North American Windmill Manufacturers Trade Literature

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Did John Deere produce a windmill?

What Illinois city was known as the windmill capital of the world?

Who was David Bradley, anyway?

Most everyone who reads Farm Collector has heard of an Aermotor windmill. May be you have heard of a Dempster and a Fairbury. But how about Challenge, Gem, I.X.L. or Diamond? Those windmills and more than 200 others (I stopped counting) are mentioned in T. Lindsay Baker’s North American Windmill Manufacturers Trade Literature: A Descriptive Guide.

This 600-page book lists and describes, alphabetically, every American windmill manufacturer or distributor that generated printed advertising in the last 150 years. Foreign manufacturers who marketed windmills in the U.S. also are listed. Baker even includes the prominent dealers and distributors in the windmill industry.

To compile this guide, Baker drew on his vast personal collection of windmill trade literature. He also visited museums, university holdings and private collections to view and record information contained in trade literature. From that extensive research, we learn that a great deal of information is found in the surviving magazine ads, flyers and parts lists. As collectors of vintage machinery, we have always been thankful for packrats. Now we realize their historical importance.

This guide details the early windmill companies, and the people who owned them. Many windmill companies changed ownership and relocated several times before finally fading away to obscurity. The Aermotor Company, for instance, has operated in Chicago, Broken Arrow, Okla.; Conway, Ark.; Buenos Aries, Argentina; and San Angelo, Texas. We learn of the companies that pioneered the water pumping windmill in the 1800s, to the swarm of new companies that attempted to cash in on the energy crisis of the 1970s.

For each company featured in the book, Baker includes bibliographic information and extensive documentation of all known advertisements and promotional material distributed by the company.

I am in the vintage windmill and parts business full-time, and I refer to this guide on a regular basis. I ordered the guide as soon as it became available in 1999, and I have learned a great deal from it. I was hoping for more actual copies of the original ads depicting the windmills. The book is a little too laden with technical information, such as the company ad documentation follow-ups. But I would recommend this guidebook to anyone who is fascinated by windmills and early American farm implement production.

First, though, I would recommend you acquire Baker’s earlier book on windmills: A Field Guide to American Windmills. That book describes, with extensive use of photographs, virtually every windmill that was available to the American public in the last 150 years.

The North American Windmill Manufacturers’ Trade Literature Guide is a nice follow-up effort. It is hard to imagine the windmill collecting hobby without T. Lindsay Baker. Either or both of these books would make a nice gift.

Oh, I almost forgot: Batavia, Ill., was known as the windmill manufacturing capital of the world. David Bradley was a farm implement dealer in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sears and Roebuck acquired his firm in about 1915, and honored him posthumously by naming a farm implement line after him. And did John Deere produce a windmill? You’ll have to read the Baker book to find the answer to that. FC

North American Windmill Manufacturers’ Trade Literature: A Descriptive Guide, T. Lindsay Baker, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK; ISBN 0-8061-3045-8; 600 pages, hard cover.

Randy Stubbs is the owner of Big Country Windmills in Maxwell, Neb., specializing in obsolete windmill sales and parts.

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