Windmills were important sources of power on the Great Plains. This example was made in Kansas.
Windmills pumped water from the area's underground supply. Railroads and many small towns depended on them for their water needs. Plains farmers and ranchers also relied on windmills to pump water for family and livestock.
Most windmill manufacturers were located in the prairie states to the east of Kansas. However, between 1880 and the mid-1950s, as many as 50 companies are thought to have made windmills in Kansas.
Probably the best known of these was the Currie Windmill Company. Organized in the 1880s as the Currie Windmill and Pump Company, the company first moved to Manhattan and next to Topeka where it manufactured mills at 7th and Adams from around 1900 until the late 1940s. The Wyatt Manufacturing Company of Salina then took over the production of Currie windmills and continued to use the name into the 1950s.
Currie windmills gained a reputation as sturdy, reliable machines. Distinctive features included hardwood bearings and the steel band encircling the vanes of the wheel. Currie wheels came in 6, 8, and 10-foot diameters.
A promotional letter issued by the Currie Windmill Company during the 1930s reads, "The windmill is the cheapest power on earth and at these prices you cannot afford to be without one." Currie prices were especially economical, and its machines were called "the poor man's windmill." In the 1930s the average price was $28. As late as 1950 one model was offered for $39. Its reasonable price and durable construction made the Currie windmill a common feature on prairie farms and ranches, particularly in Kansas.
The Currie windmill in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History has a three-post tower that is twenty feet high. It was built about 1925, and originally stood at the Quail Place Dairy south of Topeka. It was taken down in 1980.
The museum's collection also includes a "Queen" model all-wood windmill by the Lima Manufacturing Company of Lima, Indiana. For many years this windmill pumped water for a Wabaunsee County farm. The name of its dealer, S. E. Keener of Clay Center, Kansas, is visible on one side of its vane. The Queen windmill is displayed in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History.
Other Currie Windmill links:
- Pamphlet for Currie windmills by Wyatt Manufacturing Co., ca. 1950
- Patent for lubricating mechanism improvements, 1928-'29
- Patent for windmill-head improvements, 1904
Entry: Currie Windmill
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: November 1996
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.