Windmill Weights as Folk Art

15 inch star weight made by the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. Batavia, Ill. c, 1890. is mounted on a tiger maple stand and has provenance to a Minnesota farm. It's priced at $2250 at Ames Hill Antiques

After I posted yesterday’s blog about the Whirligigs sought after by collectors, I guess my mind started going back to the days I spent growing up on a farm. Before I knew it, I was researching Windmill Weights. Maybe windmills were on my mind because of the need for this country to find new energy resources. Maybe the windmill images from the T. Boone Pickens commercials were forward in my mind. Only the Good Lord understands the intricacies of my mind. But, boy! I’m glad I did the research. I always thought windmill weights were in the form of animals, birds, moons, or stars, but I was mistaken, and I got quite the education on these folk art collectibles.

In case you’re not as old as I am, I’ll provide a little background info to understand the historical interest in windmill weights. Yesteryear, in parts of rural America and other parts of the world, many farms used windmills to capture the power of the wind to pump water out of wells for use on their land. Windmills also provided the energy to pump well water to fuel the early locomotives. Grain, especially in Europe, was ground by the energy provided by windmills. These windmills had many moving parts, of course, and a windmill weight was one of them.

Today, these weights are very collectible, valuable, and make great folk art. And there are lots of collectors who’d be grateful if you found a real beauty for their collection.

There are four different kinds of windmill weights – the Tail Weight, the Governor Weight, the Spoke Weight and the Regulator Weight. The Tail Weights are the most decorative of all.

There are hundreds of windmill weights to find, and they are still out there in the old barns and sheds. And some are quite valuable. Many of the weights you’ll find are painted, but I learned that this was usually done after the weight had out-lived its usefulness and later became a piece of folk art.

Many times paint is used to disguise a reproduction, however there are many ways to distinguish the real thing from a new reproduction.The best way is to look for rust. When these weights were used, they picked up sand in the rust, and this is what made the finish on the older weights. Watch for holes in the weights. They shouldn’t be straight up and down on the real ones, rather tapered. Any damage can quickly reduce their value.

I was fortune enough to run across the book, Windmill Weights, by Rich Nidey and Don Lawrence. I took a look at a site with some info on their book, and boy – what a head full I got.

I know you’re waiting for some price examples, so here they are:

A Black Bull with white writing, 18X24 inches, $920. Horse standing,white paint,16 X 17 inches, $920. Rooster, writing, Power & Pump Co. , 13 inches, $1495. ARooster by the Elgin Co., 15X19 inches, could bring you over $5000 today.

Today’s Photo comes from Ames Hill Antiques and this 15 inch star weight made by the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. Batavia, Ill. c, 1890. is mounted on a tiger maple stand and has provenance to a Minnesota farm. It’s priced at $2250.

I think you’ll agree that these nifty items are worth looking for.

There is an endless stream of items people collect, and if we find them for collectors (or for ourselves) our coffers will be filled. An old saying I recall says, “Go where others have feared to go.” 31 Club says, “Look where others have failed to look.”

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