Blowin’ in the Wind: American Windmill Museum

The legacy of wind power and antique windmills endure at the American Windmill Museum in Lubbock, Texas.

| November 2018

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    Where the past meets the present: Three antique mills coexist easily with a working wind turbine at the American Windmill Museum.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    A walkway in the museum’s main gallery, where many windmills are erected at a lower level, allowing visitors to view the wheels at eye level.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    This replica of a post mill, the earliest type of windmill built in western Europe, is a working grain-grinding windmill at the museum.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    The museum lawn is the rough equivalent of Disneyland for the windmill aficionado.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    This Southern Cross, manufactured in Australia, is one of the largest windmills made in the world. With a wheel 25 feet in diameter, this is a direct-stroke windmill with no gear heads.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    The Cook family: at back, Cari and Tim; at front (left to right), Dena Edwards, Patricia and Kenneth Cook. “There’s just something about a windmill that’s romantic,” Patricia says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    Tim Cook’s exquisitely handcrafted 1/3-scale model of an Iron Turbine windmill. Built by Mast, Foos and Co., Springfield, Ohio, the Iron Turbine was considered the first successful all-metal American windmill.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    Collectors Garrett and Bailey Balsick, flanked by an Axtell Standard mill in the museum’s collection.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    Windmill enthusiast Jimmie Christensen. “I’ve never found a windmill I didn’t like,” he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    An Easy windmill, manufactured by Easy Mfg. Co., Lincoln, Neb. The Easy is a uniquely designed mill with a splitwheel shaft designed to reduce the speed of the pump rod, accomplished by an encased planetary gear positioned behind the wheel.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
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    The museum collection includes one of every model of windmill produced by Aermotor Windmill Co. from 1890 to today, each carefully restored.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

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Windmills are yet another of those things we take for granted. Many readers of Farm Collector remember the essential role windmills performed on the farms where they grew up. Others, students of history, understand the role windmills played in settlement of this country. Even those who have no idea what windmills did, but who have deep appreciation for pastoral rural scenes, equate windmills with farm country.

Coy Harris, executive director of the American Windmill Museum, labors under no delusions. Spending his days surrounded by more than 200 windmills inside and outside the museum in Lubbock, Texas, he rides herd over remnants of a dying breed.

"Maybe 50 years from now," he predicts, "this will be the only place you can come to see a water-pumping windmill."

Teaching a lesson on wind power

American Windmill Museum exists as an educational organization to help diverse audiences explore the ways in which people have harnessed the wind in order to live in varied environments.



An exceptional private collection amassed by the late Don Hundley forms the museum's bedrock. Today, that collection (purchased by the museum in 1993) is complemented by a vast collection of rare windmills and related pieces. Large collections of millstones, hand pumps, windmill weights, patent models, salesman's samples and oil cans lend context.

In recent years, the museum has expanded its focus to trains. "One hundred years ago, you could not have crossed Texas without railroad windmills," Coy notes. "Railroads were the first big buyers of windmills. Up and down the tracks, those windmills provided water for steam engines."



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