Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville, Indiana
The Mid-America Windmill Museum is located in Kendallville, Indiana. At one time, there were over thirty windmill manufacturers within fifty miles of Kendallville. To get there, take Allen Chapel Road south from US 6 on the east edge of town. The museum opened in 1992, and they have built up their collection to 52 windmills today.
The indoor displays tell about the history of the windmill. The first ones were located in Persia, where strong winds would blow consistently from the same direction for 3-4 months out of the year. These first windmills were inefficient compared with later designs, but they made the tedious and time-consuming chore of grinding grains much easier.
In 1854, American Daniel Halladay came up with the first self governing windmill. It automatically turned to face the wind and adjusted the pitch of the blades. This made it perfect for use in the sparsely populated areas of the country, since human oversight was not needed. It was used primarily to pump water for cattle, but it was also used extensively by railroads, which needed large quantities of water for the boilers of their steam powered locomotives.
Naturally, many others soon began manufacturing similar windmills. The market remained solid until rural electrification began in the 1930s. When the United States entered World War II, windmill manufacturers began producing a wide variety of products for the war effort. After the war, the market steadily declined. When using windmills to produce electricity became popular in the 1970s, there were only three companies still making them. Many of the other manufacturers still existed, but they had turned to other products.
The museum's outdoor displays show a variety of windmill designs from numerous manufacturers. Thirteen were built locally at Flint & Walling. In one of his World War II dispatches, correspondent Ernie Pyle reported his astonishment upon finding out that a windmill in North Africa was built in Kendallville, Indiana.
Flint and Walling
Simeon Flint and David Walling met in Ohio. Both men moved to Kendallville in 1866 and purchased an interest in a local business. In 1874 the company began manufacturing windmills, which were selling well in the western United States for pumping water. In 1878 they patented their Star Windmill, which would be their best selling design. In 1884 local railroad workers complained of overwork due to all the shipping in and out of the Flint and Walling facility. In 1892 they shipped a large order of windmills to Russia.
During the Great Depression, the company kept all their employees, but their work week dropped to as low as one day. Once the United States entered World War II, the company converted to war production. In 1954 they stopped producing windmills, which had been replaced by electric pumps. The company still exists today as a division of the Masco Corporation with about 150 employees.
Thirteen of the 52 windmills on display at the museum are Flint & Walling models.
Aeromotor manufactured its first windmill in 1888, selling 45 that first year. Despite the slow start, by 1892 they had sold 20,000 windmills. In 1915 Aeromotor introduced its auto-oiled windmill, which was a major design improvement. Previous designs required weekly lubrication. With enclosed gearing that was continuously bathed in oil, only annual maintenance was required. During World War II, Aeromotor made parts for the Norden bomb sight. Since then Aeromotor has gone through numerous ownership changes, but they continue to make windmills in the United States.