Lindbergh baby kidnapped On this day in 1932, in a crime that captured the attention of the entire nation, Charles Lindbergh III, the 20-month-old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, is kidnapped from the family’s new mansion in Hopewell, New Jersey. Lindbergh, who became an international celebrity when he flew the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note demanding $50,000 in their son’s empty room. The kidnapper used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and left muddy footprints in the room. The Lindberghs were inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000. The kidnappers eventually gave instructions for dropping off the money and when it was delivered, the Lindberghs were told their baby was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. After an exhaustive search, however, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Soon after, the baby’s body was discovered near the Lindbergh mansion. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the mansion to charity and moved away. The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. The gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down the license plate number because he was suspicious of the driver. It was tracked back to a German immigrant and carpenter, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found a chunk of Lindbergh ransom money. Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial was a national sensation. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong; the main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann. The prosecution also tried to establish a connection between Hauptmann and the type of wood that was used to make the ladder. Still, the evidence and intense public pressure were enough to convict Hauptmann and he was electrocuted in 1935. In the aftermath of the crime—the most notorious of the 1930s—kidnapping was made a federal offense. 1872 Yellowstone Park established President Grant signs the bill creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. Native Americans had lived and hunted in the region that would become Yellowstone for hundreds of years before the first Anglo explorers arrived. Abundant game and mountain streams teaming with fish attracted the Indians to the region, though the awe-inspiring geysers, canyons, and gurgling mud pots also fascinated them. John Colter, the famous mountain man, was the first Anglo to travel through the area. After journeying with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, Colter joined a party of fur trappers to explore the wilderness. In 1807, he explored part of the Yellowstone plateau and returned with fantastic stories of steaming geysers and bubbling cauldrons. Some doubters accused the mountain man of telling tall tales and jokingly dubbed the area “Colter’s Hell.” Before the Civil War, only a handful of trappers and hunters ventured into the area, and it remained largely a mystery. In 1869, the Folsom-Cook expedition made the first formal exploration, followed a year later by a much more thorough reconnaissance by the Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition. The key to Yellowstone’s future as a national park, though, was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden. Hayden brought along William Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a brilliant landscape artist, to make a visual record of the expedition. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of the U.S. Congress. Early in 1872, Congress moved to set aside 1,221,773 acres of public land straddling the future states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as America’s first national park. President Grant signed the bill into law on this day in 1872. The Yellowstone Act of 1872 designated the region as a public “pleasuring-ground,” which would be preserved “from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.” For a nation bent on settling and exploiting the West, the creation of Yellowstone was surprising. Many congressmen gave it their support simply because they believed the rugged and isolated region was of little economic value. Yet the Yellowstone Act of 1872 set a precedent and popularized the idea of preserving sections of the public domain for use as public parks. Congress went on to designate dozens of other national parks, and the idea spread to other nations around the world. 1910 Trains buried by avalanche Two trains are swept into a canyon by an avalanche in Wellington, Washington, on this day in 1910, killing 96 people. Due to the remote location of the disaster and the risk of further avalanches, efforts to rescue survivors and find the bodies of the dead were not completed until several days later. The Great Northern Railroad’s westbound Spokane Express left for Seattle, Washington, from Spokane on February 23. On February 26, a blizzard in Washington caused high snow drifts in the Cascade Mountains that blocked the rail lines. Despite many workers attempting to clear the tracks, the train was still stuck in Wellington, a small village in King County just past the Stevens Pass, nearly a week later. The area’s telegraph lines had come down in the storm, and there was little passengers or train personnel could do but wait out the storm. The Wellington train station was located near the base of Windy Mountain, but had no protective cover. On February 28, weather conditions changed, with temperatures dropping and thunderstorms battering the area. In Idaho, several miners died in an avalanche, and flooding imperiled residents of low-lying areas. At 4:20 a.m. the following morning, with approximately 50 passengers and 75 employees of Great Northern Railroad sleeping in the Spokane Express, an avalanche of snow crashed down Windy Mountain, prompted by a combination of rain, lighting and thunder. Charles Andrews, a rail worker and resident of Wellington who witnessed the disaster, described the scene: White Death moving down the mountainside above the trains. Relentlessly it advanced, exploding, roaring, rumbling, grinding and snapping. The Spokane Express and a mail train were both thrown from the tracks down a nearby gorge 150 feet deep. The Wellington station was wiped away, though the town’s hotel and store were untouched. At the bottom of the gorge, the trains were covered by 40 to 70 feet of snow and debris. Because the telegraph lines were down, the people of Wellington were unable to call for immediate assistance. Despite the risk of further avalanches, many people pitched in to try to dig out survivors; it was not until the night of March 2 that assistance from outside Wellington was able to reach the site. By that time, 23 people had been pulled out alive, most with serious injuries. It took over a week to recover the bodies of all 96 victims of the avalanche, which then had to be moved by toboggan to the rail lines for further transport. In the aftermath of this tragedy, the worst in Washington’s history to that time, the town of Wellington was renamed Tye and new rail lines with protective tunnels were established; the old line is now a popular hiking trail. Lessons were also learned about the dangers of clear-cutting timber on mountains above towns and villages, a practice that was partially responsible for the avalanche.