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Month: May 2004

Aviator and Hero

charlesL2“Lucky Lindy” came to Cape May 72 years ago… but it wasn’t for fun.

Aviator and hero, Charles A. Lindbergh may be the only visitor to Cape May who had no interest in the town’s soft sand, salt air breezes or Victorian charm. In the early Spring of 1932, Lindbergh came to Cape May for one purpose only, and that was a desperate attempt to accomplish the safe return of his kidnapped son.

Charles A. Lindbergh captured the world’s attention with his historic 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He and his airplane, “The Spirit of St. Louis”, left New York and flew non-stop before landing in Paris 33 ½ hours later. Lindbergh won not only the Orteig Prize, but also the attention and affection of a country hungry for someone and something to cheer about as it suffered through the great Depression. Lindbergh became a reluctant hero, surprised that his accomplishment would bring such adulation and fame.

charlesLHis love of aviation took him on a subsequent goodwill tour including a stop in Mexico, where he met and fell in love with Anne Morrow, daughter of United States’ Ambassador to Mexico and New Jersey native, Dwight Morrow. Charles and Anne married in May 1929 at the Morrow estate in Englewood. Their first child, Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. was born a year later on June 22, 1930, his mother’s birthday. Desiring privacy, the Lindbergh’s built a home of their own in Hopewell, Hunterdon County.

On the evening of March 1, 1932, twenty-month old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped from his nursery. Upon discovery of his son’s disappearance, Lindbergh immediately notified the police. Three clues were left at the scene of the crime: a ransom note found in the nursery; a three-section ladder which had been used to gain entry to the baby’s room was found outside; and a chisel believed to be used to pry open the nursery window. The search was on. The crime captured the attention of the state, the country, and the world.

estateOn April 2, 1932, following instructions in subsequent ransom notes, Lindbergh paid a $50,000 ransom through an intermediary, hoping to gain the safe return of his son. Unfortunately, the much hoped for disclosure of the baby’s location proved to be false, leaving investigators frustrated and Lindbergh desperate for any information that would lead him to his child. In the meantime, a Norfolk, Virginia boat builder named John Hughes Curtis contacted Lindbergh saying he had been approached by people who claimed to know the whereabouts of the Lindbergh baby. Curtis appeared credible, and his suggestions were followed. He said the baby was being held by a kidnap gang on a boat off the coast of Cape May, and provided elusive names but actual locations as people and places in Cape May he had visited in his efforts to help the Lindbergh family.

ChasLindberghJrWhile conducting this search for his son, Lindbergh’s visits to Cape May were not publicized. Desiring to keep a low profile, it is believed that Lindbergh stayed at the Bellevue Inn in Cape May Court House. The Bellevue Inn, now the Bellevue Tavern, for many years served as a call stop for the New Jersey State Police. Here, with the influence of the NJSP Superintendent Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, it was believed that the famous aviator’s anonymity would be protected. Lindbergh’s comings and goings off local waters, looking for the Gloucester fishing boat described by Curtis, are reported to have been from Schellenger’s Landing, present location of The Lobster House restaurant and docks. New Jersey State Police investigative reports document Cape May telephone numbers, as well as Cape May and Wildwood addresses, provided by Curtis as valuable clues in tracking down the purported kidnap gang.

kidnap4_wantedLocal authorities and the United States Coast Guard, along with trusted private citizens, provided cooperation and assistance to the New Jersey State Police investigators; but all efforts to find the baby were in vain. On May 12, 1932, upon coming ashore – here in Cape May – after yet another futile search, Lindbergh was met with news that the baby’s body had been found. The discovery was made a short distance from the Lindbergh estate in Hopewell. After intense interrogation, John Hughes Curtis confessed that his information and false leads were all a cruel hoax. He admitted that he never did have any knowledge or proof of an alleged kidnap gang. He was arrested and put on trial for providing false information.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Years later he would denounce his confession, but the damage to his credibility was irreversible.
On September 19, 1934, a Bronx, New York carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and soon charged with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder. Hauptmann had been under surveillance for several weeks prior to his arrest after having passed Lindbergh ransom money in the New York area. He had no connection whatsoever to Curtis or Cape May.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Hauptmann’s trial at the Flemington, New Jersey, courthouse began January 2, 1935. Circumstantial evidence as well as witness testimony sealed his fate.
On April 3, 1936 Richard Hauptmann, claiming his innocence to the end, was executed in Trenton, New Jersey.

More information is available at charleslindbergh.com/kidnap and nj.com/lindbergh

Author’s Note: Although it’s a long shot, I hope this article may spark some memories from someone who would most likely be a grown grandchild or other relative of a person who was an adult in 1932. If any readers of this piece happen to hear of someone who has anything to say about the Cape May aspect of the case, please let us know in the comments below.

If you would like to view the physical evidence and documents associated with the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, or would like to schedule a time for researching the investigative files and trial transcript, you may contact the New Jersey State Police Museum & Learning Center in West Trenton, New Jersey. For additional information and directions, call the NJSP Museum at 609-882-2000, ext.6402.


Women and Their Art

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“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.”
– Pablo Picasso

Quiet-Street-in-Cape-May2

Quiet Street in Cape May by Caroline Mangan

It is a rainy day in April. The three women are sitting in an airy room in a spacious house in Egg Harbor Township. Each woman is leaning over her artwork conscious of the looming deadline before her. Three of the group’s members are missing today either because of the rainy weather or because they are still at work. In the summertime the six women come together weekly. They go “on location,” roaming South Jersey recording – with their art – the charms of the region. They’ve been doing this for more than five years and have decided that now is the time to share their vision with the public.

The women – group organizer Marie Natale, Cathy Rodricks, and Ginny Ogden – along with three other members – Caroline Mangan, Bernice Rappoport, and Maureen Gass-Brown – are preparing for a May 2nd art show opening of their work called, appropriately enough, “Women and Their Art.” Cape May’s Chalfonte Hotel will host the mixed-media event that will run through the month of May.

In-Lilac-Profusion----Maure

In Lilac Profusion by Maureen Gass

They are women who are at a time in their lives when art can come forward, front and center – no longer back-staged by the demands of career and family. You can feel the collective sigh from the three women as they think about In Lilac Profusion by Maureen Gassart and the reasons why they are still together as a group after nearly six years. Artists, as one of the women notes, are not known for accepting criticism graciously yet these six critique each other’s work regularly and, as Ginny Ogden notes, “no one takes it personally.” It’s done with kindness because “we all have a different vision,” added Marie Natale.

When asked the secret of the group’s longevity, the three artists look up and, without hesitation, say in perfect unison, “Caroline Mangan.”

Girls on Beach by Caroline Mangan

Girls on Beach by Caroline Mangan

Caroline Mangan is their friend, their teacher, their mentor, and a member of their art group. They view the septuagenarian as a “true artist” – one who shares her view, her talent and her energy about art.

The six women came together in the course of their art studies. Mangan, a portrait artist and teacher met four of the women in her classes. They ran into each other again at various workshops.

“Something just clicked,” said watercolor artist Marie Natale, referring to Mangan. “It’s her personality and her energy.”

Planting Time by Ginny Ogden

Planting Time by Ginny Ogden

“She’s uplifting,” says Ginny Ogden. “We all want to be with her.”

“And we all paint better as a result of being with her,” added Cathy Rodricks.

So, who is this woman who is so admired by her fellow artists?

She is a portrait artist and art teacher who works primarily in watercolor. The West Chester, PA. resident is a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Club and the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society who has won many accolades over the years.

And why did she become an artist?

A Senior Moment by Caroline Mangan

A Senior Moment by Caroline Mangan

“Oh, I loved it (art),” said Mangan in a recent telephone interview. “I loved art as a child. I was always copying pictures out of magazines and then after I graduated high school, I enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Art and studied to be a fashion illustrator. But I never pursued it. I got married and didn’t pick up a brush for ten years. Then, my mom got sick and I felt the need paint.”

And why did she elect to paint in watercolor?

“Because it felt looser. I felt freer and not as rigid as I felt working in oil. Although, lately I’ve gone back to oil and it feels looser because of the time I spent working with watercolor.”

Tot on the Beach by Caroline Mangan

Tot on the Beach by Caroline Mangan

And why does she think she is so admired as a teacher and an artist?

“Because I’m a giving person and not all art teachers are. I put myself out there. I don’t withhold any information that I think will help my students.”

It is this sharing of knowledge that the group tries to keep integral to their art sessions. They view their art as a “constant journey” both literally and figuratively speaking. Literally, their journey takes them from Tuckerton to Ventnor to Avalon to Cape May trying to capture south Jersey on canvas. Many of the inspirations for their paintings are already gone – a 100-year-old hotel, a fishing shack, an open field.

Purple Dusk by Cathy Rodric

Purple Dusk by Cathy Rodric

“We’re losing a lot that charm,” said Natale, as more and more farmland is being sold to make way for housing developments or shopping centers.

Natale said the group’s inspiration comes from trying to capture the beauty and charm that brought people to the Jersey Shore in first place.

The backgrounds of the other five women, whose work will be presented at the Chalfonte, are as varied as their art.

Poppies by Marie Natale

Poppies by Marie Natale

Like Mangan, Natale knew, even as a 6 year-old child, that she wanted to be an artist. Encouraged by another teacher when she was 12 to try painting as a medium, Natale has been all over the artistic gambit – from teaching art in the public school system to designing and running her own children’s clothing business. Currently, her day job as an industrial design artist also gives her the time to devote to her first love – watercolor painting.

The idea for a group show came to her when her own artwork was introduced to the public at a show last year.

Working Boats by Ginny Ogden

Working Boats by Ginny Ogden

“It was the first time I sold my paintings,” said Natale, “And I thought the Chalfonte would be a wonderful venue for another (art) show. But that’s a big place to fill and then I thought of our group.”

Daisies by Cathy Rodricks

Daisies by Cathy Rodricks

Ginny Ogden is a retired elementary school teacher who has always had an interest in art. After trying several media she also found her natural niche was watercolor, as did Cathy Rodricks who took up brush and paint after her youngest son left for college 15 years ago.

A nurse by profession, Rodricks shares her companions’ love of florals and landscapes.

The Blue Vase by Maureen Gass

The Blue Vase by Maureen Gass

Professional artist Maureen Gass-Brown is a full member in the Garden State Watercolor Society. She explains in her bio that her artistic credo is to “reach the poetry in the subject matter” she is painting. “The fluid… nature of watercolor,” she adds, “allows me to capture emotion, essence and energy.”

Cape May Welcome by Maureen Gass

Cape May Welcome by Maureen Gass

Bernice Rappoport, is an associate member of the Garden State Watercolor Society as well as the New Jersey Watercolor Society who also works in a variety of other media, among them charcoal, oils and pastels.

Even the most casual of observers can tell that these are six very busy women.

“Hmmm.” Said Ginny Ogden, “Show me a woman who isn’t busy.”

“Well, then you’d be a man,” said Cathy Rodricks as she looked up, ever so briefly, from her work.