I enjoy seeing old farm windmills, so it is a treat to have an old photo that shows a windmill. And even better when my ancestors are in the photo, too.
This is an interesting family photo of what was probably a big event for the Louis Schumm family in 1901–the raising of a big, shiny, new Aermotor Windmill.
In this photo, left to right, beginning with the women in back: Mrs. Don Eicher, Sarah (Breuninger) Schumm, Frieda Schumm, Louis J. Schumm, Cornelius Schumm, Mr. Dellinger.
The little boy in the photo is Cornelius Schumm (1896-1986), who was my grandfather. His parents were Louis J and Sarah (Breuninger) Schumm. This photo is also special because it is one of only a couple photos I have of my great-grandmother Sarah, who died in 1921. Frieda Schumm, who eventually married Richard Allmandinger, was Cornelius’ sister.
The above photo was taken at the Louis Schumm farm on Willshire-Eastern Road, east of Willshire. Their home is visible in the background and their water-pumping windmill was erected in the barnyard, between the house and the barn. The large round container the women are standing in front of is the water tank, to hold water drawn up by the windmill.
Their banked barn was built in 1886. The windmill and water tank are to the right in the 1905 photo below. You can just barely make out the windmill but the water tank is easy to see.
The photo of my mother (below) was taken about 40 years later and you can see the windmill and the water tank in the background. I assume this was the same Aermotor Windmill and it looks like the same water tank.
Just about every farm had a windmill years ago. The windmill on the Carl Miller farm was located between the barn and granary.
I still see windmills on farms today, in all sorts of disrepair. Windmills are still used on Amish farms, while others that have not been used for decades are falling apart.
In the 1901 Schumm photo you can clearly see “The Aermotor Co, Chicago” written on the vane of the windmill. Aermotor was, and still is, an American manufacturer of wind-powered water pumps, pumping water by using the power of the wind.
Today the Aermotor Company describes their device as the lowest cost pumping power on Earth. It “puts the wind to work, saving fuel and money, with virtually no maintenance.” Their windmills are used today to pump water for livestock, pond water replacement, and other purposes.
The Aermotor windmill was developed by Thomas O. Perry in the late 1880s and the first one was sold in 1888. Only 24 Aermotor windmills were sold that first year but they had an edge on their competitors—the Aermotor had a much greater lifting power and was able to do more work than the larger wooden windmills. Theirs quickly became popular and they sold 20,000 in 1892.
By 1904, three years after the Schumm windmill was purchased, Aermotor had a catalog with a wide range of accessories, hand pumps, wood and metal tanks, equipment for the mills such as feed cutters, power saws, corn shellers and other specialty items. By mass-producing they were able to reduce the price of their windmills. An 8 foot diameter windmill cost about $25 and a 20 foot one cost about $300 back then.
During WWII they became a subcontractor for Bell & Howell and built precision lens mounts for the top- secret Norden Bombsight.
The Aermotor Company was bought and sold several times during the next few decades. From 1969-1980 the windmills were produced in Argentina but by 1980 they were once again manufactured in the United States.
In 2006 the company was purchased by a private group of ranchers who restored the original 1888 name to The Aermotor Company. All parts of the windmill are made in the United States and they come with a 7-year warranty.
The company currently operates out of San Angelo, Texas. They produce windmills from 6 to 16 feet in diameter, as well as the metal windmill towers, the pump assembly, and other components. All made right here in the United States and distributed worldwide.
Sources of information: