann’. Mr Kennedy is the author of three previous books about miscarriages of justice: after 10 Rillington Place (1961) the Queen granted a free pardon to the corpse of Timothy Evans, who had been hanged for a murder he did not commit; A Presumption of Innocence (1976) brought the Queen into action again to pardon Patrick Meehan for a murder he did not commit; Wicked beyond Belief (1980) was followed by the release of David Cooper and Michael McMahon, also detained for a murder they did not commit. Few readers of Mr Kennedy’s latest book will finish it thinking he has spoiled his immaculate record. The reader may be left with lingering doubts about whether Hauptmann had no connection whatsoever with the kidnapping but still be convinced that he was not guilty of kidnapping and not guilty of murder. He was electrocuted, maintaining his innocence to the end, on 3 April 1936. It all happened a long time ago: scarcely worth raking over the dead coals, some may think. But Hauptmann’s wife is still alive, ‘in a trim house in a Philadelphia suburb’, Mr Kennedy tells us. She is 79. ‘The state of New Jersey murdered an innocent man, they killed my husband God knows he was innocent I have told the truth,’ she wrote to Mr Kennedy in January 1984, thanking him for a Christmas card. Besides, capital punishment has again become fashionable in the United States, and the one argument against capital punishment that its advocates have never been able to answer is that sometimes the wrong person is executed.

The most extraordinary point about Mr Kennedy’s book is the patent ease with which he is able to justify his subtitle. The police concealed crucial files, bribed witnesses, distorted handwriting evidence, beat up Hauptmann, harassed him constantly while he was in their custody, manufactured false evidence, and entirely changed their original version of the kidnapping – which was that more than one person must have been involved – once they realised that they were going to be lucky to able to nail one suspect, let alone a gang. Hauptmann was an immigrant German carpenter who had been in jail in Germany for theft before he arrived in the United States as a stowaway. He prospered, married, and acquired a sinister con-man friend and business associate, Isidor Fisch. Ransom gold certificate bills paid by Lindbergh turned up in Hauptmann’s possession. He lied about them to the police. Later he said he had been given them for safe-keeping by Fisch, by then dead. Perhaps he had; perhaps he hadn’t. Mr Kennedy has no difficulty in accepting Hauptmann’s account, but it is possible to imagine other scenarios. At all events, once the police had found what was undeniably Lindbergh ransom money in Hauptmann’s garage, they had a foundation on which to construct a case. Fifty years on, the witnesses they produced to support their case seem comically inadequate: a self-important windbag named Dr John F. Condon, who agreed to testify against Hauptmann only after the police had threatened to charge him with complicity in the kidnapping; a down-and-out hillbilly who was paid to say he had seen Hauptmann near the Lindbergh estate on the night of the kidnapping (the picture of this man reproduced in the book could have been taken by Walker Evans as part of his series about the Depression); an old bearded fellow who said he had spotted Hauptmann at the scene of the crime, yet who was, in truth, half-blind – later (after Hauptmann was dead) he identified, in the presence of the governor of New Jersey, a bowl of flowers as a woman’s hat.

Why did the jury, and successive appeal courts, take any of this evidence seriously? The Kennedy answer is that the trial of the century was not so much a legal trial as a trial by publicity. From the beginning, the police were under intense pressure to produce results. The press was unrestrained, proclaiming Hauptmann’s guilt as soon as he was arrested. All this might have mattered less if Lindbergh had behaved differently. He had been present, some eighty to a hundred yards away, when Dr Condon handed over ransom money to a man in a dark street outside a cemetery. He had heard a man call out: ‘Hey, doc!’ That was his original statement. On the stand, however, he said the words were ‘Hey, doctor!’, and positively identified the accent as foreign and the voice as Hauptmann’s. Did he change the wording, Kennedy asks, because the pronunciation of two syllables would scarcely have been enough to distinguish a foreign from an American accent? ‘Hey, doktor!’ sounded more Germanic. Nobody asked Lindbergh, the hero, how he could be so sure that the voice he had heard in 1932 was Hauptmann’s, and not that of any other German immigrant, especially when he had been nearly a hundred yards away. Lindbergh evidently believed what he wanted to believe. On the night Hauptmann was found guilty he told Harold Nicolson that his ‘one dread all these years’ had been that the wrong man would be accused. But he was ‘quite sure’ that Hauptmann was the right man. He told Nicolson that Hauptmann had eyes like those of a wild boar: ‘mean, shifty, small and cruel’. No one else made that comparison, and it is scarcely supported by the photographs of Hauptmann in this book. But once Lindbergh had testified as he did, Hauptmann was as good as dead.

A juror was later to speak of the great importance the jury – who had been investigated by the State authorities before they were chosen – attached to Lindbergh’s testimony. Once he had spoken, it was in almost everyone’s interest to persuade themselves that Hauptmann was guilty. Hauptmann’s principal counsel, Edward Reilly, who was paid for by the Hearst press in exchange for exclusive interviews, was an incompetent alcoholic – and Lindbergh was one of his heroes. Reilly told a policeman during the trial that his client deserved to die. His most spectacular dereliction of duty was his failure to ask Lindbergh a single question about the words allegedly spoken at the cemetery.

The United States is a disorderly country, and half a century ago it was more disorderly still. In 1933, a mob broke into the San Jose jail in California, dragged out two kidnappers, and hanged them from a nearby tree. During the Hauptmann trial, a nation in the mood of a lynch mob waited outside the courtroom, and careerists and perjurers were at work within. Yet there were those who were appalled at what went on, among them Edna Ferber, Clarence Darrow and the American Bar Association. Not all newspapers went with the tide. Doubts began before the execution. The governor of New Jersey, a former sports writer, Harold Hoffman, set up his own investigation and soon uncovered police faking. But though he delayed the execution, he could not prevent it.

Where are they now? Lindbergh became pro-Nazi, worked for Pan-Am after World War Two, and died in Hawaii in 1974. Hoffman embezzled $300,000. The New Jersey State police chief became a major-general. Reilly went into a mental home a year after the trial. The wives of both Lindbergh and Hauptmann live on. So, perhaps, do the real kidnappers.

Mr Kennedy’s prose could be improved. In a book necessarily packed with relevant detail, he might have done better to cut out all irrelevant details, such as the origins of the Bronx and of Hunter’s Island (‘once the property of a John Hunter’). He makes one error, confusing Ben Nicolson, Harold Nicolson’s art-historian son, with Ben Nicholson the painter. He fails to describe adequately the way doubts about the case have slowly spread, so that the reader cannot be sure when he is supporting the conclusions of other investigators, when he is disputing them, and when he is breaking new ground. It is irritating that a book like this should have no footnotes. However, Mr Kennedy undoubtedly makes his case, and readers will share his hope that a way will be found to mitigate a flagrant miscarriage of justice, and thus make some restitution to an old lady whose courage, dignity and faith in her husband’s innocence have never flagged.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Letters

Vol. 8 No. 1 · 23 January 1986

SIR: It has belatedly come to my attention that in the course of his attempt to disprove the verdict in the Hauptmann trial of 1935, Ludovic Kennedy (whose book on the Lindbergh kidnapping was reviewed by Michael Davie in LRB, 6 June 1985) described me as writing ‘ten thousand words a day’ as a reporter at the trial. This is perfect nonsense. I have reached five thousand words a day, partly by incorporating chunks of documents: but this was a year or so later, when I was covering a Senate hearing of the utmost interest to New York City. I doubt that anyone on earth can turn out ten thousand literate words daily.

At the Hauptmann trial, I was not writing the running story. I was in fact solely responsible for what used to be called the side-bar or feature story, which averaged about a thousand words a day, or one newspaper column of that era. How Mr Kennedy arrived at his figure of ten thousand I cannot imagine – certainly not by reading my old newspaper, the New York Herald Tribune. I have not read Mr Kennedy’s book, but I feel compelled to add that I was in the courtroom for every day of the Hauptmann trial (always sitting on a window-radiator). Our crowd from the Tribune, the Daily News crowd under Grace Robinson and Robert Conway, and the Times crowd led by ‘Deacon’ Lyman, also lunched and dined together regularly, and all became my friends. All were as assiduous in the courtroom as I was. And at the end, not a single one of us doubted for an instant that Hauptmann was guilty. That weighed with me a lot, simply because I was, so to say, a member of an informal but unanimous jury of high average competence; and it still weighs with me more than any reinterpretation of the evidence half a century after the event

Joseph Alsop
Washington, DC

Vol. 8 No. 8 · 8 May 1986

SIR: I have only just seen Joseph Alsop’s letter to you (Letters, 23 January). He takes me to task on two counts: for saying (in my book The Airman and the Carpenter) that he had written ten thousand words a day while covering the Hauptmann trial of 1935, and for disputing the guilty verdict. As regards the first charge, I was given this (admittedly astonishing) figure by his wife and therefore saw no need to check it. As regards the second, I do not for a moment doubt that he and his fellow reporters at the trial all believed Hauptmann to be guilty. Unfortunately for them, they did not know what the files of the FBI, the New Jersey State Police, the New York City Police, and the papers of Governor Hoffman have since revealed: that the vast bulk (some 90 per cent) of the prosecution evidence was perjured. Mr Alsop says he has not read the copy of my book which I sent him last year, and which contains the new evidence. I am not surprised. In the light of his letter to you, he clearly does not wish to run the risk of having to admit to himself that he has been living I under an illusion these past fifty years.

Ludovic Kennedy
London Wl

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.