The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 567
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In A Field Guide to American Windmills, T. Lindsay Baker has produced
a near-definitive study of water-pumping windmills in the United
States. A wealth of statistics and detailed notes constitutes the core of
this five-hundred page monograph.
This study begins with an engaging short history of American wind-
mill development. Baker's skillful and sensitive treatment brings alive
the story of America's windmills, which many neophytes on first glance
may dismiss as a rather listless subject. The opening chapters of this
unique book lead the reader on a tour of the windmill saga: from de-
sign, production, marketing, and sales, to the less prosaic topics of
adaptive uses, business and legal disputes, homemade windmills, and
exportation to foreign markets.
Baker deftly interweaves technical information with historical nar-
rative and insightful personal accounts. Numerous vignettes and anec-
dotes animate his sketch of the social and economic implications of this
relatively simple engineering device. For example, aside from the pri-
mary functions of livestock maintenance and providing domestic water,
the windmills served many adaptive uses-from swamp and mine
dredging to railroad water supply and the production of electrical en-
ergy. During blizzards mill towers served as prairie lighthouses, while
in summer they irrigated crops. "Windmillers," itinerant mechanics
who dutifully repaired the machines, emerged as a new breed on the
The historical narrative closes with a concise account of the nadir of
windmill manufacturing, from World War I to the 1950s. Throughout
these years the windmill market was confronted with the vicissitudes of
war and depression, the electrification of America, and the widespread
acceptance of other power sources. Yet Baker notes the contemporary
relevance of windmill technology in the 98os, as wind power again
looms as a practical alternative source of energy.
The appendices in this work are especially valuable for studying
American business and agricultural history. Also, the large section on
windmill identification serves as a convenient handbook for "windmill
watchers" interested in tracking down trade names and designs. The
text is further enriched with incomparable photographs, illustrations,
The University of Oklahoma Press deserves commendation for leav-
ing the author's extensive endnotes and bibliography intact. Moreover,
T. Lindsay Baker is to be congratulated for writing a first-rate, ex-
haustive study that dwarfs all previous efforts to convey the American
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
WILLIAM L. CUMIFORD
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/637/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.