more about The Wind-Stacher

Sketch of Wind-Stacker

Sketch of Wind-Stacker as it appeared on Mr. Buchanan's application for a patent.

Content Tools

It is noteworthy that one intelligent Question or suggestion may lead to the uncovering of a wealth of information hitherto unknown to many readers and which may be of great interest. One such question or suggestion was offered by Charles W. Tadlock(1) when he made a request for someone to write the history or story of the 'Farmers Friend.' In response to this suggestion, Mr. Hasten L. St. Clair(2) called the attention of the readers of the Iron-Men Album Magazine to the story of the Wind-Stacker as related in the book, 'Machines of Plenty' by Holbrook.(3) On the cover page of this same issue appeared a reproduction of the trade mark, the 'Farmers Friend'. A third article by Mr. Hollis Cortel you appeared in the Iron-Men Album Magazine giving valuable first hand information. (4)

These discussions were interesting and informative but there is more to be told. The interest of the present writer was heightened after he purchased a wood Russell separator which left the factory July 16, 1915. Although somewhat faded the original trade mark of the 'Farmers Friend' remains intact on this Russell separator.

Through extended correspondence and visitation the writer began a search for one of these medallions. Unfortunately his efforts at this writing have been unsuccessful, but somewhat like Russell Conway's 'Acres of Diamonds', he discovered additional information which may enrich the 'story of the wind stacker' and lend renewed interest to this fascinating historical development.

Contact was made with all of the libraries and other available sources in Indiana. It should be noted in passing that many of the librarians knew nothing about the Wind Stacker or its inventor, James Buchanan. Finally, however, a considerable wealth of material was found in the Indiana State Library. Grateful acknowledgment is hereby expressed to these librarians for their gracious courtesies and help. A substantial part of the material for this article is drawn from these sources.

The growth and development of our country is due in no small measure to the great contributions and the genius of inventors. It is regrettable but non-the-less true that all too often these men were unheralded and did not receive due and just recognition for their efforts often at great personal sacrifice. Such appears to have been the situation with respect to James Buchanan, the inventor of the Wind-Stacker.

The ancestors of James Buchanan moved from northern Virginia to Kentucky, thence to Tennessee, and finally to Indiana. At the age of eighteen, he entered Waveland Academy which was later named Collegiate Institute of Waveland. Here he completed a full course in mathematics and graduated in 1858 with the highest honors of his class. Following the practice of those days, he studied law with his lawyer uncle, Issac A. Rice and was admitted to the bar in 1861. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church. One of his biographers describes him as follows:

'Mr. Buchanan is five feet nine and one half inches in height, weighs two hundred and sixty pounds, and is well proportioned. He has a fresh look, earnest manner, and a courteous demeanor; is a good conversationalist, a fluent and forcible public speaker, and altogether, a live, active man; aggressive and progressive, cut out for a leader, and always has a numerous following, standing high at the bar and in the community in which he lives, as well as elsewhere.' He was married to Ann Cordelia Wilson, the daughter of a prominent doctor of Fountain County, Indiana.

One of Mr. Buchanan's active interests, aside from the law, was his membership in the Greenback political party. He was a strong advocate of the financial system on which the party was founded. He believed that financial returns should go to the producer of goods and not to the financiers. He apparently was a tireless worker for this system, so much so that the opposition characterized him as 'The Plan'.

It should also be noted that he served as the editor of the Weekly Sun from 1873 to 1882. This was an Indianapolis publication.

While recognized in his community and by contemporaries as a citizen of no mean accomplishments yet his greatest achievement was in another area. His claim to wide recognition and fame came by way of his invention of the Wind-Stacker.

Having grown up on a farm Mr. Buchanan had witnessed the various methods of threshing grain used by farmers during a period of fifty years. One day while in his office in Indianapolis his boyhood experiences returned to him. He began to think that if a fan were placed at the rear of the separator it could throw the straw, chaff and dust through a chute. Pursuing this dream, 'He completed a successful machine in 1889, but had exhausted his means in many years of experimenting.'(5)

Accompanying this article is a copy of Mr. Buchanan's application for a patent of his Wind-Stacker. The application included the original drawings or sketches of the blower and a detailed description of his invention. In this application the machine was described as a 'pneumatic straw elevator and stacker.'

Due to his lack of financial resources, Mr. Buchanan was unable to market his invention. It is the general opinion of his biographers that it is unlikely his invention would ever have reached the market had it not been for incorporation of the Indiana Manufacturing Company. This company not only acquired the patent rights from Buchanan but also acquired other improvements made by inventors so that it owned and controlled approximately forty patents covering nearly every point of construction. This company held a virtual monopoly on all patents pertaining to the wind stacker. For a period of time, Mr. McKain was associated with Mr. Buchanan in the manufacture of threshing machines. 'He (Mr. McKain) organized a company and erected a separate shop for the purpose of supplying any new appliances which might be necessary during the time of experimenting with the working of the stacker.'(6)

In addition to the invention of the Wind Stacker, Mr. Buchanan was also interested in other improvements for threshing machines. This is shown by at least two other patents registered in the United States Patent Office. A copy of each of these patents also accompanies this article. One of these patents (No. 467,477) was issued to Mr. Buchanan on January 19, 1892. This patent bears the same date as the one issued for the Wind Stacker. An examination of the description reveals that it covered such items as the thresher cylinder, knives, beaters, concaves and grain table. Still another patent No. 382, 686 was issued on May 15, 1888. This one had to do with a band cutter. The description of this patent suggests that this was the type of band cutter used on many of the self-feeders.

The Indiana Manufacturing Company was organized and incorporated in 1891. The officers of the company were Arthur A. McKain, president, Joseph Sharpe, Jr., Secretary and Charles Sloan, Treasurer. The directors were E. C. Nichols, B. T. Skinner, T. King, J. K. Sharpe, Jr., and A. A. McKain.