Charged by the Wind
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In the 1930s and 1940s, particularly in the Midwest and on both coasts, wind-powered battery chargers were in hot demand. International markets also opened up. In Holland, for instance, Winchargers and similar, homemade devices were commonly used to generate electricity for home and farm use during the German occupation of World War II.
In Wincharger’s first 10 years, which included the Great Depression, the company sold 750,000 units worldwide. Other manufacturers were quick to follow Wincharger’s lead. Makers such as Aerodyne, Aircharger, Air Electric, Airlite, Air-Way, Allied, Hebco, Jacobs, Kelco, Nelson, Parris-Dunn, ParMark, Perkins, Ruralite, Universal, Wind Power, and Wind Wing were scattered across the country.
Death by electrification
With implementation of the Rural Electrification Act in 1936, however, the wind-powered battery charger’s days were numbered. Even the most remote farms had access to electricity by the mid-1950s, ending the need for the wind generator and a free energy source. Many utility companies refused to provide power to farms with working wind generators, and more than a few Winchargers were deliberately disabled by high-powered rifles.
Although the primary rural market for Winchargers dried up by the mid-1950s, 12-volt units targeted for use in extremely remote areas and Third World countries were produced until 1982. Wincharger (now operating under the name of Winco) remains in operation as a Minnesota-based manufacturer of home, construction and industrial generators.
Today, the wind-powered battery charger has nearly passed into obscurity. David Ballinger, though, is doing his part to spread the Wincharger story.
David created a display on a 16-foot trailer that he shows at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (where three Winchargers belonging to the MOTR are on permanent display). He uses a Delco gas-powered light plant with one 8-volt and two 12-volt automotive batteries to run one unit.
David’s display includes seven different complete 6-volt Wincharger units, six of which are in running condition. Due to space limitations, David only demonstrates one of those units. It’s on a 10-foot stand, and is often used at shows as a power source for antique radios. He also displays 12 32-volt units, but they aren’t in running condition. “The 6-volt size is a handy size to store and work on,” David says.