The Trial of Hauptmann


The Lindbergh kidnapping case was one of the most passionately followed events in the journalistic history. The trial of the kidnapper of the baby (and its eventual murderer) Bruno Richard Hauptmann in Flemington, New Jersey turned the small town into a three-ring media circus. However, when Hauptmann (arrowed in above picture) was brought to court, the presiding judge Thomas W. Trenchard announced that no pictures were to be made in the court during the session. 

However, the press desperately wanted a ‘verdict photo’—and the press usually gets what it wants. Newsphoto syndicates from all over the country pooled resources to get this single photo. More than 100 photo personnel set up a central headquarters in a nearby bakery shop. From the group, they selected two photographers: Sam Shere, INP, who ran into trouble getting into location and Dick Sarno, NY Mirror. Dick Sarno, practiced with a 35 mm Contax Camera by duplicating the lighting conditions of the courtroom. When the verdict was returned and the death penalty was announced, he took now-infamous courtroom picture from the camera wrapped in his muffler–a precaution he took to silence the camera–from between two reporters camouflaging Sarno. 

Sarno reflected “I thought I might be stopped by state troopers. They’d been alerted to watch for cameras…. the judge was directly in front and below me. If he looked up, I was sure he could see me”. The pandemonium that directly followed the verdict enabled him to sneak away quietly. He returned to the bakery with a piece of history–the next day, the photo was plastered on the front-page of many newspapers, including The New York Sun (above), which was conservative enough to devote eight columns to the picture.  

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5 thoughts on “The Trial of Hauptmann

  1. My Aunt’s name (Virgina ((Maiden name?)) Cotter was mentioned in the Hauptmann trial. She was mentioned under her maiden name and I cannot ascertain it

    Could you help or tell me where I migt review the court transcript.

    Thanks, Vin Warner

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