The article in the January 2011 issue of Farm Collector about Steve Watts moving a vintage tractor across the pond (Massey-Harris GP Finds Home in Wales) reminded me of an experience I had about 55 years earlier, but in the opposite direction.
I had bought a British windmill without much thought as to getting it to the U.S. It was a Godwin Hercules made in Quenington. Although it was no longer in production, the firm agreed to make one up from spare parts.
I wanted the mill because of its extra-small size (4-foot wheel), just right for erecting in the city without attracting too much negative attention. This was before windmills were considered collector’s items.
After paying the shipping and paperwork costs, I naively thought the deal was done. However, every other day it seemed that someone rubber-stamped the paperwork and charged a fee. After what seemed an eternity, the mill finally arrived. I was told to pick it up at a bonded warehouse, where it was erroneously released to me without the duty being paid.
A few days later, an armed Treasury agent came to our home and demanded to see this illegal shipment! Since I was not home, my wife had to deal with this by herself. At the time, I had not uncrated the mill. This fellow had never seen a knocked-down windmill, so he had no idea what it was. He decided that for tariff purposes, it was “ornamental ironwork” and wrote out a bill. My wife talked him into calling it “agricultural machinery,” which had a lower duty. I appreciated this, since my tally had left our pockets on the shallow side.
After setting the mill up on top of our garage and then at several shows in Ohio and Indiana, the trials and tribulations of importing it were soon forgotten. It is now on permanent display at the American Windpower Center in Lubbock, Texas.