Prairie Wind Power

Prairie Wind Power

Salesman’s Sample c. 1950 (?)

Anyone who grew up in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Texas, or New Mexico was never far from a windmill.  Without them there could not have been much settlement of the arid high plains.

Their eight-foot diameter spinning blades brought the promise of water to countless farms, and the mills stood as ubiquitous reminders of how fragile life was for each of those farmsteads. 

Over six million windmills were installed in the United States between 1850 and 1970,* nearly all of them to provide water for livestock and farm use.  A large majority of these windmills were manufactured by the Aermotor Windmill Company.

Salesman’s samples like the one we have were used to sell windmills to farmers and ranchers all over the States. 

The company was founded in Chicago by Mr. La Verne Noyes in 1888.  He manufactured dictionary stands and farm equipment, but when he hired Thomas O. Perry to develop a grain binder (whatever that is) he quickly recognized that Mr. Perry’s research on wind wheels had far more potential.  From 1888 on he devoted the rest of his life to the Aermotor Windmill Company and philanthropy. 

Now on to the acquisition of our salesman’s sample:    

A few years ago we drove down to the state of “Justice, Wisdom and Moderation” to attend a large gathering of antique dealers. 

We arrived early, before the event began but after the dealers had set up.  So we went in a side door and began our search for things we could not live without.

Because we were a bit ahead of the pack there were some unattended booths.  No worries for us because much of the offerings didn’t interest us.  Here was a vast warren of either common stuff or very expensive good stuff stacked everywhere.

We wandered and wandered and then spied, sitting on a chest of drawers in an unattended booth, the miniature, salesman’s sample windmill pictured here.  We waited and waited but no one showed up.  So I took the sample and left my card on the chest of drawers and off we went.

After we had picked the show to exhaustion we returned to the booth.  The gentleman had not even missed the windmill so he was doubly surprised that we returned to pay for it. 

Since then we have acquired another vintage salesman’s windmill, and a friend gave me an exact, not-so-vintage replica of one, but made in China. Really.


*Darrell Dodge, “Illustrated History of Wind Power Development” 

Found Objects Ltd.