FRED WISEMAN’S AIRMAIL FLIGHT: DAY 1

By New Year 1911, Santa Rosa was itching for an excuse to throw a great party for Fred J. Wiseman.

During the first decade of the 20th century, Wiseman was Santa Rosa’s favorite son and hometown celebrity, second in esteem only to that guy named Burbank. Over forty items about him appeared in the Santa Rosa papers during 1910 alone, as discussed in a few of the articles about him listed at right.

WHO WAS FRED J. WISEMAN?

Fred J. Wiseman loved all manner of racing machines. Born on a Rincon Valley farm in 1875 (sometimes he made himself younger by claiming 1877 or 1880) he grew up just as bicycling was becoming a national craze. He opened a small bicycle shop downtown and by 1905 his Santa Rosa Cyclery was also renting small cars as well as offering Wiseman as a driver for hire.

After the cyclery business was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake, Wiseman took a job with a San Francisco auto dealership. Within two years he was their competition driver and “head automobile man,” showing off their make of auto at races around California and Nevada, which he frequently won. His name and victories appeared in ads for tires and other auto parts.

His interest in auto racing faded after he attended the first West Coast aviation meet in 1910. With an investment from his old Santa Rosa friend, Ben Noonan, his team began cobbling together an aircraft under a large tent in a Windsor pasture. The first official flight of his aircraft happened that July in Petaluma and over the next few months Wiseman and the others remained in Petaluma redesigning the aircraft and learning to fly it.

Wiseman called it quits in 1912 and sold his biplane, reportedly telling relatives he saw “no future in it” because so many of his colleagues were being killed. He took a job as a garage foreman and mechanic with Standard Oil where he worked until he retired around 1940. He died in 1961 in Berkeley.

Here are some of the previous articles about Fred J. Wiseman’s adventures:

FRED J. WISEMAN JUST WON’T SLOW DOWN
FRED J. WISEMAN: HOMETOWN BIRD-MAN
YOUR PILOT TODAY IS FRED J. WISEMAN
FRED J. WISEMAN’S CRASH COURSE

Wiseman’s great popularity that year was all the more remarkable because he had little public presence. In his earlier days as a race car driver someone could go see him at a competition or at least read about his latest trophies on the sports page; most of what he was doing in 1910 could only be witnessed by chance. Nevertheless, anything Wiseman-related was newsworthy because he and his pals were building an airplane and the country was then whipped up to dithers about the exciting new world of aviation.

Much of that newspaper coverage was about things that were supposed to happen, but didn’t. An exhibition flight for the Rose Carnival was called off because of winds, so the crowds only saw Wiseman give a little talk in front of his plane. A flight was planned at the Fourth of July fair in Petaluma, but called off after Wiseman crashed the plane twice in a month. When the biplane finally made its official public flight in Petaluma Wiseman wasn’t the pilot, but instead his long-time racing partner and mechanic, Jean Peters. Wiseman was next behind the controls for an air show in Reno and you guessed it – he crashed. Yet despite his knack for plummeting to earth instead of staying aloft, the Petaluma and Santa Rosa newspapers remained his indefatigable cheerleaders. “Fred Wiseman has the airship spirit,” the Press Democrat chirped after the Reno smashup. “He wants to fly. He says he has a machine now that will fly like a bird. There is no longer any question about it…”

But come January 1911, Fred Wiseman’s bad luck gloriously changed. He entered as an amateur at the Selfridge Field air meet in San Francisco (really the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno). This was no county fair-type event – it was the first big aviation show held in Northern California. Prize money was huge, which attracted top aviators worldwide. One of them thrilled the city by flying over downtown San Francisco and becoming the first pilot to cross through the Golden Gate. Another made the first landing on the deck of a battleship. Another buzzed an Oakland-to-SF ferry and scared the bejeezus out of passengers. It was Fred J. Wiseman, however, who won the public’s heart.

“CHEERS SPEED WISEMAN ON IN FLIGHT IN HOME MADE MACHINE,” read a headline in the San Francisco Call. “When Wiseman wheeled his biplane in front of the grandstand and the announcer informed the crowd that he was a Californian and would ‘attempt’ to fly a California built machine he was accorded a great reception,” the Call reported, after telling readers about past failures when “the best he could do was to make a few short hops off the ground.”

Wiseman executed a perfect takeoff – and then the goddesses smiled upon him. A gust of wind blew him off the course, sending him soaring over the infield and presenting the audience a longer majestic display. He circled back with ease and “made a beautiful landing in front of the grandstand,” the Call said. Later in the day he made the longest amateur flight of the show and ended up winning six prizes with a total purse of $1,283.33, just a hair behind the first place winner in the amateur class (who was a semi-pro flyer in a professional aircraft, which stirred bad feelings).

The Press Democrat told readers Wiseman was “given a hearty reception by the grandstand crowd each time he appeared on the grounds,” and the PD’s staff writer was so excited by Wiseman’s trophies and his Santa Rosa-ness that he could not bother to proofread:

Mr. Wiseman and his associates are all Santa Rosans and they are proud to have the fact known on every possible occasion. The announcer always speaks of Wiseman from Santa Rosa and no opportunity is lost to give Santa Rosa the benefit of the publicity due her for having young men who manufactured their own aeroplane from a combination of the principles from the best to be found in the other makes and unsuccessful fly the makes and successfully fly the machine 

[Yes, that was the actual end of the article -Ed.]

Wiseman found himself the man of the hour. He signed endorsement deals, such as the ad seen below. Famed British aviator James Radley told reporters that Wiseman was “the most promising amateur he ever saw” and invited Fred to join him at an upcoming flight exhibition in San Jose (Wiseman appeared but Radley cancelled at the last minute). And in an odd story, the Santa Rosa Republican falsely claimed “Lieutenant” Wiseman was about to be called up for military service by the United States Aeronautical Reserve to conduct aerial patrols along the Mexican border.*

When Wiseman and his team returned to Santa Rosa a week after the San Francisco air show, he received the sort of welcome reserved for national dignitaries:

…Parks’ Santa Rosa band was on hand at the depot to render martial music and to add to the welcome of Wiseman. Red fire was burned at the depot and along the line of march, and giant crackers were exploded as a noisy welcome. This was continued along the line of march up Fourth street. When the train arrived the passengers became considerably excited, and hastily threw open the windows to learn the occasion of the band’s presence and the firing of the giant crackers and the burning of the red fire.


(Fred J. Wiseman placing a device on his biplane to record elevation at the San Francisco air show. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library)

After speeches on the courthouse steps by Mayor Edwards and Wiseman, everyone marched over to the Bismarck restaurant for a banquet in Fred’s honor. There, a possible Petaluma-to-Santa Rosa flight was the hot topic.

The notion of a flight between the towns first came up a couple of months earlier, after Wiseman wrecked the plane at Reno. While the smashed aircraft was being rebuilt back in Petaluma, papers in both towns ran stories that he was planning a low-key flight up to Santa Rosa – with his track record at the time, it would be understandable if his confidence was shaken and didn’t want to risk a humiliating crash in front of his family and friends.

“There will be no flourish of trumpets prior to what Fred Wiseman hopes will be his next accomplishment–a flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa,” the PD wrote around Thanksgiving, 1910. A few weeks later, the Petaluma Courier reported, “The aviator will take the county seaters by surprise and he intends to land there early in the morning in time for breakfast.”

At the banquet talk of such a trip became serious, perhaps lubricated by what the Santa Rosa Republican called the “flow of soul.” Members of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce were rousing interest to collect enough pledges to pay Wiseman up to $3,000 for making the trip. He certainly needed the money; as the Republican mentioned, “Friends of Wiseman yesterday stated that the Santa Rosa birdling wrecked 12 machines before perfecting the one in which he now rides, and that he has exhausted his funds in the work…”

The flight was on. A few days later Wiseman told the Press Democrat, “I shall never bring that aeroplane to Santa Rosa by any other route than the air route, and if I can’t fly it here from Petaluma it will never come.”

A couple of weeks later, Fred Wiseman was probably eyeing the grey skies and regretting that promise. It had been an exceptionally dry winter up to then, but in early February of 1911 the rain came down in buckets. His aircraft was at Kenilworth Park in Petaluma and that fairground was like a lake. All he could do was hope the ground dried up enough before February 22, when he had a commitment to fly at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair.


(RIGHT: Fred Wiseman endorsement advertisement. Aircraft magazine, April 1911)

On Feb. 16 Wiseman and crew tested the engine in the morning and word spread through town he was about to make his Santa Rosa trip, drawing a big crowd. After most of them gave up and went home for supper he decided the winds were quiet enough to make a short test flight. “The hundreds of factory hands returning from work at that time had a fine view of the aeroplane and he made by far the finest flight yet made here by him,” the Petaluma Argus told readers. He flew about two miles north before returning, breaking a landing skid on touchdown.

The next morning everyone seemed confident he would be making the flight – everyone. that is, except for Wiseman and his crew. Before he took the train to Petaluma he told people in Santa Rosa he didn’t expect to attempt it until the following day. Whatever the cause for his hesitation faded by noon, however.

This time the airplane was on the fairground racetrack and not the grassy field. The Petaluma Courier offered the best narrative of what happened next:

Aviator Fred Wiseman, exactly at 12:30 this noon with a broad smile and determination covering his face and amid an eager crowd of two hundred people jumped into the seat of his biplane, gave orders to crank the engine and in three seconds was speeding his way for twenty feet up the slippery and muddy track, when suddenly to the surprise of those who had never before seen a flight, rose gently into the air over the heads of the cheering crowd. The women especially waved their handkerchiefs while the men threw their hats in applause of the daring of the little aviator.

Others held their breath and turned away in anxiety for fear that he would drop to the ground and be injured.

The engine worked in fine condition and like a swallow swerved over the Kenilworth Park trees while the big crowd scrambled to get onto the street. Every eye was bent on Wiseman, gently floating through the air, and all eyes were strained until the last [moment] when Wiseman disappeared into the distance…

Even before he started his engine, autos were racing towards Santa Rosa in hopes of pacing his flight, including old friend and investor Ben Noonan who hoped to reach Santa Rosa before Wiseman.

“In an almost incredibly short time however,” the Argus reported it received a telephone call “stating that Wiseman had met with some mishap and had landed in a plowed field about half a mile north of Corona road.” Wiseman brought it down because his engine began sounding rough – the carburetor had flooded. He had flown only a little over three miles (approximate location).

Autos carrying Wiseman’s team and aviation fans arrived almost immediately. The plane was not seriously damaged but a runner was broken, which they fixed using a shovel handle (!) but there was no chance it could take off again from the muddy field. The delicate aircraft with its 33 foot wingspan would have to be carried and dragged out by hand.

“Everybody took hold and helped,” the Press Democrat reported, but the wheels were “sunk into the sticky adobe almost to the hubs. The wheels gathered and held the mud and after a few moments resembled huge mudballs.” The farmer who owned the land told them to tear down part of a fence and put the boards under the runners. It took hours to move the thing to solid ground just 200 feet away.

There was talk of flying back to Kenilworth Park where proper repairs could be made and Wiseman could attempt to set a cross-country speed record, but Fred still wanted to finish the voyage. By the time they were ready, however, a strong wind was blowing from the west. At sunset it was decided to wait until the next morning and everyone went back to Petaluma, with a watchman returning for the night. Fred Wiseman’s airplane was left near the side of the road, facing in the direction of Santa Rosa.

 

* In reality, the Reserve was a national aviation club with thousands of members who were mostly aviation entusiasts, including President Taft. While there was much hype at the time about using aircraft to look for Mexican Civil War Insurrectos sneaking across the border, the air patrol ended up being a single volunteer pilot who worked for the Wright Brothers – and who ditched the aircraft belly-up in the Rio Grande on his second flight, ending the whole plan.

Wiseman did serve in the Army during the Spanish-American War, when Santa Rosa’s National Guard Company E was called up 1898-1900 to serve as replacement troops stateside. In 1924 he applied for a military pension as an invalid and was approved.

 

WISEMAN WILL BE GIVEN OVATION TUESDAY EVENING
Band Will Meet Aviator At Train and Escort Him On March

Fred J. Wiseman, the Santa Rosa boy who has made a splendid record at the aviation meet in San Francisco, will be honored on his return to his home city Tuesday evening. He and his crew of mechanicians will be met at the depot here on the arrival of the afternoon train at 5:45 and will be accompanied in the front of the court house by many of the representative citizens of Santa Rosa.

Parks’ Santa Rosa band has been engaged for the occasion, and the home-coming of Wiseman after having established some new amateur records at the aviation field, will be made memorable in many ways. Louis Gnesa, the well known business man of this city, has provided the band as a mark of recognition of Wiseman’s feats in the air, and the fact that Wiseman has made known the name of Santa Rosa in exceptionally splendid manner.

Gnesa is one of the enthusiasts over the success of the Santa Rosan, and has secured the services of a band to demonstrate his appreciation.

A line of march will be formed at the depot and the march will be undertaken to the front steps of the court house on Fourth street. Here Mayor James R. Edwards will make an address to Wiseman, and a brief reply will be made by the aviator. Mayor Edwards will felicitate the young man on his splendid achievements in the air.

Fred J. Bertolani of the Bismarck restaurant will entertain Wiseman and his mechanicians at a sumptuous repast later at his place of business. It will be a gala spread with good fellowship prevailing, and there will be a feast of reason and a flow of soul following the serving of the viands.

Accompanying Wiseman will be Ben Noonan, Don C. Prentiss, Bob Schieffer, Archie Prentiss and Alvin Cooper. Ralph A. Belden of this city is also a member of the official staff.

[..]

Friends of Wiseman yesterday stated that the Santa Rosa birdling wrecked 12 machines before perfecting the one in which he now rides, and that he has exhausted his funds in the work and given all his time to it for a year. They are indignant that an employee of a professional camp, driving a professional machine had entered in contest with the lead inventor and the matter will probably be taken up by the aviation committee and the judges of the meet.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 24, 1911
A ROUSING OVATION IS TENDERED FRED WISEMAN
Santa Rosans Honor A Favored Son on Tuesday Evening

Fred J. Wiseman and his crew of mechanicians were given an enthusiastic welcome to the City of Roses on Tuesday evening…

…Parks’ Santa Rosa band was on hand at the depot to render martial music and to add to the welcome of Wiseman. Red fire was burned at the depot and along the line of march, and giant crackers were exploded as a noisy welcome. This was continued along the line of march up Fourth street. When the train arrived the passengers became considerably excited, and hastily threw open the windows to learn the occasion of the band’s presence and the firing of the giant crackers and the burning of the red fire.

When Mr. and Mrs. Wiseman alighted they were surrounded by a large number of friends and residents of Santa Rosa. Every one in the vast thong desired to shake Wiseman’s hand and express appreciation of his efforts, and to say words of appreciation of his efforts, and to say words of appreciation to Mrs. Wiseman. It was with some difficulty that the young aviator could be gotten through the crowd…

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 25, 1911
WISEMAN, WELCOME!
By George L. Smith

All join to welcome our hero, returning,
Cheer follows cheer from the multitude there.
Loud plays the band, while the red fire is burning;
Tri-colored streamers float out on the air.

Yes, we are proud of the boy who is flying,
Proud that he hails from our city so fair.
Loudly today his praise we are crying
This self-proven amateur king of the air.

Here’s to Fred Wiseman an excellent example
Of what man can do when he so sets his will.
Yes, Fred, indeed you’re a living example
That confidence into all hearts should instill.

So here’s to the boy whom today we’re all praising
Who soon will be showing the whole world his might,
And was first in the state to succeed in the raising
Of a California built airship in actual flight.

– Press Democrat, January 25, 1911
WISEMAN IS COMPELLED TO DIVIDE THE AVIATION PRIZES

The many friends of Fed J. Wiseman will be interested in the result of the prize awards for the recent aviation meet…

…[F]riends in this city were preparing to go to the aid of the young birdman before the aviation committee here and protest that the honors gained in the novice class by Wiseman should not be shared by H. A. Robinson and Lincoln Beachey, the two Curtiss men also entered as novices. Beachey and Robinson have both made flights in standard Curtiss machines set up by Curtiss mechanicians. They are both carried in the Curtiss camp. Wiseman is a Santa Rosa youth who has put his own time and money and ideas into his aircraft…

…The citizens of Santa Rosa, under the leadership of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, are collecting a purse which will be offered to Wiseman for a flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, sixteen miles. Petaluma citizens are anxious to contribute also, it is said, and the total sum offered may approach  $3,000…

– Press Democrat, January 26, 1911
HE’S COMING HOME IN HIS AEROPLANE
Santa Rosa Aviator Says if He Can’t Make the Trip that Way He’ll Stay Where He is the Rest of His Life

Fred J. Wiseman and his associates have established temporary quarters in this city, where they will carry on the construction of a large lot of aeroplane parts. They are having quite a bit of their woodwork turned out at the Simpson & Roberts mill under charge of Lee Patton of that establishment. Mr. Patton was with Wiseman’s mechanical force some time at Petaluma.

Wiseman has the distinction of being the first and only amateur aviator in America to build and successfully fly a heavier than air machine of his own original design. Yet his flying at the San Francisco international meet placed him and his machine about on par with professionals. While his machine was first being assembled at the Tanforan meet the question: “Will you try today?” was often asked. After his first exhibition of flying there the question was altered to “Will you fly today?”

Being asked when he would bring his air craft to this city, the local birdman replied, “I shall never bring that aeroplane to Santa Rosa by any other route than the air route, and if I can’t fly it here from Petaluma it will never come. But I don’t believe there are many people who now doubt we can perform that feat and more, too.”

At San Francisco Wiseman established an official duration record of 49 minutes, double the time required for his promised Petaluma to Santa Rosa flight, which he has decided to make some time within the next few days.

[? illegible microfilm] recognized by all the eastern magazines and aero publications and excellent pictures appeared in most of them.

– Press Democrat, February 8, 1911
WEATHER DELAYS WISEMAN’S FLIGHT
Had Planned to Fly to County Seat from Petaluma Monday, But Rain Makes it Impossible to Do So

Fred J. Wiseman had proposed to fly from Petaluma to Santa Rosa Monday, it being a holiday, but owing to the continued storm this will be impossible. As soon as the weather clears up and the ground dries sufficiently to give him firm ground on which to make the start, he will make the flight.

Wiseman returned Saturday night from Petaluma, where he had been during the afternoon with Ben Noonan and Don Prentiss to look over the conditions there regarding the prospects of getting a flight Monday. They were greatly disappointed to find the ground under water and the indications that it would be several days after the rainstorm broke before any attempt at a flight would be possible.

The machine is now ready, the attendants are on hand and the very first opportunity the attempt is to be made, declared Wiseman during the evening. The machine will not be dismounted to take to Cloverdale until the last minute in hopes that a flight can be made from Petaluma to Santa Rosa prior to going to Cloverdale for the Citrus Fair when Wiseman is contracted to make flights on Wednesday and Saturday, February 22 and 25.

– Press Democrat, February 11, 1911
WISEMAN STARTS FOR SANTA ROSA BUT MEETS WITH MISHAP

After the big crowd of spectators had left Kenilworth Park on Thursday evening, following the announcement that Wiseman would not make his attempt to fly to Santa Rosa on that day he made a splendid tryout flight which the spectators missed but which was seen by many people at a distance. The hundreds of factory hands returning from work at that time had a fine view of the aeroplane and he made by far the finest flight yet made here by him.

It was just 5:05 when everything was working nicely and Wiseman from his seat on the machine shouted, “let her go.” The machine rose majestically and took to the air, rising to the height of about 75 feet and set out on a course which took him directly over the slaughter houses north of this city, and thence out as far as the point where the electric railway tracks leave those of the steam road. He made a wide turn to the left and came back to the park, having gone a distance of about four miles. He was in the air for about fifteen minutes.

On landing, he forgot a trough which stood in the path of the machine and after he had shut off the power he was compelled to rise slightly to avoid the trough so made an uneven landing and smashed one skid of the machine. The work of making repairs was at once taken up and the machinists worked until far into the night to make repairs, and they were finished by morning.

The test on Thursday morning was very satisfactory and there was over 400 pounds thrust before the machine left the ground. The additional power was added at Tanforan park in San Francisco. Wiseman had the machine under perfect control at all times and if he could have made such a flight as that on the Fourth of July the people would have gone wild with excitement. Yet Wiseman has been so successful he thought little of the flight Thursday, except to express his satisfaction.

At 12:28 Friday afternoon Fred Wiseman, the local aviator, started from  Kenilworth park for his long-discussed air trip from this city to Santa Rosa. Wiseman and his assistants spent the morning working like beavers getting the big air craft is shape for the perilous journey. Meantime the news of the attempted flight spread throughout the city and a crowd of several hundred people were at the park all morning waiting patiently and with great good humor for the mechanicians to finish their work.

Soon after 12 o’clock the work was completed and the big air craft was moved down the track from near the pavilion to a point near the club house. Then Wiseman took his seat and the engine was started. The aeroplane moved rapidly along the track for some distance after which Wiseman lifted the plane and the air craft rose into the air as gracefully as a bird.

Wiseman rose to a height of about one hundred feet, executed a graceful curve and headed for Santa Rosa, passing over the trees that line Washington street at a point a short distance west of the residence of J. D. Ellis. At this juncture the engine seemed to be working perfectly and Wiseman was traveling at a high rate of speed. The local people watched Wiseman until he passed out of sight beyond Corona, and all returned home to their delayed luncheons jubilant in the belief that Wiseman would reach his destination in safety.

In an almost incredibly short time however, word was received over the telephone at the Argus office stating that Wiseman had met with some mishap and had landed in a plowed field about half a mile north of Corona road about one hundred yards west of the Northwestern Pacific Railway tracks. Investigation revealed the fact that Wiseman was compelled to descend for the reason that, in some manner, lubricating oil had flooded the carburetor of his engine causing it to stop.

Wiseman made the landing in good shape and without damage to the aeroplane. Assistance was promptly on the scene and the work of moving the airship to solid ground preparatory to fresh start was soon under way. It was difficult work moving the airship across the plowed adobe to the county road near Denman station and this task had not been accomplished when the Argus went to press. Wiseman was not discouraged and declared his intention to complete the journey to Santa Rosa tonight if it was possible to do so.

The airship had not been five minutes on the way when Mrs. H. C. Bartlett phoned the Argus word that it had alighted. Mr. Bartlett ran to the spot, about a mile away from their home, to see if he could be of assistance.

Steiger’s auto, with Wiseman’s assistants on board, was soon at the scene and the slight repairs necessary were quickly made. They consisted of a broken runner, which was repaired by using a shovel handle.

J. M. Johnson of Corona was less than a mile away when the machine approached and he saw that it was tilting considerably and was flying at an angle. The engine was missing and he could tell from the sound that it was not working properly. He could see that Wiseman was endeavoring to right the machine and that it gradually settled closer to the earth. Mr. Johnson saw that Wiseman was uninjured and then come on to town, and soon had told the Argus the first true particulars of the landing of the birdman.

Wiseman carried letters from Geo. P. McNear to Mayor Edwards and J. P. Overton, a letter from Postmaster Olmstead to Postmaster Tripp and a package from Hickey & Vonsen to Kopf & Donovan.

– Petaluma Argus, February 17, 1911
WISEMAN’S SECOND FLIGHT PROVES UNSUCCESSFUL

Aviator Fred Wiseman, exactly at 12:30 this noon with a broad smile and determination covering his face and amid an eager crowd of two hundred people jumped into the seat of his biplane, gave orders to crank the engine and in three seconds was speeding his way for twenty feet up the slippery and muddy track, when suddenly to the surprise of those who had never before seen a flight, rose gently into the air over the heads of the cheering crowd. The women especially waved their handkerchiefs while the men threw their hats in applause of the daring of the little aviator.

Others held their breath and turned away in anxiety for fear that he would drop to the ground and be injured.

The engine worked in fine condition and like a swallow swerved over the Kenilworth Park trees while the big crowd scrambled to get onto the street. Every eye was bent on Wiseman, gently floating through the air, and all eyes were strained until the last [moment] when Wiseman disappeared into the distance, being now at Corona.

Automobiles in large numbers left for the county road to get sight of the aviator’s movements and previous to the flight, Ben Noonan left in his auto for Santa Rosa to be with Wiseman when he arrived. Disappointment was expressed on all sides when a telephone message was received from Corona that Wiseman had alighted in Denman’s field and that there was little or no probability of his continuing the flight.

The exact state of the injuries done to the machine could not be learned at the time of this writing although the fact was made known immediately that Wiseman was not injured.

Six newspapers of Santa Rosa were tied to the seat of the machine which Wiseman had intended leaving at the homes of ranchers along the line of flight. Hickey & Vonsen sent a package along to be delivered in Santa Rosa and Geo. P. McNear sent a letter to be delivered to the Mayor of Santa Rosa, inviting the citizens of Santa Rosa to attend the Industrial and Pure Food Exposition in Petaluma in March.

Wiseman was wished success by all around him and and before taking the flight partook of a light meal. It is to be regretted that he could not have continued the journey to Santa Rosa.

Wiseman’s trial trip to Corona on Thursday evening was identically the same as taken this morning. The test Thursday was satisfactory in every way. In alighting one of the beams was broken which had to be repaired today. The machine will be brought back to Petaluma and another trial made. The machine is being housed in the pavilion at Kenilworth owing to the unsettled weather.

Our esteemed contemporaries at the county seat have christened Wiseman the Santa Rosa aviator. Petaluma also has a claim on him on account of his machine being built here and holds that he should be christened the “Petaluma and Santa Rosa aviator.”

Later.

Aviator Wiseman is still at the Denman field at Ely where he alighted while enroute to Santa Rosa. He is three and one-half miles on the other side of Corona station. Mr. Wiseman was compelled to alight in the field on account of the fact that the oil flooded the carburetor and the engine lost its power. Mr. Wiseman observed the trouble and alighted to save disaster. He landed on the field in fine style, making an easy stop. Unfortunately the field has recently been plowed and the soil is adobe and consequently the machine stuck. Wiseman and his assistants moved the machine 200 feet out of the field and hope to leave tonight for Santa Rosa. He has the machine headed for Rainsville.

– Petaluma Courier, February 17, 1911

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THE MAN WHO KEPT FALLING TO EARTH

Some of the pioneer airplane pilots specialized in speed, or distance, or altitude; Charles K. Hamilton specialized in crashing spectacularly.

While researching Fred J. Wiseman’s first flights in 1910, it came as a surprise to learn he crashed their aircraft three times, once causing major damage to the plane (see previous item). By comparison, Wiseman’s partner Jean Peters also flew the biplane often and had not a single mishap  – that we know of. Was Fred a bad airman? In one of the very few quotes from him that year. he seems to come across as flippant and reckless: “This airship sport has automobile racing licked to a frazzle,” he confidently told a Press Democrat reporter. “I tell you one thing–that a man has a far better chance of saving himself in an airship when she commences to drop than he has in an automobile race when the wheels skid or the gear goes wrong.”

(RIGHT: Charles Hamilton in July, 1910. Photo: earlyaviators.com)

But Wiseman’s record doesn’t look so bad compared to some others, particularly since about ten flyers had died to that point. Consider the performance of his friend (acquaintance?) Charles Hamilton; he crashed at least seven times in 1910 (a Feb. 1911 wire story claimed there were “two score” by that point), four of the accidents involving life-threatening plummets from the sky. Loathe that I am to quote a Wikipedia page, the entry for Hamilton summarizes him well. He was “nicknamed the ‘crazy man of the air…known for his dangerous dives, spectacular crashes, extensive reconstructive surgeries, and ever present cigarette’ and was ‘frequently drunk’. He survived over 60 crashes.”

Hamilton also had a local connection. Before he was flying planes, he was “Professor” or “Captain” Hamilton, the parachuting hot-air balloon pilot who appeared in Sonoma County in 1905, 1908, and twice in 1909. At first he piloted and landed the balloon only; the jumper here in 1905 was his girlfriend/wife/sister (we don’t even know what year he was born, much less his family connections). Before that, he had a parachuting monkey named “Jocko.” I would not be surprised to learn the first of his “extensive reconstructive surgeries” had something to do with pitching a terrified monkey overboard at 500 feet.

Before long Hamilton ran out of parachute jumpers (human or no) and began jumping himself. Sometimes this did not go well. During his 1909 performance in Santa Rosa, he was left dangling with his parachute caught in overhead wires until a PG & E lineman rescued him. Worse, a year before he had fallen through the skylight at Moke’s funeral home on Third street, frightening the undertakers. “I’m not a dead one just yet,” Hamilton quipped.

The September, 1909 Santa Rosa jump was possibly his last. By the end of the year he was on the East Coast learning how to fly from Glenn Curtiss, then the hotshot American aviator, having just set the world’s speed record. Hamilton was a quick study; a few weeks later he was competing at the first West Coast flying exhibition in Los Angeles (discussed here). There he gained confidence when he glided to safety after his crankshaft broke, and learned that air shows paid a helluva lot better than flinging himself or a monkey over the side of a balloon. He won $4,500 in prize money at the event, using his winnings to lease the racing plane that Curtiss had used to set the record for speed. Hamilton’s aviation career was launched.   

Also called the “red devil” for his shock of ginger hair, Charles Keeney Hamilton was one of the most famous men in America for a few glorious months. His career peak came that June, when he won $10,000 for making the first roundtrip flight between New York City and Philadelphia (as a precaution because he was flying over twenty-two miles of open water, he wrapped three bicycle inner tubes around his waist). The New York Times ran a full-page feature, “Charles K. Hamilton Tells How To Run An Aeroplane.” As the public was crazy over everything flight related that year, the wire service illustration shown to right appeared in many papers accompanying generic aviation stories, with Hamilton more prominently displayed than his mentor Curtiss or the Wright brothers.

Municipalities everywhere wanted to host an air meet that year, and Hamilton was raking in money by charging $4,000 for an appearance. Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley, wearing his hat as president of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, met with Hamilton in Fresno to try to arrange for him to fly here.

He put on quite a daredevil show that included going into a steep dive and pulling out twenty feet from the ground. “There were persons present yesterday who believed that before Hamilton quit for the day he would disrobe, stand on his head, throw away one plane [wing] at a time and come in on the carburetor,” gasped the NY Tribune. Part of the thrill for show goers was the chance Hamilton would set some new record or have one of his horrific accidents. In March he was attempting to skim low over the water in Seattle and had a pitchover, the biplane somersaulting end over end. During a novelty race with an auto at the California state fair – apparently using an engine on loan from Wiseman – he crashed nose down, leaving spectators amazed that he wasn’t killed on the spot. He destroyed an experimental aircraft on a test flight and an engine failure at 200 feet in December led to another smashup. And it was even something of a miracle that he had completed his famous Philadelphia-New York flight given that he broke two propellers, one when he made an emergency landing in a meadow that turned out to be a swamp.

Hamilton’s career flamed out as quickly as it had started. He flew little after 1910 and his last known flight was in Feb. 1913 at Jacksonville, Florida. True to form, he crashed the plane – this time jumping out seconds before impact. He died of tuberculosis in 1914 and his obituaries were small, appearing mostly in towns where he had once wowed the locals with his death-defying stunts.

DROPPED FROM THE SKY IN A ‘CHUTE
Successful Balloon Ascension Feature of the Celebration at Sebastopol on Monday

Professor Hamilton, the aeronaut, made a successful balloon ascension and parachute jump from Sebastopol on Monday afternoon. His ascent into the heavens was witnessed by thousands of people in the Gold Ridge City and for miles around. All over the section people were out waiting for the big balloon to rise. There was much speculation as to where Professor Hamilton alighted and where the balloon fell. The man landed on the Solomon place and the balloon came down on the electric railroad near Bassat station some distance below Sebastopol. It was a very successful exhibition in every respect.

– Press Democrat, July 7, 1909

PARACHUTE LANDS BETWEEN SOME WIRES

Professor Hamilton, the aeronaut who made the balloon ascension here Admission Day, attracted a large crowd of persons to witness his trip into the heavens. He went up a great distance into cloudland before cutting loose his parachute. The descent in the huge umbrella like affair was very graceful.

The aeronaut landed on terra firma just in front of the Henry M. Forsyth residence on upper Fourth street. By a strange freak he came down between two sets of wires and the canvas parachute clung to the wires. The trapeze on which Professor Hamilton did his “stunts” which sailing through the air was within a few feet of the ground at the time, so there was no drop for him to make to reach the earth.

Clancy Sherman, one of the linemen of the lighting company, ascended a pole after some delay and pulled the huge bag off the wires, for this he was awarded with liberal applause.

The ascent and descent were as thrilling as those ever get to be and was particularly pleasing to the children.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 10, 1909
HAMILTON, THE AVIATOR, IS KNOWN HERE

Charles K. Hamilton, whose great flight from New York to Philadelphia on Monday is chronicled in another column, is the aviator whom the Chamber of Commerce committee endeavored to secure at the time the giving of an aviation meet here under the auspices of that organization was being considered. President Finley visited Fresno for the express purpose of securing Hamilton, and he agreed to come providing he could possibly arrange to do so, but on reaching Phoenix, Arizona, Hamilton found that his manager had made engagements without consulting him, which made it impossible to keep the tentative engagement made for Santa Rosa. When the local committee found it could not secure Hamilton, the matter was dropped. Hamilton has been in Santa Rosa, however. He is the same Hamilton who made the parachute jump at the Fourth of July celebration given here two years ago, under the auspices of the Native Sons, the ascension being made from the Court House grounds.

– Press Democrat, June 14, 1910

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FRED J. WISEMAN’S CRASH COURSE

No doubt about it, Fred J. Wiseman was Santa Rosa’s homegrown Elvis in 1910. Consider this measurement of fame: Wiseman and his airplane appeared at the racetrack that year but he didn’t fly – the winds were bad that day. In a motorcycle race also at the event, a guy set the world speed record but in the Press Democrat, the record-setting got a distant second billing to the introduction of Wiseman and his team to the crowd.

Wiseman-Peters biplane at Santa Rosa racetrack, May 9, 1910. PHOTO: Sonoma County Library

The Rose Carnival that year was to be the first opportunity for the public to see the Wiseman airplane – and likely the first chance for locals to see any airplane at all. It was only a couple of years since the Wright Brothers had become household names and planes of any sort were rare birds indeed, particularly on the West Coast; the first flying exhibitions came to California earlier in 1910, and at the San Francisco show only a single pilot actually flew. Not a week passed without newspapers featuring aviation stories on their front pages, telling of new records set for distance or speed or of terrible accidents. Both Santa Rosa papers avidly covered that sort of news, with added breathless coverage of Wiseman’s efforts to design and build an aircraft in a Windsor pasture. All this (and more!) was covered in the intro, “Fred J. Wiseman, Hometown Bird-Man.”

A week before the aircraft was put on display, the Press Democrat began beating the drums to build excitement. During Rose Carnival weekend it was to be seen in the empty lot at Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue (current location of the Rosenberg building, which was constructed in 1922). No detail was too small; there were articles about workmen clearing away junk scattered on the lot, building a tent, that it took “three big wagons to haul the airship to town in its many sections” and that there would be a small admission price to view the machine up close, with school kids getting a free peek. The paper assigned Tom Gregory, the best writer in town, to take a spin and describe the experience (he hated it). At the end of Carnival weekend it was promised Wiseman would fly at the race track. “There will probably be one of the greatest assemblages of people gathered there to witness the flights that has ever assembled in this city,” gushed the PD. 

Come the last day of the Carnival, everyone was primed to see a man fly for the first time. “As soon as the airship was brought onto the track the immense throng of men, women and children were all attention,” reported the Press Democrat. “Every movement of the bi-plane as it was wheeled along the track was watched with intense interest.” Alas, the winds were choppy, so nothing to see – except for Wiseman’s wave to the crowd and that little matter about the world speed record (68.7 MPH, if anyone cared).

In the ten weeks following the no-fly at the Carnival, Wiseman was plagued with awful luck. The big tent near Windsor where he and Jean Peters built the plane burned, destroying all their tools, research notebooks, and spare parts. Fortunately the aircraft was moored outside the tent and unharmed. It was brought down to Noonan’s field at the edge of Santa Rosa city limits (North Park, at the intersection of North St. and 15th is a good approximation) where Wiseman crashed it the next day in a test flight, completely destroying the propeller. Repair would be costly because the 7-foot, 6-inch propeller, along with the wing cloth lost in the fire, were the only imported parts used in construction. Damage was estimated at $1,000.

Wiseman and his partners had no time to waste because the plane was due to be shown at the Fourth of July fair in Petaluma. With Peters and Don Prentiss he began rebuilding and remarkably the plane was fixed and ready to fly again, just two weeks later.

Fred immediately crashed again, this time hitting a fence in Kenilworth Park on July 3rd.

Confidence was apparently deeply shaken, both in Wiseman’s flying ability and faith that they really had an airworthy craft. Plans were postponed for a follow-up exhibition flight in Petaluma: “The committee wishes to be positively sure that a flight will be made by the airship before it begins to advertise the event,” reported the Argus, as well as, “Mr. Peters will be at the wheel when it flies again.”

Thus as it turned out, the first official public flight of the Wiseman-Peters airplane happened July 24 in Petaluma, with Jean Peters as the pilot.

Both Peters and Wiseman continued practice flights at Kenilworth Park for the next three months without serious problems, although there was a mechanical failure on one flight that required the engine be sent to San Francisco. Wiseman took a break in September to visit the state fair, where he again competed in an auto race (results unknown, but he apparently did very well) and met with Charles Hamilton, the flying madman who is the topic of the following article and puts Wiseman’s crash record in some perspective.

While at Petaluma that autumn the team built a new aircraft, some 200 pounds lighter than the original. This plane was taken to Reno where exhibition flights were held for a week. They might have stayed longer, had Wiseman not crashed again and destroyed the plane.

Despite the setbacks and particularly Wiseman’s propensity for crashing their expensive airplanes, the Santa Rosa papers never lost faith in their hometown boy. Even when there was no real news, the Press Democrat especially kept cheering away. “Getting Ready To Build An Airship,” read the headline in one non-newsworthy story. “Wiseman Smiles As Airship Flies,” was another, and “New Airship Will Be A Dandy Machine.”

The year 1910 ended with Wiseman et. al. back in Petaluma rebuilding the plane that crashed in Reno. He was now talking about making a 24 mile trip from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. “There will be no flourish of trumpets prior to what Fred Wiseman hopes will be his next accomplishment,” commented the PD. “That will be a great event, not only in the record of Fred Wiseman, but in aviation in this section.” The Petaluma Courier added that he hoped to take Santa Rosa by surprise, landing  “early in the morning in time for breakfast.”

ECHOES FROM THE AVIATION FIELD
Special Free Inspection for School Children Here During Rose Carnival Week

From the aviation field on the Laughlin ranch at Mark West word came yesterday that Aviators Wiseman and Peters are putting finishing touches on their bi-plane and will have everything in readiness for the flights in readiness for the flights in Santa Rosa on the afternoon of May 8.

As will be seen in another column, the Wiseman-Peters bi-plane will be on exhibition in this city prior to the aviation meet. It will be housed in a big tent on the big vacant lot at Fourth and Mendocino streets. For the general public a small admission fee will be charged, but a special free inspection and explanatory talk on the machine and its parts will be given the school children on some day during carnival week on which due notice will be given.

– Press Democrat, April 27, 1910

THE SANTA ROSA BIRD MEN GET MANY BIDS TO FLY
Wiseman and Peters Are Very Much in Demand Now

The fame of the Wiseman-Peters bi-plane has gone far and wide from all over the state. Wiseman and Peters are receiving requests that they furnish aviation meets in many places. Some of the requests are of a very pressing nature, and they are guaranteed substantial financial renumeration. It is needless to say that they feel very much pleased over the attention being given the success of the efforts.

As has already been stated Wiseman and Peters will make their first public flight in Santa Rosa on May 8, the day following the big Rose Carnival, and it will take place at the race track. There will probably be one of the greatest assemblages of people gathered there to witness the flights that has ever assembled in this city.

The Wiseman-Peters bi-plane is considered by experts one of the best if not the best machine that has been constructed. It is the second American machine to be fully manufactured in this country, and that adds much to the importances of the work carried out by Wiseman and Peters…

– Press Democrat, April 29, 1910

CLEAR OFF LOT FOR THE AIRSHIP

Lee Bros. men on Thursday commenced to remove the big girders and other refuse from the big Brush lot on Fourth and Mendocino streets, and on the lot the big tent will be erected which will house the Wiseman-Peters bi-plane for several days during the Rose Carnival, and prior to its removal to the aviation field at the race track. At a small admission fee the general public will be admitted to inspect it. On a special day the children of the grammar grades and of the Ursuline College and St. Rose’s parochial school will have an opportunity to see the airship free of charge.

– Press Democrat, April 29, 1910

SANTA ROSA HAS AIRSHIP RIGHT IN HEART OF CITY

The Wiseman-Peters airship was brought into town last night and all night mechanics were at work assembling the big machine so that it can be inspected by the public today in the big tent on the corner of Fourth and Mendocino streets.

It took three big wagons to haul the airship to town in its many sections, and the arrival of the wagons at the tent caused a big crowd to assemble and much interest was aroused.

It will be remembered that the management promised to allow all grammar school children to take a peep at the airship free of charge. True to the premise the children will be admitted to the tent this morning between the house of nine and eleven o’clock, and it is safe to say that very few will omit the invitation. After that hour a small admission will be charged.

The new engine will be installed in the bi-plane this morning and the machine will remain on exhibition until its removal to the race track to be in readiness for the flight on Sunday afternoon.

– Press Democrat, May 6, 1910


WIND PREVENTS FLIGHT OF AIRSHIP
Entertainment at the Track Minus Aviation–World’s Record Established by a Thor Motor Cycle

An immense crowd gathered at the race track on Sunday afternoon to witness the racing and the aviation meet. The Wiseman-Peters bi-plane, built by Fred J. Wiseman and M. Peters, was ready to tour the air, but unfortunately the high wind of a choppy nature that prevailed, prevented a flight. The crowd, however, appreciated the unavoidable conditions and in consequence were contented with an inspection of one of the classiest airships ever built in this or any other country–by a number of experts pronounced the best–and saw it driven on the ground the full length of the homestretch with Wiseman mounted in the seat which he or Peters occupies when a flight is made. The boys have a machine that can fly and it is their hope before long, due announcement being given to everybody, to fly over Santa Rosa or at  least give a free exhibition for everybody. They will keep their word. For the time being the airship will be again at the Laughlin ranch at Mark West, where the aviators will add some more finishing touches. No one regretted the wind conditions half as much as they did and that they were unable to fly.

As soon as the airship was brought onto the track the immense throng of men, women and children were all attention. Every movement of the bi-plane as it was wheeled along the track was watched with intense interest. Fred Wiseman, in response to popular demand, was brought before the grand stand and was introduced by Ira Pyle, who manipulated the megaphone. Mr. Peters and Don Prentiss –the latter an assistant builder were similarly honored. There were calls for Ben Noonan, the treasurer and manager of the Wiseman-Peters bi-plane. Mr. Noonan’s modesty, however, kept him in the background. To tell the truth, knowing Wiseman’s daring, he was somewhat afraid that Wiseman would essay to brave the unfavorable wind conditions and attempt a flight.

It was hoped by sundown that the wind would go down and make a flight possible, but instead of going down its “choppiness” increased, and so there was no flight. Prior to the bringing out of the plane the assemblage was entertained with a number of interesting motor cycle and automobile events.

Gets World’s Record

The spectators had the opportunity of witnessing the establishing of the world’s record for motor cycle racing on a dirt track when Earhart, riding a Thor went five miles on his machine in four minutes and twenty-two seconds…It was a wonderful exhibition of speed when Earhart tore along the track at less than a mile a minute speed. The crowd shouted their enthusiasm.

[..]

– Press Democrat, May 10, 1910

THE AIRSHIP HAS A NARROW ESCAPE
Tent Burns on the Laughlin Ranch and Wind Blows Aeroplane to Safety

Misfortunes never come singly, Fred J. Wiseman and M. Peters, who spent several months building one of the finest airships ever built in the country, feel the truism of the old saying.

Sunday afternoon the tent which housed their bi-plane on the Laughlin ranch at Mark West, was destroyed by fire, together with all their tools, the air-chars and valuable papers containing measurements and other data, some engine parts, a big roll of cloth used only for airships, and some personal effects. The airship, which was fortunately moored outside, escaped serious injury.

It was the strong wind that blew the airship to a place of safety in the big pasture field after the fire had burned the strands of rope holding the machine to the outside poles of the tent. The fire caught the cloth on the rear plane and scorched it. Fortunately the fire was noticed and the flames consuming the cloth were extinguished.

The loss is naturally a very heavy one on the builders, but nothing daunting they are going to repair the damage, get another new roll of cloth and new tools, replace their papers and in short, will not let the disaster of Sunday afternoon, shortly after 5 o’clock, stop them in their determination to make of their airship the greatest success possible. All their friends sympathize with them in their loss and congratulate them on their pluck.

– Press Democrat, May 17, 1910

FRED WISEMAN CORDIALLY INVITES THE PUBLIC TO SEE HIM IN FLIGHT NEXT MONDAY MORNING

At the time when the strong wind at the race track prevented a flight of the Wiseman-Peters biplane, Fred Wiseman promised that at some future date he would give a free exhibition for everybody who cared to go to the big pasture field on the Laughlin ranch at Mark West.

Pleased beyond measure with the successful flight he made last Sunday morning, and confident that everything was all right with the mechanism to insure successful flights in the future, Mr. Wiseman will give another tryout flight or flights next Monday morning at the Laughlin ranch, and the public generally is invited to come and here [sic] between eight o’clock in the morning and noon and witness the same.

Monday being a holiday many people will doubtless avail themselves of the opportunity thus offered and it is possible that a train can be secured to run to Mark West on that day.

– Press Democrat, May 27, 1910

THE AIRSHIP MEETS WITH AN ACCIDENT
Wiseman Makes One Pretty Flight But in Another Attempt Wind Strikes Machine

It takes more than a contrary wind, breaking down of an engine, the burning of a tent, the blowing down of a tent, and other accidents to discourage Fred J. Wiseman and M. Peters in their plan to navigate the air in their biplane. Consequently the accident which befell their machine on Saturday morning, when a sudden gust of wind caused it to careen and come down on its side, smashing the propeller and one side skid and other minor damage has not phased the boys and they are already making repairs and mean to make a flight before the thousands of people who gather in Petaluma on the Fourth of July.

Unannounced except to a few friends Wiseman had his airship out in the field on the Noonan place and gave it several runs across the field until about half past nine o’clock Saturday morning. Then the airship raised to a height of about thirty feet and Wiseman made a fine flight for about 150 yards. Two more flights were attempted then came the sudden veer of wind and the airship came down as described from an altitude of fifteen feet.

Fate has apparently been against the boys but they are undaunted. Of course these accidents are very discouraging and possibly would make less determined aviators desire to “yump ye yob.” But not so them.

– Press Democrat, June 19, 1910

WISEMAN SMILES AS AIRSHIP FLIES
Flight at Petaluma Yesterday Morning Is all the Talk of the Town Now

Fred J. Wiseman came to Santa Rosa yesterday morning and dropped in at the Press Democrat office to greet his friends, and his face wore the biggest kind of a smile. The reason for the very apparent good humor had preceded him. However, for a well known Petaluma resident had already reached town with the news that the Wiseman-Peter biplane had that morning made a very successful flight at Kenilworth Park in Petaluma. Fred was a very happy boy and his pleasure is certainly shared by his host of Santa Rosa friends. Fortune has at last smiled upon the efforts of the Santa Rosa boys, and everybody hopes it will continue. They have as has been claimed on many occasions, a machine that can fly. Of course, it takes practice to make perfect even in the flying and understanding of airships, and as Mr. Wiseman stated yesterday, everything cannot be learned in a day or a month. A re-adjustment of a part of the mechanism of the airship was made and now Wiseman and Peters say they are the masters of the situation. Last night’s Courier had this to say among other things of yesterday morning’s flight.

“A few minutes before seven the machine was pulled down to the southerly part of the park and the engine was cranked with J. W. Peters at the wheel. The biplane ran some two hundred yards along the ground before arising. Mr. Peters had absolute control at all times and when off the ground made a flight of two hundred yards at a distance of fifteen feet in the air.

[..]

– Press Democrat, July 7, 1910

IT WILL FLY HOME UNDER OWN POWER
Declaration Made Concerning the Wiseman-Peters Biplane–Another Aviation Meet

The date of the aviation meet exhibition drill, etc., at Kenilworth Park in Petaluma has not as yet been set. It will not take place on Sunday as many local people think but has been put off until later in the month. The new date will be announced in the local papers in due time. The event was postponed as the committee wishes to be positively sure that a flight will be made by the airship before it begins to advertise the event.

Mr. Peters will be at the wheel of the machine when it flies again and as he has already made several flights in the east, he will no doubt give a good account of himself.

The owners of the big airship state that the huge machine will not be taken to Santa Rosa until it flies back under its own power. –Petaluma Argus

– Press Democrat, July 16, 1910

AIRSHIP FLIES AS CROWD APPLAUDS
Wiseman-Peters Biplane Does Its Best Work to Date at Kenilworth Park, Petaluma

Three flights were made by the Wiseman-Peters Biplane in Petaluma on Sunday morning in the presence of a large crowd of spectators, many of whom were from this city, the interest in the success of the machine here being very keen as Fred J. Wiseman is a Santa Rosa boy and he and J. W. Peters and Don C. Prentiss put the airship together on the big Laughlin ranch at Mark West.

The flights of Sunday are only the beginning of greater things to come for the development of the “know how” is all that is required. Those who have seen other airships have always said this airship could fly, and it si being demonstrated. While possibly forty feet was the height attained in Sunday’s exhibition by J. W. Peters. It is know that the big bird can go much higher. The enthusiasm created at Kenilworth Park was such as made the hearts of the aviators glad.

[..]

– Press Democrat, July 25, 1910

AVIATOR HAMILTON GETS THE ENGINE

Fred Wiseman of local aeroplane fame, left Petaluma on Thursday for Sacramento, taking with him the engine from the aeroplane that has been housed in the tent at Kenilworth Park since the Fourth of July. According to the Argus Mr. Wiseman took the engine to Sacramento at the request of Aviator Hamilton, who desires to use it in his flights at the state fair, his own engine having proven practically useless.

– Press Democrat, September 9, 1910

FRED WISEMAN MAKES A GREAT AUTO RECORD

Fred J. Wiseman returned from Sacramento on Saturday night. He made a great record in auto racing at the State Fair, adding to his prior laurels. Mr. Wiseman went to Sacramento to see Aviator Hamilton on business and was at the track when the aviator had his serious tumble for a distance of one hundred feet. Hamilton escaped with some serious bruises. He was feeling somewhat better on Saturday morning when Mr. Wiseman saw him.

– Press Democrat, September 11, 1910

WISEMAN HAS VERY NARROW ESCAPE
Airship Partially Wrecked by Sudden Wind Squall Terminating Most Successful Flight

[..]

“Reno, Nov. 17–Wrecked in his most successful flight before the Reno public, Fred Wiseman of Santa Rosa narrowly escaped injury at the race track today when his biplane was practically demolished. Rising 40 feet from the ground the birdman was aught in an air eddy from the grandstand, which he overtopped. This overset his machine, sending it crashing to earth. Wiseman was thrown out, but sustained no injuries. When up about 40 feet the biplane commenced to drop, diving straight toward the earth, where Wiseman managed to regain control and altered its course slightly, bringing it back to an even keel. It plunged to earth, the motor spinning furiously, and struck squarely in an irrigating ditch, this preventing the wheels from revolving and allowing a safe alighting.

“There was a crash when the wheels crumpled underneath and jammed through the bottom plane and one of the wings bent and snapped.

“The birdman shut off his engine as he struck, preventing the propeller from tearing the car to pieces. The sudden shock threw Wiseman from his precarious perch, straight into the wires and stays. He was caught in these and wavered to and fro for a few seconds as the machine quivered. Then he extricated himself and jumped away from the debris.

“The aeroplane will probably be taken apart and the broken planes and mechanism packed away for shipment to California…

– Press Democrat, November 19, 1910

PETALUMA TO SANTA ROSA IN AIRSHIP MAY BE NEXT VENTURE

The rebuilding of the Wiseman airship, which was damaged in the accident at Reno, Nev., is in progress in Petaluma, and it will not be long before Fred Wiseman will again take his seat amid the wings to fly aloft.

“This airship sport has automobile racing licked to a frazzle,” Wiseman smilingly observed to a newspaper friend in town on Sunday, when he was asked as to the feeling that came over one when mounting into the air and navigating about in space.

“I tell you one thing–that a man has a far better chance of saving himself in an airship when she commences to drop than he has in an automobile race when the wheels skid or the gear goes wrong.”

Fred Wiseman has the airship spirit. He wants to fly. He says he has a machine now that will fly like a bird. There is no longer any question about it, and but for the squall of wind across the Reno race track there would have been no limit to which he could have attained.

There will be no flourish of trumpets prior to what Fred Wiseman hopes will be his next accomplishment–a flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. That will be a great event, not only in the record of Fred Wiseman, but in aviation in this section.

– Press Democrat, November 23, 1910
MORE ABOUT THE COMING FLIGHT
It is to be a Surprise and Wiseman Will Be Here to Eat His Breakfast

Last night’s Petaluma Courier has more to say regarding the coming flight of Aviator Fred Wiseman from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. It is to be a surprise flight. The Courier says:

“A Courier reporter visited Kenilworth Park Thursday afternoon and as usual the men were found busy and preparing themselves for flights.

“The Wiseman-Prentiss squad has removed their engine from the biplane taking advantage of the inclement weather to overhaul it. They have brought about a change in lubricating the engine, having attached taubes to the seat of the operator, whereby he can lubricate the engine while he is on a flight.

“This is a decided advantage over the old system as the operator has plenty of difficulties without turning around to watch the engine. A larger tank has also been installed which will enable the biplane to travel a longer distance without refilling.

“The cross country flight to be made to the county seat will occur shortly. Fred Wiseman will be at the wheel on the occurrence of the flight and has already mapped out his course.

“He will have the park as a starting point, going directly south to Burdell’s station, seven miles below this city. He will reverse at this location and proceed northeasterly following the lower range of the Sonoma mountains for a distance of about five miles then going west to Penngrove, after which he will go north through the valley, following the line of the Northwestern Pacific railroad to the county seat.

“The entire flight will cover a distance of at least twenty-four miles. The intention of the aviator to go south is to tack against the wind which will tend to aid him to ascend faster. He has carefully mapped out this route, finding that he will have less obstacles to pass over his machine and life will be more safe. The aviator will take the county seaters by surprise and he intends to land there early in the morning in time for breakfast.”

– Press Democrat, December 17, 1910

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