FFA Windmill

Denton FFA - Elgin 10' Wonder B Windmill

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THE COWBOY WAY

" If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'."

"The Wonder mill . . . well, it's a wonder that you don't have to climb up and grease it every week."

This is what farmers all over the plains and prairies were saying about the Wonder Model A windmill when it was introduced to the public in 1912. This very significant mill was the first successful widely distributed self-oiling windmill in the history of the American industry.  Unlike almost all the other windmills available at the time, the oil-bath Wonder did not require regular lubrication on a weekly basis, but only a change oil once a year.

The antecedents of the Wonder windmill are the "Little Giant" of the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Company and the Oil Reservoir of the Wind Engine Company of Elgin, Illinois.  The former was placed on the market about 1906 and probably was the first semi-enclosed oil-bath mill manufactured in America although mills with enclosed heads from other manufactures like the Eureka and the Manvel, had been made for many years. The distinction of the Little Giant is that its main shaft and crank gears actually operate in a bath of oil providing lubricant to the other moving parts of the mill.  In 1908 a mill almost identical to the Little Giant known as the "Oil Reservoir", was being distributed by the Wind Engine Company, a firm which undoubtedly had corporate ties with the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Company it is thought that perhaps the Elgin company was using the second minor firm to sell the oil-bath mills in order to test the market for such a mill without risking its own reputation.

Alter the practicability of an oil bath to lubricate the working parts of a mill had been demonstrated by the "Little Giant" and the "Oil Reservoir" the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Company in 1912 introduced the fully enclosed "Wonder" mill. With a cast iron hood mounted above the moving parts of the head, the Wonder employs a one-gallon oil reservoir to supply lubricant to all its working parts

This was the first such design widely sold on the American market, although in later years other Manufacturers falsely claimed to have been the first to produce such a mill.

The initial Wonder windmill, the Model A, operates as follows: The motion of the turning wind wheel is carried by a main shaft to a double­toothed pinion gear at its opposite end. The cogs on this double gear meshed with the teeth of two large crank gears mounted on their own separate shaft parallel with the main shaft. From the crank gears two steel pitman's reached up to a crosshead and head of the steel pump rod which move up and down on wooden bearings sliding on round steel guide rods. These guide rod bearings carry lubricant upwards to oil he crosshead and upper ends of the pitman's, while the crank gears lift oil from the reservoir to the pinion gear and main-shaft bearings.

The wheel of the Wonder consists of curved galvanized sheet-steel blades riveted to steel wheel clips in turn riveted to curved bar-steel rims. These rims are bolted to the steel wheel arms, which have an unusually wide spread at their inner ends giving the wheel greater stability.  The vane sheet of the mill, with a distinctive swallow-tail shape, also made of galvanized sheet steel. It is riveted to vertical steel girts which are attached to the steel vane stem. The vane bears the sole painted ornamentation on on this mill, the stenciled words " The Wonder Made at Elgin, ILL".

Governing on the Wonder windmills is through the use of a slightly off-center wheel combined with a weighted lever.  As wind speeds increase, the wheel automatically turns toward the vane, reducing its exposure to the wind. As his occurs, the linkage on the regulating system causes the governor lever to raise, placing pressure on the wheel to return to its former position facing the wind when its velocity decreases. When the mill is turned off from the ground or when it governs out of high winds, a band-type friction brake engages around the hub of the wheel.

About 1924, the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Company became the Elgin Windmill Company. It was also about this time the Wonder Model A mill was replaced with an improved design, the Wonder Model B. This mill differs from its predecessor in its use of a rocker arm fastened at its free end to the upper ends of the two steel pitmans.  From the end of this rocker arm a steel pump rod is suspended thought a protected opening in the bottom of the main casting.  Instead of having a cast-iron hood, the Model B bears a galvanized sheet-steel hood. The earlier Model A mills were made in 8', 10' and 12' sizes, while the Model B mills were made in 6', 10', 12' and 14' sizes.  In addition to the pumping version of the Model B, for a short time about 1930 an oil-bath Wonder Power windmill was marketed, being probably the only self-oiling power windmill ever sold by a major manufacturer in the United States.

The Wonder windmill is one of the most significant technology innovations in the history of American windmill manufacture. Within only about a decade and a half after the introduction of this fully enclosed oil-bath mill, virtually every American windmill maker had developed its own self-oiling mill. Soon after the Wonder Model A was placed on the market in1912, the following poem was written about it:

The Wonder Wonderful or the Wonderful Wonder,
    It defies the storm, the lighting and thunder.
It stands unharmed under hail's fierce batter,
    Amid war of elements and the wreck of matter.

It ties up the winds in a bundle together,
    And tickles their ribs with an ostrich feather.
It water the stock, vegetation and soil,
    And it won't wear out for it runs in oil.

It interests the farmer, this air driven machine,
    When he foots his bills for high priced gasoline.
The wise don't make mistakes, don't blunder,
    They buy a self-oiled double geared Wonder.

Today a surprising number of Wonder Model A windmills have survived to be observed in the field, while even a larger number of later Model B Wonder mills, manufactured at least into the the late 1940's remained scattered across large parts of the United States.

CLICK HERE to see early 1900 Elgin Catalogue (PDF)
CLICK HERE for schematic of Wonder B Parts List (PDF)


" Wonder Bob Satterfield "


Placing the Head - May 19, 2009


Erecting the Tower - May 8, 2009

Denton FFA's Wonder B Windmill

Robert Satterfield, Guyer 2010 Senior, Eagle Scout and FFA Member repaired and erected the 10' Elgin Wonder B Windmill on the hill beside the AG Center on the Guyer High School Campus in 2009. 

Bob selected the windmill as his project to become a Eagle Scout.

The windmill was a generous donation by Chuck Rickgauer of Tolar, TX.  He and his wife operate the Windmill Farm Bed & Breakfast.  Visit his website and see his collection of windmills. ( www.TheWindmillFarm.com )


Denton High School
1007 Fulton, Denton, TX 76201
940-369-2000

Billy Ryan High School
5101 E. McKinney,  Denton, TX 76208

940-369-3000

John Guyer High School
7501 Teasley Lane. Denton, TX 76210
940-369-1000

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