The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnapping

By Adam J. Schrager | Fulcrum Publishing | $16.95 | 332 pages | 2013

The subject of this book is Arthur Koehler (pronounced Kā’ler), the key prosecution witness in the 1935 New Jersey trial of Bruno Hauptmann for murdering the Lindbergh baby. Hauptmann built a ladder to climb into the second-floor nursery to kidnap Charles A. Lindbergh Jr.

The sixteenth rail was cut from a floor plank in Hauptmann’s attic. How do we know that? Because Koehler proved it to the jury.

Koehler worked at the Madison, Wisconsin, laboratory of the United States Forest Service. He was a xylotomist, or wood expert, perhaps the only one in the country. When enlisted to assist the prosecution, he traveled here, there and yon to lumberyards in search of wood that matched the ladder crafted by carpenter Hauptmann. He found a match in the Bronx.
At the close of his testimony, expert Koehler repeated his opinion that the board from the attic and Rail 16 of the ladder “were at one time one and the same piece of wood.”

I heartily recommend this book to you. If you cannot locate it at your local bookstore, mail a $15.45 check to Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller Company, P. O. Box 15, Falls Village, Connecticut 06031; ask for item number 5613809.


Don Paine DONALD F. PAINE is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP.