Daniel Halladay Windmills and Western Settlement

United States Wind Engine and Water Pump Company

Daniel Halladay’s invention of the first commercially successful self-regulating windmill was an important factor in the settlement of western lands.

According to Lindsay T. Baker in ‘The Field Guide to American Windmills’, a contemporary agricultural magazine reported, “Daniel Halladay, a mechanic in an obscure country village…has done what the world of mechanics…sought in vain for centuries. He has invented and put in successful operation a windmill with self-furling sails.”

Daniel Halladay Early Years Vermont to Connecticut

Daniel Halladay, born 1826 in Vermont was, at age nineteen, a machinist apprentice in Ludlow, Massachusetts. In 1847 he was supervisor of machinery installations at the government armoury at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. He and Susan M. Spooner were married in Massachusetts in 1849. Their only son, Edgar, died at an early age and their only child was adopted daughter, Susan. At the 1851 World’s Fair in the Crystal Palace, London, England, he represented engine inventor John Ericsson. Upon his return Halladay purchased an interest in a machine shop at Ellington, Connecticut.

Windmill technology for grist mills brought by early emigrants to North America was expensive and in need of constant attention. Daniel Halladay’s friend John Burnham, who repaired broken water pumps, suggested the idea of a self-regulating windmill to pump water, which was quickly developed by Daniel.

Halladay Standard Windmill

“His windmill had a self-governing design. This means that it automatically turned to face changing wind directions and that it automatically controlled its own speed of operation”, explained T. Lindsay Baker in ‘Brief History of Windmills in the New World’.

Known as the Halladay Standard, it had a tail at the back of the fan which allowed the windmill to turn with the wind. Widely promoted, it was demonstrated at the New York State Fair, but sales in the region did not reach the desired volume. John Burnham moved his sales headquarters to Chicago, Illinois where he would have more access to potential customers.

Batavia, Illinois, ‘The Windmill City’

At first, the Halladay Windmill Company maintained production in Connecticut. Delays often caused by the American Civil War, and the great expense of shipping convinced Halladay to relocate the factory in 1863. With partners John Van Nortwick and Smith Mallory, Daniel Halladay established the United States Wind Engine and Pump Company in Batavia, Illinois with John Burnham its’ general sales agent. They erected stone buildings where they manufactured Halladay Windmills, feed mills, pumps, and railroad fixtures.

Some years later, Halladay reworked his original plan to make a “wheel” of wooden paddle sails that could be pivoted to adjust the mills’ speed in high winds. The thriving company sold thousands of Halladay Standards that were soon pumping water for cattle, irrigation, and railroad locomotives. It was the largest factory of its kind in the world with hundreds of employees. In ‘The Past and Present of Kane County, Illinois, 1878’Daniel Halladay is described as a liberal, generous, and public-spirited individual who “aims to better the condition of his employees…many of whom have been with him for fourteen years.”

Homesteaders purchased windmills from catalogues or traveling salesmen who telegraphed the orders to Batavia. The mill was then shipped to the customer by train and assembled on the farmer’s land. Halladay Windmills of many sizes were shipped around the world. A report found in the Morawa District Historical Society (the Midwest wheat belt region of Western Australia) claims that one of the Halladay Standards “on Rocklands Station in the Northern Territory had its wooden vane eaten away by cockatoos within a year.”

Eclipse Wind Engine and the Aermotor

In 1867 Missionary Leonard Wheeler of Wisconsin and his son patented a new windmill. Their business, Eclipse Wind Engine became a strong competitor in the field. Engineer Thomas Perry reshaped the windmill blades and simplified the shut-off controller that he sold as the Aermotor. With all of the competition, it is the Halladay Standard that is remembered as the first design that was widely marketed

Daniel Halladay is shown with his family in the 1880 and 1900 Federal Census for Santa Ana, California where he is listed as a farmer. In the 1910 Census, a widower, he resided with his daughter and her husband Henry T. Rutherford and is listed as a bank vice-president.

Later steel versions of the windmill eventually became landmarks and icons in the open rural areas. With six windmill manufacturers in Batavia, Illinois by the 1890s, that city became known as ‘The Windmill City’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *