|Named for the famous Civil War ironclad
warship, the Monitor, the Original Monitor Vaneless was the first
mill sold by the Baker Manufacturing Company of Evansville, Wisconsin.
The mill is a wooden vaneless pumping model first produced in 1875 and
manufactured until 1912 when it was replaced by a new pattern Monitor vaneless.
Old stocks of the Original Monitor remained on the market for a while thereafter.
The Baker Manufacturing Company has its origins in the activities of Allen
S. Baker, an inventor and manufacturer at Evansville, Wisconsin.
In the early 1870's, together with Levi Shaw, Baker developed a rotary
steam engine which he hoped to produce. In 1873, Baker, Shaw, and
four local merchants formed a company to produce the engine and to operate
a machine shop, but the engine never proved successful. Searching
for more profitable products, the firm turned to pumps and windmills which
Baker had invented at least as early as 1875 producing the Original Monitor
Vaneless mill. They incorporated in 1879 under the laws of Wisconsin
as the Baker Manufacturing Company. By 1882, the firm operated in
its factory a foundry, machine shop, woodworking department, paint shop,
and blacksmith shop with forty employees producing as many as 70 windmills
a month. Conditions continued to improve, and in 1891 the firm declared
its first dividend on stock. Although a number of merger and trust
proposals were tendered to the company, Allen S. Baker as a director and
later president, rejected all of them, fearing that such an actions might
lead to the closing of the Evansville plant. His foresight must have
been well founded for even to this day the company and its historic buildings
remain a beehive of activity, although the firm has not produced any windmills
since the 1960's.
The operation of the Original Monitor Vaneless is a comparatively simple mill. The mill was manufactured in 10' and 12' models. The 10' model having 6 sections and the 12' model having 8. After assembly, the sections were dipped in white paint and then the tips were decorated with a bright red trim. Through the 1870's and the 1880's, the Original Monitor Vaneless was made in a pattern without a counterweight. Then in 1892, a spherical cast iron balance weight on a wooden arm was added. For the next twenty years the mill was produced with virtually no further changes.
Today the Original Monitor Vaneless windmills are rare in the field although examples remain to be seen. One is most likely to find them in the midwest or the central Great Plains. The Steel Monitor was the first all steel windmill produced by the Baker Manufacturing Company. Introduced in 1892, the new mill figured prominently in the exhibit erected by the company at the World's Colombian Exposition the next year. The Steel Monitor was manufactured for less than a decade, being discontinued by the maker in 1900. The mill was a graceful steel pumping model produced only in 8' pattern. The vane sheet bears the sole ornamentation found on the mill, the stenciled words, "Steel Monitor Evansville, Wis."
Governing is accomplished by a slightly off center wheel coupled with a vane which doubles as a governor weight. As wind velocities increase, the off center wheel tends to turn away from the wind. This tendency to turn away from the wind is counterbalanced by the action of the linkage on the regulating system, which pulls the outer end of the vane upwards as the wheel inclines away from the wind. When the wind subsides the weight of the vane pulls the wheel back into the wind. Relatively few of the lightly built Steel Monitor mills have survived. Despite their rarity and frequent confusion with other mills, examples of the Steel Monitor still remains to be observed.
Introduced in 1898 and available into the 1930's, the Monitor Steel today is probably the most common of all the open back geared steel windmills. It holds this distinction for two reasons: (1) It has a well deserved reputation for durability even when it is neglected, and (2) It remained in production in at least some sizes as recently as fifty years ago.
The Monitor Steel is an open back geared steel pumping windmill. The principal bearings on the mill are interchangeable and are made from a special bronze that was developed by the Pennsylvania Railroad for use in railway car axle bearing. These and the other bearings are lubricated through the use of compression grease cups. The vane on the mill, the first having what later became known as the Monitor profile, consists of two pieces of sheet steel with longitudinal crimping on upper and lower sides which are attached to each other by riveted steel girts. The vane sheets are then fastened to the vane stem made from an angle steel with a diagonal steel brace. The vane sheet bears the only decoration used on the mill, the black stenciled words, "Monitor Evansville Wis." The wheel is slightly set to one side so that with increasing wind it turns away from the wind. As the wheel inclines away from the wind, it increases tension on a coiled governor spring. When the wind decreases this spring pulls the wheel back into the wind.
These mills were designed with a "pull in" type cut off mechanism. On "pull out" mills the tension on a control wire on the base of the tower is used to turn off the mill. On pull in mill windmills the tension on the wire is required to turn on the mill. The great advantage of a pull in mill is that should the control wire break during a storm, the wind wheel automatically turns to the off position, and the mill is protected from damage from severe winds.
The first of the Monitor Steel windmills in 1898 were the 10' Style D and the 8' Style E. For more than three decades various sizes and modified versions of the basic mill continued to appear on the market. In chronological order of introduction they were:
Today the most commonly seen wooden vaneless windmills are the Monitor Vaneless L, and the Monitor Vaneless M. The Monitor Vaneless M replaced the Original Monitor Vaneless and was produced almost thirty years with very few changes. They remained available as recently as the eve of WWII in 1940. Although most vaneless windmills employ a weighted lever governor, the Monitor Vaneless instead uses a spring system. As wind increases, the individual wooden wheel sections are pulled out of the wind through the action of centrifugal force. This tendency is counterbalanced by two strong coiled springs that are mounted on the wheel. When the wind decreases these two springs pull the sections back to face the wind.
As was the case with the Monitor Steel windmill, each of the two sizes of the Monitor Vaneless has its own name. The 10' mill is termed Style L and the 12' mill is Style M. The 10' pattern came into the market about 1912-15 and in the first years had a discus shaped counterweight described as "a solid flat circular piece of cast iron with sharp edges which caught no wind." This balance weight was phased out about 1918 in favor of a football shaped counterweight made from reinforced concrete and steel. The 12' Style M vaneless mill first was produced about 1918, and its counterweight, also made from reinforced concrete and steel with a cast iron top, is in the shape of the Civil War ship, the Monitor. The design of the Monitor Vaneless was patented on January 1, 1918, by John S. Baker, who had succeeded his father as president of the company. All the major bearings on the mill are a special bronze, and they are lubricated through the use of compression grease cups.
The Style L and M Monitor Vaneless windmills are very easily identified from their distinctively shaped counterweights, rocker arm ironwork, and two large coiled governor springs at the wheel hub. The Baker Manufacturing Company was slow in placing a self oiling windmill on the market, John S. Baker, son of the founder of the company and in the 1920's, the president, felt that the self lubricating feature was not worth the time which its use saved, but the customers increasingly wanted it. Sales on the firm's open back geared Monitor Steel mills continued to decline, even though these mills were much less expensive than the competing self oiling mills. It was more than a decade after the first successful oil bath mills were introduced before the company came out with its initial self lubricating mill, the Monitor Self Oiling mill. In 1923, the firm introduced its 8' Style C self oiling back geared steel mill, following it in 1925 with the 6.5' Style B and a 10' Style D oil bath mills. All three of these mills were manufacture until 1936 when they were discontinued. The Monitor Self Oiling was an outgrowth of the firm's experience in producing the open back geared Monitor Steel mills, and the wheels and vanes on the new mills were made interchangeable with those on the older mills of the same size.
The most striking identifying characteristic of the Monitor Self Oiling is its cast iron gear case, which forms the main casting. Its shape gives the mill its nickname, the "ham bone Monitor." This large casting, which provides the mill with its oil reservoir, extends over and around all the gears and working parts of the head, protecting them from moisture and dust. It is so designed that "there is no opening or joint on the windward side." Access is to the back side of the main ironwork which is covered securely by a steel plate fitted with a special gasket. Governing of the mill is on the same principal as on the Monitor Steel.
The Monitor Self Oiling windmill is quite easily identified in the field from its characteristic vane and cast iron gear case. Frequently the vane on this mill sags, but this certainly may be pardoned in mills that last were manufactured over forty years ago.
The Monitor Self Oiling mill is a quite common example of the "first generation" of self lubricating steel windmills, and it may be observed in most areas of North America and in many places more distant. Manufactured form 1933 into the 1960's, the Monitor W Series was the last windmill produced by the Baker Manufacturing Company. It is a self oiling back geared steel pumping mill which was available in four sizes: 6.5' Style WB, 8' Style WC, 10' Style WD, and 12' Style WE.
Like the Monitor Self Oiling mills, the W series mill also has a characteristic iron gear case. This casting, which not only serves as the main ironwork but also provides an oil reservoirs, is much more compact than that used on most other self oiling mills. It was advertised as the "Iron Vault" case..."Built like the turret of a battleship." An apparent allusion to the warship which the Monitor mills were named. A selling point for the mills was that the gear case "will not be punctured by hunters' bullets or boys' guns" because "ringing the bell with ordinary small caliber rifle will not pierce the Monitor case."
Wheels, arms, and vanes on the 8', 10', and 12' Monitor W Series mills are interchangeable with those on the same size Monitor Steel open back geared mills, and replacement heads were widely marketed for "modernizing" the older mills. The mills have two different styles of vanes, and indication of when they were made. The first pattern is a modification of what had become the familiar five sided Monitor steel vane. This form was used through the 1930's, but by 1940 a "new streamlined" vane more rectangular in shape was introduced and was used on W Series made for the next two decades. This new "vertical" vane was also fabricated form sheet steel material and reinforced with corrugated ribs at right angle to the steel vane stem.
Two additional identifying characteristics of the Monitor W Series are associated with its wheel and head. One of these is the position of the wheel, which is located comparatively close to the head of the mill, and the other is the orientation of the wheel tilted slightly backward. The tilt of the wheel not only allows it to be positioned closer to the tower, but helps prevent oil from leaking from the front bearing. The manufacturer took advantage of the fact that the direction of the wind is at a slight angle to the earth.
The mills are regulated on the same principal used on the Monitor Self Oiling and Monitor Steel mills. As had been the case with the Monitor Steel windmills, the W Series are "pull in" type mills, although they could be specially ordered from the factory in the "pull out" style. These were for territories where mills run for long periods of time unattended.
The Monitor W Series windmills were manufactured into the 1960's. They remain among the more frequently seen American windmills. Examples with the "vertical" vane are seen much more often than are examples of the earlier style.
Often one spots these mills bearing the vane inscription, "David Bradley." These are W Series windmills made by the Baker Manufacturing Company under contract to Sears, Roebuck, and Company for distribution by that Chicago based mail order catalogue house, and they are identical in all ways except vane inscription to the mills sold by the manufacturer.
Many of the W Series mills seen in the field today are still in service providing water to livestock or homes even at this time.
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