Max C. Fleischmann

I set out to check the spelling of the name Fleischmann and wound up learning a great deal about Major Max C. Fleischmann. One of the great wonders of the internet is when it works you can learn a lot.

The son of a successful Austro-Hungarian immigrant, Max Fleischmann seems to have made the most of his inheritance. In addition to owning Fleischmann's Yeast (founded by his father and uncle) and being a principle stockholder of General Foods, he is variously credited with being the first observation balloon school commander for US forces in Europe, and mayor of Santa Barbara, CA. He was also a philanthropist, donating hundreds of millions of dollars in value, a hunter, yachtsman, aviator, parachutist and even one time part owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

Long before I knew anything more about him, it was obvious Max Fleischmann had been a significant benefactor in the Santa Barbara area. Among his local contributions, he helped fund construction of the Santa Barbara breakwater and harbor, for his yacht Haida. The Sansum Medical Foundation, an early leader in research areas such as diabetes, was for a time funded by a Fleischmann grant. He and his wife made significant contributions to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. I suspect there are other area benefits of which I am unaware.

What surprised me was the extent of his philanthropic activities in the state of Nevada, where he seems to have spent the balance of his years after leaving California. At least one reference has him living in Glenbrook, NV. There was a biography published in 1985, which I have not yet read.

Among the photos in my collection, dating from approximately 1910-1925, are photos of an early Curtis float plane, a US military balloon school, a couple of his yachts (he owned several, all named Haida), hunting trips to Africa and various other trips, including Alaska and Siberia.

One of the more interesting personal tidbits relates to an old story, oft repeated around Santa Barbara, That Fleischmann's wife, Sara, shot a tiger on one of their safaris. Interestingly, the only photo in the collection of her with a trophy animal happens to be a Rhinoceros. Is it possible the favorite old story has a factual error? The photo is not conclusive proof, but it suggests an interesting alternative to the story.

Max C. Fleischmann

Max C. Fleischmann

Max Fleischmann

According to the Early Birds of Aviation web site, Fleischmann became commander of the Signal Corps balloon school in Cuperly France in 1918. A link to information on a USAF web site is no longer valid, but if memory serves, when the information was available, it indicated this was the first US balloon school in France. These photos from a tray labeled "1918 Omaha" were presumably taken during training, before going overseas. The country vacation atmosphere suggests a certain naiveté regarding the conditions awaiting them in France.

US Army Observation Balloon WWI

Signal Corps Balloon Launch 1918

Max Fleischmann Balloon

Could this be Fleischmann's 6 passenger balloon referenced in the article above? This detail is taken from a slide included in the tray of military slides. The tray is marked "1918 Omaha," but none of the slides themselves have descriptions.

Curtiss Model F Flying Boat

Curtiss Model F

San Diego 1916

Max Fleischmann Curtiss Model F

This article reprint is dated August, and states Fleischmann crashed his plane in Rhode Island. These photos, and a journal accompanying the slides suggest the photos, taken in San Diego, were shot between 1915-'16. Presumably, the aircraft was delivered and flown in California before being shipped back east. My best guess is the top shot goes with a 1916 entry "MCF's Flying Boat and Louise." The man in the shot is unidentified. The aerial shot is of San Diego, and I assume the fuzzy plan form shot, based on its inclusion with the San Diego photos, was also taken out west. It looks as if the pilot is wearing a brimmed hat. Could this be Fleischmann in his plane? The journal lists other shots of the Curtiss, but sadly they are not with the collection. The aircraft looks to be a Curtiss Model F flying boat.


Some Information Sources:

Early Birds of Aviation

Santa Barbara Yacht Club

Max C. Fleischmann Foundation Archive

Fleischman's Last Yacht "Haida" Today

Another Article About Haida