The Lindbergh Crate was used to ship the Spirit of St. Louis airplane back to the United States in 1927. Here, it is seen being moved from Canaan to Columbia Falls, with longtime owner Larry Ross in the left foreground. Photo courtesy of Larry Ross

In 1990, Larry Ross purchased the packing crate that brought the plane used in the first-ever human solo transatlantic flight, back to the U.S.

The historic crate came from a seller in New Hampshire and was used as a teaching tool for his students at the Margaret Chase Smith School in Skowhegan.

Since then, Ross developed a historic exhibit of Charles Lindbergh memorabilia in the backyard of his home in Canaan. But after 30 years, the Lindbergh Crate has found a new home at the Wreaths Across America Museum in Columbia Falls — in Maine’s Washington County — for what Ross is calling its next chapter.

“My wife and I decided we were going to downsize and move from our home on Easy Street,” Ross said during a phone interview Monday. “I decided what I was going to try and do was find a new home for the crate.”

The Lindbergh Crate Museum was developed from the crate that was used to ship the Spirit of St. Louis back to the United States in 1927.  The plane was flown by famed American aviator Charles Lindbergh in the first-ever nonstop flight over the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris, France.

The Lindbergh Crate, used to ship the Spirit of St. Louis airplane back to the United States in 1927, is seen being loaded aboard USS Memphis in 1927 after the first-ever trans-Atlantic flight to Paris. Photo courtesy of Larry Ross

Ross purchased the crate in 1990 after its previous owner, David Price of Contoocook, New Hampshire, purchased the land the crate was located on.

Ross saw the crate as an opportunity to teach young people not only about history but about building character as well.

“I used it as an educational tool to work with kids and I used Lindbergh’s flight as an example of having a vision of what you might want to achieve in your life,” Ross said. “I would try to introduce the kids to people who I thought were interesting role models.”

When Ross saw the advertisement for the crate’s sale, it instantly resonated with him and his love for history.

“I’ve always loved U.S. history as a kid and we would travel every summer from Massachusetts, where I’m from, to Colorado, where my mother was from,” Ross said. “My parents would let me sit in the back of the car with a map and everyday I could pick out one place that I wanted to go and visit. So when I read that story I just thought, ‘This is exactly the kinda place I would’ve wanted to go as a kid’… so I went to check it out and I just thought, ‘Here is this part of history, this is my chance I can make this happen and I can use it to tell a story.'” 

When Ross told Price what his plans were for the crate, Price was sold.

“I approached David Price and I said, ‘I want to buy this and I’ll give you $3,000 for it,'” Ross said. “And he said, ‘Well, I’ve been offered $5,000 why would I sell it to you for three?’ I explained to him my idea of using it as a museum but (also) using it to educate kids … and he loved it, he loved the idea.”

The Lindbergh Crate, used to ship the Spirit of St. Louis airplane back to the United States in 1927, is seen coming out of the woods in Contoocook, N.H., in 1990 on its way to the property of Larry Ross in Canaan. Photo courtesy of Larry Ross

From there Ross, with the help of Tim and Nancy Ames, owners of Ames Mobile Home Sales in Canaan, hauled the crate to Ross’ backyard where he began restored it.

The 290-square-foot crate was given porches, a roof, doors and windows.

Inside, Ross displayed a variety of memorabilia ranging from letters to photos to pieces of art.

“Everything that I had in there was given to me,” Ross said. “I had probably half a dozen notebooks. I had a bust of Charles Lindbergh. I had tapestries that were produced after his flight. I had a lot of photographs.”

Larry Ross, left, longtime owner of the historic Lindbergh Crate, holds a collage of articles documenting the crate’s move to Canaan 30 years ago. At right is Nancy Ames, holding a photo of her grandfather from the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Larry Ross

The contents of the museum remain with Ross while the crate itself has moved to Columbia Falls.

A few years after purchasing the crate Ross, began holding an annual event called “Lindbergh Crate Day.” The event invited  local residents to Canaan to see the crate museum, enjoy airshows and meet “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” according to Ross.

This is where Ross met the crate’s new owner, Morrill Worcester, founder of Worcester Wreath Co. and Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit that places wreaths on the graves of veterans.

“I had met Morrill because I invited him to come to my backyard as an example of an ordinary person who did extraordinary things,” Ross said.

Since 1992, Wreaths Across America has expanded from laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to laying wreaths in 2,100 different locations across the country and abroad.

Last December, the organization brought 50,000 wreaths to Arlington.

“After I met him, (Worcester) he invited me to come down to Arlington with him,” Ross said. “So every year I started bringing my class and I started bringing kids from Canaan, Skowhegan and Cornville down to Arlington to help place the wreaths down there.” 

Ross said that Worcester’s location in Columbia Falls was a good fit for the crate because of what the nonprofit aims to accomplish.

“The mission of his nonprofit is ‘remember, honor, teach,” Ross said. “So I thought that Morrill’s location was a good one for its next chapter (because) over the years, things became less about aviation, and more about people. Who people were, the character of the people.”

Another person Ross points to when using the crate as a teaching tool is Maj. Jay Aubin, who had attended the school Ross taught at.

“(Aubin) was killed on the first day of the Iraq War. His sixth grade yearbook expressed his vision to be a pilot,” Ross said in an email Monday. “I placed a marker for him in my yard as his story was about what the crate was about, vision and character.”

Worcester also believes that the crate fits nicely into what Wreaths Across America does. 

“He (Ross) got that crate, I think as a teaching aid really for children and we thought it would be great for the same reason,” Worcester said in a phone interview Wednesday. “At Wreaths Across America, a big portion of what they do is teach generations to come. This is certainly a great way to teach … it’s a piece of history and it’s a great way to break the ice with children, tell them about Charles Lindbergh and what he did, and I suppose to show that any other child could do the same thing.

The crate was shipped from Canaan on Monday and has since arrived safely in Columbia Falls, according to Worcester.

“We’re going to tarp it, protect it over the winter and we’ll be putting it on display next summer,” Worcester said. 

Looking back over the course of the last 30 years, Ross is thankful for everything the crate was able to do for him and the community.

“I’m thankful for all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had with it (the crate) and all of the terrific people I’ve met along the way,” Ross said. “I’m hopeful that some of the experiences that I provided to the kids and to my community over the years still resonates with people, that they still connect with it. And I’m hopeful that the same will happen up in Columbia Falls … I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to do this and I look forward to being a part of it a little bit more.


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