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‘WINDerful Tales’

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:23 a.m. CST

“WINDerful Tales” is a new exhibit at the Jasper County Historical Museum located in the Ag Building. This exhibit was made possible due to support from Silos & Smokestakes, Jasper Community Foundation and Jasper County Farm Bureau. It is a direct result of seeing a problem and having the inspiration to uniquely solve it by board member, Linda Perrenoud, and volunteer members of her grants committee, Mary Ann Iske and Dr. Delores Butler.

The problem … the old wooden windmill that stood south of the museum had recently had the wooden head removed for major repair and the “headless” wooden tower had been joined by a rusted metal windmill laying on its side. Weather damage to the windmill had become so severe that restoration was quite difficult and needed to be avoided in the future. Suffice it to say, the wooden windmill needed to be moved inside so the small group took it upon themselves to rectify the situation and with the assistance of grants and volunteers, they were able to move the windmill inside and they developed the award-winning exhibit on display today called “WINDerful Tales.” Their “Tale” is about wind power and Jasper County in the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Why is it award-winning, you ask? Last April, the museum and exhibit was honored as a Silos & Smokestacks’ Partner Site for Outstanding Interpretation; showing excellence in interpreting the story of American Agriculture. Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) honored the Heritage Area’s best during their 10th Annual Golden Silo Awards Golden Silo Awards are presented to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in preserving and telling America’s agricultural story, both past and present. 

By the mid-1920s, 1 to 3 kilowatt wind generators had been developed. Wind-generated electricity found widespread use in rural areas of the Midwestern Great Plains. In 1933, H.C. McCardell, E. A. McCardell and M.E. Vincent of Newton, purchased Mill Air-Light Company and reorganized it as a Wind Power Light Company.  Shortly thereafter, they invented an entirely new type of wind electric plant.  Instead of using a blade similar to a fan, a propeller blade was perfected using the principle of the airfoil of an airplane wind. The other patented feature was tipping the blades, thus eliminating the tail vane and making the entire unit like a huge dart; and greatly increasing its efficiency.

Early in 1935 the company conceived the idea of selling ‘metered’ electricity to farmers much like utility companies were doing. I would have thought this was a more recent idea from like the last 20 years or so, but the idea had been around for a very long time; but just never came to fruition because the government started the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to bring electricity to rural areas around the same time.  

The first use of a large windmill to generate electricity was built in Cleveland Ohio by Charles Brush in 1888. Today’s wind turbines, made by companies like Newton’s TPI and Trinity, are very different in design from the earlier models mostly due to their much larger scale.

Check out the award-winning “WINDerful Tales” exhibit in the Ag Building located across the street south of the Jasper County Historical Museum main building.  It sits next to the old wooden windmill that has been restored. The Ag Building has many displays of tools and machines from our times past.  While you’re there, don’t miss the old Blacksmith’s Shop too! The Jasper County Historical Museum is located at 1700 S. 15th Ave. W. in Newton or just off I-80 Exit 164.

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