The author of this 203-page, softcover book comes by his extensive knowledge of this famous case primarily through his employment. Fresh out of college in 1992, Mr. Falzini was hired by the New Jersey State Police to work in the archives of their museum. That institution has over 250,000 documents, photos, and evidentiary items regarding the Lindbergh case of kidnapping and murder. After 16 years in this engaging job, which he still holds in 2020, Mr. Falzini decided to write a book which would put a spotlight on the major figures involved in the investigation and trial, thus giving them their “Fifteen Minutes of Fame.”
In his preface, Mr. Falzini explains his reasoning for the exclusion of some major figures (the Lindberghs, the Hauptmanns, lead defense attorney Edward Reilly, and NYPD detective James Finn.) Justifiably, the two couples have been written about extensively in books and other print venues. However, excluding Reilly and Finn may have gone too far even though he states that their lives are covered very well in “excellent biographies” but he then only cites a couple of magazine articles about them…hardly biographies of excellence, however worthy.
Mr. Falzini’s final format of 26 chapters presents some difficulties in sorting out the background of all the other major players in this extensive case. In general, he accords each person a chapter and these range in length from 16 pages to just a half page of only three paragraphs. The latter is that of Egbert Rosecrans, which is so brief his connection to the Lindbergh case is not even mentioned. Not all of the chapters profile people; Hauptmann’s auto and Lindbergh’s estate home merit their own chapters.
A few of the chapters have just not one individual but encompass a bevy of folks: the twelve jurors, the eleven NJ State Police personnel involved, and “The Experts”, consisting of Dr. Erastus Hudson (fingerprints); Arthur Koehler (wood scientist); Dr. Dudley Schoenfeld (criminal profiling); and Albert Osborn (handwriting.) Since the book contains no index, it is difficult to otherwise locate these individuals. Moreover, since Falzini praises these four men as the “founding fathers of forensic science”, it’s curious why he lumps them together (unindexed) into one chapter while the totally obscure Egbert Rosecrans enjoys his own separate chapter.
In another unusual grouping, Falzini combines the following trio (again, unindexed): John Hughes Curtis, plus a minister, Dean Dobson-Peacock, and an associate of Lindbergh’s, retired Admiral Guy Burrage. The latter two convinced Lindbergh to listen to the wild tales of Curtis, who falsely claimed he was in contact with the “real” kidnappers who had the baby on a Scandinavian ship. Lindbergh was on the last of the wild-goose chases with Curtis in Cape May, NJ when he was informed the corpse of his son had just been found. Curtis was ultimately convicted of obstruction of justice and sentenced to a year in prison and a $ 1,000 fine.
But whatever its shortcomings, this book contains a treasury of fascinating facts and photos, many of which have not appeared in prior books. For example, unlike the automobile of Bonnie and Clyde, which went on the vaudeville stage and then was exhibited in Nevada casinos for the next three decades, Hauptmann’s car was never exhibited. Instead, it was stripped of small parts, then the car body was crushed and recycled in a patriotic World War II scrap drive in 1943. Another example: the oldest surviving juror from Hauptmann’s trial, Ethel Stockton, lived until 2002. She died 67 years after the trial in her Florida retirement at the age of 100.
The author establishes the correct spelling of Lindbergh’s British maid, Violet Sharp, with no “e” on the end, as most Lindbergh books misspell it. Sharp committed suicide after forceful interviews by the police. Mr. Falzini affirms that her birth certificate says “Sharp” as do other official documents and she always signed her name that way.
One more interesting fact. For reasons that are unclear, the Lindberghs ignored William Allen when he was introduced to them as the person who found the corpse of their son. It may not have registered with them at the moment who Mr. Allen actually was and what he had done to help. Mr. Allen came across the remains by chance when the truck he was riding in stopped at a pullover in front of a wooded area on a rural road for him to walk a short distance to discreetly answer the call of nature. If he not been observant and curious, the remains may never have been found before Nature claimed them forever. But this African-American trucker ultimately obtained a reward of $5,000 for his discovery, even though it was not received until two years after Hauptmann was executed. The amount is equivalent to $95,000 in 2020.
Mr. Falzini remains neutral concerning the guilt or innocence of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. While he covers some of the trial testimony, as well as the evidence introduced, he derives no conclusion from either, instead leaving that decision to the reader.