Getting Wind of Maine's Inventions
MAINE has nurtured many investors. Hiram Maxim, for instance, who invented what West Point considers the greatest boon since the wheel - the machine gun. Queen Victoria knighted Mr. Maxim, who did rather well for a poor boy from Sangerville. Then there were the Stanley twins, who gave us the steam-powered automobile. In the days of the Stanley Steamer, automobiles were rare, and as the Stanley twins looked alike, they used to make sport of baiting policemen. Unlike internal-combustion vehicles, the Stanley Steamer made no noise on the road above a modest swish-swish, so one of the twins would come whooping along and frighten the cop on the corner. Just as the dust settled the other twin would come by, and the duplication was puzzling.
The fun of this depended on finding a new cop for every performance, and the constabulary for miles around was happy when the Stanley twins sold their patents to Locomobile. The Stanley boys also invented the dry plate for photography, and did much work with the X-ray.
There have been others. Mortimer W. Gillespie of Carter's Corner invented the cat, for which he frequently apologized, and one winter he invented a perpetual motion machine. After the thing had been running a few years a professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology came up to look at it, and was much impressed. He said Mr. Gillespie had a perfectly good centrifugal water pump, but it was by no means perpetual motion. This took the heart out of Mr. Gillespie's enthusiasms. Also, when he attempted to patent his machine, the Patent Office told him they never patented perpetual motion machines, and after that Mr. Gillespie lost all interest.
I should mention, too, Mr. Homer Pulsifer of South Strong, who discovered a universal solvent. He was trying to find something that would clean old paint brushes, and Lo! But Mr. Pulsifer was unable to find anything to keep the stuff in, and nothing came of it.
The reason I mention Maine inventors is cozy. It gives me a chance to tell about Mr. C.E. Pike of Wellington, Maine, who invented a better windmill. This is important, not only 80 years ago but today when we are seeking new sources of energy.
Wellington is an upstate town of 232 people, named improbably for Arthur, the Duke of Wellington. The duke had defeated Napoleon a few years before Wellington was settled, and seemed worthy of honor. Wellington, in the Maine way, is pronounced well'n-t'n, and lies near Athens, Brighton, and Harmony, of which you may have heard.
The usual windmill, if you've noticed, needs to face its fans into the wind. There will be, even on the huge Dutch models, some kind of vane or rudder that shifts with the movement of air and keeps the twirling blades at an efficient right angle.
This vane, or rudder, seemed superfluous and an added construction and maintenance expense to Mr. Pike, who had already perfected several inventions. He set about designing a windmill that didn't need to face into the wind.
Think what a boon this is today as fossil fuels dwindle and the light bills soar!
Mr. Pike's windmill had fans that turned on a vertical shaft, instead of going round and round as do the barnyard variety and the picturesque models of the Netherlands. He built onto his buildings at Wellington a tower tall enough to reach into useful winds, and it was open on four sides.
Within the tower were Mr. Pike's fans, so attached to the vertical shaft that any wind from any quarter would twirl them. He didn't have to keep turning his building to grind corn. Mr. Pike offered to grind meal and saw boards at the going tithe of the time - one bushel out of 10, and 100 board feet from every thousand.
His windmill was in profitable operation for some years until, in 1910, infernal mischance became Mr. Pike's lot and he became famous the world over without being happy about it.
It was a lovely morning in May, with the salubrity of the season flush on every hand, and as it was a day without the slightest rustle of a breeze, Mr. Pike took a gallon can of gudgeon grease and climbed the ladder into his windmill tower to lubricate the bearings. While he was doing this a breeze sprang up, and Mr. Pike couldn't get outside the whirling blades until the wind went down.
After two days the Associated Press notified the world of Mr. Pike's incarceration, and daily reports for the next two weeks made the man famous. Neighbors gathered on the lawn, and they could see Mr. Pike standing there with a pail of grease in his hand waiting for the wind to go down. Which it finally did.