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One Summer

America, 1927

By Bill Bryson
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One Summer by Bill Bryson

One Summer (2013) tells the story of the summer of 1927, a particularly pivotal three months in American history. The summer of 1927 marked the emergence of the United States as a major power on the international scene and set the stage for the Great Depression of the ‘30s. One Summer takes a closer look at a number of 1927’s important events, such as Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Babe Ruth’s recording-breaking 60 home runs in a season and the execution of Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti.   

Key idea 1 of 6

The United States was behind the rest of the world in aviation until Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.

It’s hard to imagine the United States without planes. The United States Air Force is a global powerhouse, red-eye flights take people from coast to coast every night and one of the largest airplane producers in the world is American. But this wasn’t always the case.

Airplanes were rare in the US military before 1914, but the outbreak of World War I showed military leaders how useful they really were. Airplane production and use increased exponentially during the war; planes were used for monitoring enemy troops, directing artillery fire and dropping aerial bombs.

Civilian aviation increased after the war, but only in Europe. Flights became widespread in post-war Europe, with Germany safely transporting 151,000 passengers by 1927, France operating nine airlines and British airlines racking up nearly a million miles per year.

Following the war, Americans didn’t develop their aviation at the same rate; passenger air services didn’t exist at all until the spring of 1927.

But Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic completely changed things, especially as it prompted greater interest in aviation among everyday Americans.

Lindbergh set out from New York in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, on May 20th, 1927 and landed in Paris the next day. He became the first person in history to be in the two cities on back-to-back days, which earned him the highly coveted Orteig Prize in aviation.

Lindbergh’s extraordinary accomplishment captivated the world’s attention and imagination. His fame helped promote commercial air services, but also aviation in general. In fact, it spurred around $100 million in aviation investments in the United States.

Within a year of Lindbergh’s flight, the airplane manufacturer Boeing grew from being a small company in Seattle to employing a thousand people.

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