HISTORIC AIRPLANES: Wiseman-Cooke
Fred Wiseman needed two days to fly his meager
handful of mail from Petaluma to Santa Rosa, California in
1911. His airplane, now on display in the National Postal Museum,
never exceeded 70 miles per hour or flew higher than 100 feet
off the ground. He carried three letters from the mayor and
other town leaders, some groceries, and copies of the local
newspaper, the "Press-Democrat." While passing
over a woman's farmhouse, he grabbed a newspaper out
of the bundle and tossed it to her. History did not record
the name of the woman who received the first quasi-official
The trip was too much for the little airplane and the
engine gave up, forcing Wiseman down in a large muddy field.
A skid broke in landing but both it and the engine were repaired.
It was too late to fly out that night, so Wisemen directed
his crew to cover the airplane with a large tarp as protection.
The next morning, they removed the tarp and used it to create
a "runway" for Wiseman to use in taking off.
Wiseman's craft just couldn't make
the whole trip. In sight of Santa Rosa, a wire broke lose
and caught in the propeller, stopping the engine. The airplane
was down again. Wisemen stepped out to a growing, cheering
crowd who picked up the pilot and his mail and drove them
Among the items Wiseman brought to Santa Rosa
that day was a letter from John E. Olmstead, Petaluma's
postmaster, to Santa Rosa postmaster, Hiram L. Tripp. The
Dear Sir and Friend, Petaluma sends,
via the air route, congratulations and felicitations upon
the successful mastery of the air by a Sonoma County boy
in an aeroairplane conceived by Sonoma County brains and erected
by Sonoma County workmen. Speed the day when the U.S. Mail
between our sister cities, of which this letter is the pioneer,
may all leave by the air route with speed and safety.
Fred Wiseman's airplane, on loan from the National Air and Space Museum, is now on display in the atrium of the National Postal Museum.