Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moulins à Vents

Since moving to Kansas, I've become fascinated with historic windmills. They still populate the landscape, some remarkably intact and others denuded of every moving part. T. Lindsay Baker's American Windmills: An Album of Historic Photographs (2007) and A Field Guide to American Windmills (1985) are handy resources. The former was developed out of the author's personal collection of windmill photographs, which he began to acquire sometime before 1974.

Some amazing windmill images were drawn from world's fairs, where the mechanistic towers were clustered together as entertainment venues. The Columbian Exposition (Chicago 1893; below), the Exposition Universelle (Paris 1900) and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis 1904) all featured prominent windmill displays.

K-State Libraries' Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections retains a copy of agronomy professor Max Ringelmann's Matériel Agricole à l'Exposition de 1900 (Paris, 1901). The author -- reporting on the fifth Parisian fair -- was particularly enamored of American improvements over the Eclipse model, which had been introduced at the nation's third fair (1878), namely that the new models could work under less windy conditions. He also acknowledged French models by Plissonier, Bompard et Grégoire (above, left), Vidal-Beaume (top; below, right) and Édouard-Émile Lebert's ÉolienneBollée (below, left).
For the North American models, he featured Stover Manufacturing Company's Ideal (center, right). The windmill had curved wings comprised of fabricated steel and its galvanized supporting pylon could be erected without any scaffolding. He perceived -- accurately -- that the Ideal would be of great service on French farms. It and other American models proliferated in the countryside prior to the First World War.(1)

Today there are windmill museums that display multiple models in a single setting:

Dalley Windmill Collection, Fairgrounds, Portales, NM

Windmills of the Riverwalk, Batavia Historical Society, Batavia, IL

Mid-American Windmill Museum, Kendallville, IN

Shattuck Windmill Museum, Shattuck, OK

Windmill Museum, Wind Experience Center, Lubbock, TX

(1)See John Walter & Régis Gerard. A History of the Éolienne Bollée. N.p.: By the authors, 2002-2015. As viewed 15 March 2016. URL:

Images above:  1, 3, 4 from Max Ringelmann. "Moulins à Vents." Section in Matériel Agricole à l'Exposition de 1900. Paris: Librairie Agricole, 1901, pp. 9-13. Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, K-State Libraries.

2 from "Vue d'ensemble de l'expositions de moulins à vents et turbines atmosphériques a l'Exposition universelle de Chicago." Le Génie civil XXIII: 9 (1 July 1893): p. 133.

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