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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Turn, Turn, Turn

October 13, 2015 Archive Insight

Windmill Freeport Machine Company, Freeport, Ill., ca. 1883.

As the story goes, William Ford traveled to Philadelphia for the Centennial Exposition in 1876. William, a farmer from Springwells Township in Wayne County, Mich., took a keen interest in the agricultural displays. One device struck him as particularly useful, a Stover Windmill, or as the Stover Wind Engine Company's advertisement called it, "Stover's Automatic Wind Engine."

Stover's Automatic Wind Engine for Pumping Water, Grinding, &c., 1876. THF123852

The company promoted its mill as "possessed with intelligence" to turn out of the wind, and constructed to be "Strong, Durable, and do good work under the most adverse circumstances." The windmill received a number of awards, including ribbons at the Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania state fairs. The company convinced William Ford of its merits, and he purchased one for his farm. Besides the main office in Greencastle, Penn., the firm kept a branch office operated by B. S. Williams in Kalamazoo, Mich., and that may have helped sway him.

stoverWhen Henry Ford restored his boyhood farm in 1919, he believed it important to locate a Stover Windmill and resurrect it. In 1944, Henry moved the home to Greenfield Village, and the Stover made the trip, too. Sometime after his death the windmill was removed from the homestead. Edward Cutler, Henry Ford's architect for Greenfield Village, commented that he heard it was Clara Ford's idea because she did not like "looking at the thing," but "it sounds rather weak that she would object to looking up at the windmill." No one really knows why the windmill came down.

In 1993, a donor gifted a Stover windmill to The Henry Ford, and in 1996 it was installed at the homestead. Knowing that wooden artifacts do not handle the elements well, staff reproduced the tail of the mill to preserve it from deterioration. In 1999, staff decided to have the wooden components of the head (the circular fan section) reproduced to preserve it.

This post originally ran as a Pic of the Month in August 2000.

Additional Readings:

Greenfield Village history, Henry Ford, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, Ford family, power, agriculture

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