Promoter: Raymond Orteig
Prize: $25,000 (Today's value $246,000)
Winner: Charles Lindbergh
Aged just 12, Raymond Orteig arrived in the US from France with just 13 francs in his pocket. By 1919, he was a successful hotelier with $25,000 to offer for the first aviator to “cross the Atlantic in a land or water aircraft (heavier than air) from Paris or the shores of France to New York or from New York to Paris without a stop."
Due to the apparent danger of the mission, it wasn’t until 1926 that an attempt was made, but in May 1927, little-known US pilot Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo crossing in his custom-built airplane ‘Spirit of St. Louis’.
Orteig rushed to Paris to meet him upon his arrival, and eventually awarded Lindbergh the prize in New York - the expense of which was dwarfed by the economic impetus that the achievement unlocked for the aviation industry, creating $16 for every dollar of the prize fund.
Furthermore, Orteig’s legacy has been cited as the inspiration behind recent awards for pioneering commercial spaceflight, ensuring that one man’s desire to link by air the country of his birth to the country of his success continues into the modern era.