Wiseman-Cooke airplane

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On long-term loan from the National Air and Space Museum, this airplane was the first to carry mail on behalf of a postmaster. Petaluma, California, postmaster John E. Omstead authorized Wiseman’s flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa and provided him with some mail addressed to officials in Santa Rosa, including the local postmaster, Hiram L. Tripp. Wiseman took-off on February 17, 1911, with a handful of mail. He flew about one hundred feet off the ground at a maximum speed of 70 mph. He carried three letters from the mayor and other town leaders, some groceries, and copies of the local newspaper, the "Press-Democrat."
Forced down by engine trouble, Wiseman resumed his flight the next morning, using a tarp as a runway. Over a farmhouse, he tossed a newspaper to a woman working in her yard. Near Santa Rosa, a wire caught in the propeller, and Wiseman was down again. Nevertheless, he emerged from his plane to a growing, cheering crowd, who picked-up the pilot and his mail and drove them into town.
Fred Wiseman built and operated the plane, based on early aircraft produced by the Wright brothers, Glenn H. Curtiss, and the Farman brothers. This biplane includes forward and rear elevators, ailerons on upper and lower wing, and weighs 670 pounds. Wiseman replaced the original 50 hp engine with a 60 hp Hall-Scott V-8 engine after his initial exhibition flights.
Credit line
On loan from National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
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National Postal Museum Collection
On View
Currently on exhibit at the National Postal Museum
Object number
National Postal Museum
Transportation Equipment & Models