The Great Windmill War
In the late 1800s, competition was fierce and windmill companies were waging war on each other
Engraving of wooden-bladed windmills from U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co.'s 1885 catalog.
Don Quixote wasn't the only one who ever tilted at windmills.
In the wind-driven spring of 1892, Challenge Windmill & Feed Mill Co., of Batavia, Ill., squared off against its archrivals, the Aermotor Co. and the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. of Kansas City, Mo.
At issue was Aermotor's flagrant claim, published in the April 1892 issue of Farm Tool Journal, that the Challenge-made windmill towers in the state of New York were blown down or severely damaged by a storm that swept through the region.
Challenge fought back with this scathing rebuttal addressed to the editors of Farm Implement News: "We wish to put on record our statement that out of the hundreds of our company's steel windmills and towers in the great state of New York, not a single one was injured and not one cent was paid out for repairs of any kind."
To press the point, executives at Challenge presented a half-dozen letters from farmers across the country, praising Challenge's Daisy, Dandy and O.H. windmills. "None of these brands had been damaged by the severe March storm," a company statement claimed.
The windmill business in the United States was extremely competitive in its heyday between 1890 and 1920. From a meager start just before the Civil War, the various windmill companies had grown to employ 600 workers by 1879, and sales had reached more than a million dollars a year.
By 1889, sales had doubled and within a decade wind engine sales doubled again. In 1919, nearly 2,000 employees were working in dozens of American windmill factories with total annual revenue reaching about $10,000,000.
The Aermotor Co. – which sold 2,288 units in 1889 – projected that its total 1892 windmill sales would exceed 60,000 steel fans and towers. The company claimed production of one complete windmill and tower every 3 minutes per working day. As production increased, prices fell. By 1902 a farmer could buy a Sears, Roebuck & Co. "Kenwood" ball bearing, back-geared windmill for only $12.75 – about half the price of the nearest competitor.
A few of the nearly 100 brand names of this colorful period in windmill building included: Ace, Aermotor, Buckeye, Badger, Challenge, Dandy, Daisy, Decorah, Eclipse, Enterprise, Fountain, Gem, Halladay, Monitor, Princess, Racine, Red Cross, Sampson, Steel Queen, Stover, Sunflower and Wonder windmills.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>