In the spring of 1927, a number of pilots and airplane designers aspired to be the first to cross the Atlantic between New York and Paris nonstop, spurred on by ambition and the $25,000 Orteig prize offered by a New York businessman. It was a dangerous undertaking and other crews had disappeared or crashed to their deaths preparing for the attempt. The 25 year-old Lindbergh’s rivals were more seasoned and experienced than he, including Commander Richard E. Byrd, a Navy aviator and renowned polar explorer. The competitors gathered at the airfield on Long Island in mid May and waited for the right weather conditions. The impending event captured the public imagination, and crowds showed up each day hoping to see the start of an historic event. Lindbergh took off on May 20. After 33 hours in the air — flying solo, without sleeping, and coping with adverse weather conditions — he touched down at an airfield outside Paris. The event transformed the hitherto obscure airmail pilot into an international celebrity and hero. Although Lindbergh’s distance record was broken only a few weeks later by another pilot who made it to Berlin, it was Lindbergh whose story captured the popular imagination. In addition to the Orteig Prize, he received the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military decoration. Lindbergh went on to become an advocate for commercial aviation, a prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor and conservationist.
Otakar Steinberger was a Czechoslovakian-born sculptor active in England in the 1920s and ’30s, known for portrait and figure sculpture in bronze. He seems to have had a particular interest in producing portrait busts and figures of pioneering aviators, including a bust of the American Charles Lindbergh; both a bust and a figurine of Amy Johnson (1903-1941); and a bust of Bert Hinkler, an Australian pilot and national hero, which he had asked the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom to present to Mr. Hinkler. A 1928 newspaper reported that Steinberger was known for “a notable bust of Colonel Lindbergh and also 30,000 replicas.” We can only conjecture that the “replicas” were possibly plaster casts sold as souvenirs.
Inscriptions on back: “— Steinberger. Paris 1927. Légionnaire.”
Condition: Very good, the metal finish now oxidized.
“Amy Johnson, 1932.” Hull Museums Collections. http://museumcollections.hullcc.gov.uk/collections/search-results/display.php?irn=3117 (13 September 2019)
“Bust of Hinkler.” Goulburn Evening Penny Post. 28 February 1928. p. 2. Online at Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/102537683 (13 September 2019).
“Echoes of the Australian Flight: The King Honours ‘Bert’ Hinkler.” Flight International. 15 March 1928. pp. 179-180. https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1928/1928%20-%200200.PDF (13 September 2019).