Farm Collector

more about The Wind-Stacher

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.

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  • Published on May 1, 1961
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