19 September – On this day

Bruno Richard Hauptmann (26 November, 1899 – 3 April, 1936) was a German-born carpenter who was convicted of the abduction and murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh. The Lindbergh kidnapping became known as “The Crime of the Century”. Hauptmann was executed in the electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison in 1936, proclaiming his innocence to the end.

The kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. occurred on the evening of 1 March, 1932. A man was believed to have climbed up a ladder placed under the bedroom window of the child’s room and quietly snatched the infant by wrapping him in a blanket. A note demanding a ransom of $50,000 was left on the radiator that formed a windowsill for the room. The ransom was delivered, but the infant was not returned. A corpse identified as the boy’s was found on 12 May, 1932, in the woods 4 miles (6.4 km) from the Lindbergh home. The cause of death was listed as a blow to the head.

More than two years after the abduction, authorities finally discovered a promising lead in the form of recent ransom notes which appeared to be the work of the very same individual. Soon this information was leaked to the press, which sought verification that the police were closing in on the kidnapper or kidnappers.

Then, on 17 September, 1934, a $10 gold certificate that was part of the ransom was given to a gas station attendant as payment. Gold certificates were rapidly being withdrawn from circulation; to see one was unusual and, in this case, attracted attention. The attendant wrote down the license plate number of the car and gave it to the police. After successfully tracing the plate to Hauptmann, he was placed under surveillance by a team consisting of members of the New York City Police Department, New Jersey State Police, and the FBI.

On this day in 1934, the team followed Hauptmann as he left his apartment in the Bronx, but were quickly noticed. As a result, Hauptmann attempted to get away by ignoring red lights and traveling at high speed. As the chase continued, Hauptmann was accidentally boxed in by a municipal sprinkler truck between 178th Street and East Tremont Avenue. Hauptmann was placed in handcuffs.

Hauptmann mug shot
Hauptmann mug shot