Bevil Wind Mill Patent Model

Henry H. Beville, the inventor of the “Iron Duke” windmill, was a traveling salesman for a farm implement company in Indiana. He designed the windmill while on the road in the 1870s. A young Union veteran, Beville held a variety of jobs after returning from the war and, at one point, lost all of his possessions in a fire. After receiving his patent in 1880, Beville licensed the Iron Duke for manufacture and sale, making a substantial profit on his invention. That same year, he opened a real estate office in Indianapolis. Between windmill sales and real estate, Beville had a prosperous career. Well-respected in the business community and active in civic life, he helped attract a number of manufacturing companies to Indianapolis.
In early America, windmills followed the European model. As the wind changed direction, workers manually adjusted the position of large wood and cloth sails. In the 1850s, inventor Daniel Halladay and his business partner, John Burnham, introduced a self-regulating windmill and water pump. In contrast to traditional windmills, self-regulating windmills had a tail vane to turn blades. A centrifugal governor regulated speed by changing the angle of the blades. This allowed the windmill to work efficiently in low winds and slow down for protection in high winds. Windmills provided farmers and ranchers with a reliable power source to pump water from underground. Halladay and Burnham moved from New England to Chicago to take advantage of the expanding Midwestern market, and other manufacturers followed their lead. Between 1870 and 1900, American farmers put about 230 million acres into agricultural production, much of it in the arid Great Plains.
The Iron Duke, as its name suggests, was an all-iron windmill. Until the 1870s, American windmills were wooden, containing metal only in bolts and other small parts. In 1876, the first metal windmill, J. S. Risdon’s “Iron Turbine,” appeared on the market. Other models followed, but according to historian T. Lindsay Baker, major production of metal windmills did not begin for another twenty years. Beginning in the 1890s, manufacturers were able to take advantage of lower steel prices. The manufacturers of the Iron Duke compared its strength and durability to that of wooden windmills. An advertisement in The American Agriculturist announced, “Will not shrink, warp, split, decay, and will stand more work than any mill extant.” Yet, despite the growing popularity of iron or steel models, many farmers and ranchers preferred wood. They found metal windmills difficult to repair, and many manufacturers had a reputation for using less steel to cut costs.
Object Name
patent model, windmill
date made
patent date
Bevil, Henry H.
overall: 11 1/2 in x 8 1/4 in x 12 in; 29.21 cm x 20.955 cm x 30.48 cm
place made
United States: Indiana, Dublin
associated place
United States: Indiana, Indianapolis
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
American Enterprise
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
American Enterprise
American Enterprise
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Sewer, Andy; Allison, David; Liebhold, Peter; Davis, Nancy; Franz, Kathleen G.. American Enterprise: A History of Business in America
Additional Media

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