Even though the Fred Wiseman souvenir postcard was designed with one of the four photos showing his plane taking off on an exhibition flight in Petaluma, sometime in  1910; it was not sent to the printers with 100% confidence.  This blog will attempt to reveal the “hysterical” journey behind the search for “historical” accuracy.  Are you ready to take off? Fasten your seat belts.

It all started in Windsor, when members of the various community-based Wiseman Centennial Celebration Committee leaders met to share their proposed activities for February 2011.  At the end of the meeting Steven Lehmann of the Windsor Historical Society gave me a copy of a photograph  – without any date or identification – showing an early 1900s airplane (similar to the Wright brothers) taking off in front of a small crowd of spectators standing in front of a grandstand near a race track.

Upon closer examination, the single front elevator plane, matched the description of the first airplane built by Fred Wiseman and his crew during the spring of 1910 at the Laughlin Ranch, near Windsor. It became known as the “Wiseman-Peters” biplane and was flown at the ranch and Santa Rosa before being transferred to Kenilworth Park in Petaluma because the field there was not as rough.

Since the deadline for sending the postcard to the printer was due; plus the decision to combine four separate illustrations into one larger combination card, the project moved forward without “absolute” verification of the race track location. Keep in mind, however, that the background investigation period became very “hysterical” because none of the historians that were consulted at the various library history rooms or local Historical Societies would confirm our “hunch” that this race track was indeed Kenilworth Park, Petaluma, even though a comparison of field vegetation and trees matched other photographs “identified” as Kenilworth Park.

Well, to make the long story short, the larger combination postcard was produced and sold to he public during the various celebration events held in Cloverdale, Windsor, Cotati, Santa Rosa, and Petaluma. While these events were underway, yours truly, went back repeatedly to several of the original museum files (newspapers, clippings, and photographs) searching for additional clues. No luck! No additional evidence that would make a positive confirmation was found.

However; just yesterday – Sunday, February 27th – one more visit was made to the Hoppy Hopkins Research Library on the second floor of the Petaluma Historical Museum, and an explanation was discovered that would confirm the location of the  unidentified race track. Stay tuned for Part II of this “hysterical”  adventure.

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