Major Max C. Fleischmann
Founder of the Santa Barbara Foundation

Santa Barbara Foundation Founder
Max Fleischmann

The beginning of the Santa Barbara Foundation can be traced to one man’s passion for philanthropy and his wish to supply free band concerts for the general public. That man was Major Maximilian Charles Fleischmann – industrialist, adventurer, and humanitarian – who adopted Santa Barbara as his home in the 1920s.

A native of Riverside, Ohio, Max first came to Santa Barbara in 1911 for a polo tournament. The wealthy 34-year old was an avid sportsman – a former top amateur boxer whose big-game safaris and fishing trips took him all over the world. His father founded the Fleischmann Yeast Company, the first commercial yeast production firm in America.  Max started in the family business at age 18 and worked his way up in the manufacturing department, eventually becoming chairman of the board.

Max’s many interests included aviation and ballooning. In 1909, he made national headlines by winning a balloon race from St. Louis to the Atlantic Ocean. During World War I, he served in France as a major with the Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps, Balloon Division and became commandant of the Army Aeronautical School at Vadenay. After recovering from an enemy gas attack, he was reassigned as commandant of the U.S. Army Balloon School in Arcadia, California.

One day Max and his wife Sarah drove from Arcadia to Santa Barbara, a journey that rekindled his affection for the region. He later said, “When I first beheld the beautiful Carpinteria Valley, I knew I had at last found the home base I had been searching for.”

When community needs arose, Max was quick to respond. Following the 1925 earthquake, he helped to restore the Santa Barbara Mission. He donated lights for the Peabody Stadium so the high school football team could play night games. The Morning Press applauded when the Major donated $500,000 to build the breakwater, paving the way for Santa Barbara’s long-desired harbor. He financed a surgical wing at Cottage Hospital and made many contributions to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, including the Library, Mammal Hall, Bird Hall, and Fleischmann Auditorium.

Max had always loved band music.  His father had played in a town band in Riverside, Ohio, and the Major had fond memories of those outdoor concerts. In 1926, Max enlisted Francis Price, his attorney, and George MacLellan, manager of the Music Branch of the Community Arts Association, to help him inaugurate a civic band in Santa Barbara.

The band proved to be a success, and Max decided it should be a permanent part of local life. His wish to ensure the band’s long-range financial support led him to gather 24 leading citizens to create a new entity, the Santa Barbara Foundation. For 84 years, the Santa Barbara Foundation has served as a leading resource for philanthropy. Last year alone, the Foundation returned more than $17 million to our county through grants to nonprofits and through student financial aid.

Happy Birthday, Max!

On the eve of Max Fleischmann's 135th birthday, give a gift to the Santa Barbara Foundation so that we can continue to support present and future community needs. Click here to donate now.



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