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Museum of Milling History, General Mills, 1945.

Museum of Milling History,
General Mills, 1945.

A Typical Layout of a New Process Millstone Flour Mill of 1878, from the Northwestern Miller (September 7, 1894). The basement contains the drive equipment, the first flour has mill stones and flour packers, the middle floors has purifiers and bolters, and grain cleaners (scourers). Please Note: The source article "Archaeology of the Central Minneapolis Riverfront, Part 2: Archaeological Explorations and Interpretive Potentials," The Minnesota Archaeological Society, Vol. 49, No. 1-2, stated that: "the top floor has dust collectors." This is a gross error, this is a typical layout of a millstone flour mill before the dust explosion of the evening of May 2, 1878, when the Washburn A New-Process Mill blew up taking with it 5 of the countries best flour mills, grain elevators, and surrounding buildings. Dust collectors had not yet become a standard feature of every flour mill. Some mills only had dust rooms that were located underneath the millstones filled with baffles to encourage the precipitation of the dust. The largest flour mill in the world at that times was the Washburn A New Process Mill that collected 3,000 pounds of dust every day in two dust rooms.

"Flour for Man's Bread," by John Storck and Walter Dorwin Teague.

This important volume is the first complete study of the history of milling and its profound significance in the record of human progress, from earliest times to the present.

Beginning with a detailed description of the use of grain by primitive man, the discussion then proceeds to the early refinement of tools, the accumulation of enormous grain empires in ancient times, the gradual development of the centralized mill and modern milling techniques, and the large-scale production and distribution methods of today.

With over 130 illustrations prepared under the direction of the noted industrial designer, Walter Dorwin Teague, this comprehensive text will be enjoyed by those interested in the rise of our modern industrial civilization, as well as students of agriculture, food processing and other related fields.

Caption: A Norse Mill at Lewis, Figure 51, page 98. Norse-type direct-drive mill, from Lewis in the Hebrdes Islands, off the Scottish coast. The runner stone has been cut away to show how it is mounted. Notice the rock used as a "damsel" to agitate the shoe of the hopper. The water wheel of this mill is served through a flume, though many mills of this type are located directly in the stream. A gate can be dropped t shut off the water from the flume.

Text pages 97, 98, and 99. Figure 51 reproduces a mill of the Norse type, from Lewis in the Hebrides, which the upper stone cut away to show how it is mounted on its axle. This mill, in common with other northern examples, rotates in a clockwise direction, whereas direct-drive mills of the eastern or Greek type run counterclockwise. The paddles of northern water wheels are usually flat, whereas most Greek-type direct-drive mills are fitted with scoops to catch the water. Direct-drive mills permit only small-sale operation; the stones used always of reduced size - down to about 27 inches across - and rotation is slow. Their feed is automatic if the hopper is equipped with a simple stone-agitated damsel, like the one shown in the Lewis mill.

The prime achievements in the Vitruvian mechanism as compared with any direct-drive mill were, first, the recognition of the fact that a wheel placed vertically in a stream was more effective than one placed horizontally - which would be true so long as the principles of the turbine remained unknown; and, second, the introduction of gears between wheel and millstones.

In spite of these potentialities, the Vitruvian mill was so radical an advance, and so little related to the attitudes and social patterns of its time, that many decades passed before it came into general use. The early mills were no doubt highly imperfect: we know, for example, that the overshot water wheel of a fifth-century Athenian mill (figure 56) received its water from too great a height, and that its moving parts rubbed against the stone walls of its enclosure. In addition, the water mill required a large capital investment in a society where slaves and animals were cheap and plentiful. No classical writer celebrated the importance of the invention - a fact easier to understand than its neglect by modern historians.

"Flour for Man's Bread, A History of Milling," by John Storck and Walter Dorwin Teague, illustrated by Harold Rydell, with references, a vocabulary of milling terms, and 131 black & white illustrations, plates, diagrams, drawings, maps many by Harold Rydell, published by the University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp (xiii), 382, 1952. First edition printed with two different dust jackets. A comprehensive and scholarly history of flour milling.

Caption: An Athenian Overshot Mill, Figure 56, page 109. Reconstruction of an overshot mill which was operated in the late fifth century A.D. in the Athenian agora, or market place. The dimensions are known from evidence left in the stone ruins. Note the thinness of the millstones, and the fact that the reduction gears they would rotate more slowly than the water wheel (compare with Figure 50). The mill could be stopped by removing the slanting section of the millrace and so causing the water to drop behind the wheel.

Please Note: The above illustration is often used to describe a Vitruvian mill. Text from pages 95 and 96: The Vitruvian ratio used high-speed grinding. The ratio between speed and force changed five times in a Vitruvius simple mechanism, results in the millstone's revolving at a higher speed than the water wheel that drives it. Shown above is a mill, like other early mills which remain or records exist, the gear at the bottom of the horizontal axle was smaller than the gear on the vertical shaft and the stone turned more slowly that the wheel. Vitruvius explains: "the power generated by the wheel is applied to work which has nothing to do with its source, the water - a departure opening up great vistas of usefulness." This is the first time, we have, not a tool in human hands, but a true machine designed to transmit forces and accomplish useful work This is the first time, a craft was superseded by what we now know as machine production, and a movement was started which would culminate in the Industrial Revolution and the virtual elimination of the crafts as a source of essential goods and services.

Forward to the Book

This volume brings to every reader many of the advantages of what was originally projected as a Museum of Milling History. The idea was seriously considered by General Mills in 1945. A tentative site adjacent to the headquarters offices in Minneapolis had been selected. It was planned to create life-sized moving dioramas to tell the story of the "ancient and honorable" craft of milling from earliest times to the present day.

Walter Dorwin Teague, the noted industrial designer of New York, drew plans for the museum and arranged for the necessary fundamental research. He engaged Dr. John Storck, scholar and author of a distinguished history of civilization, to delve into the past for knowledge in a field where he had few predecessors. The results of their collaboration, along with the excellent illustrations prepared under Mr. Teague's direction, are presented in this book.

Mounting costs and the materials scarcity following World War II forced abandonment of the museum project in 1947. The present volume, therefore, represents what might have been incorporated into a museum. Of itself, this book is believed to be the first complete exposition of the growth and development of flour milling, and its relation to man's progress.

Essentially, the history of milling records the effort of man to survive. His spark of life burns on the fuel of food. From the cereals springs his energy. They are the coals for his bodily warmth and well=being. Their discovery changed his mode of life. He was a wanderer on the face of the earth when a crack on its surface bound him to it. From the crack sprang the grasses, and from these came the cereal seeds. Man stopped in his wanderings to cultivate them. Of the cereals, wheat and maize emerged as best adapted to man's needs.

Mans molars were his first grinding tools. When these became inadequate, necessity forced him to invent other means. He rubbed the grain between two stones, to better purpose. He took his tools where he found them. He dropped them when they had served his ends. But as his understanding grew, he perceived that stones of certain forms were more efficient. These he shaped, and in the shaping gave them a value which he treasured. These forms were the mortar and the saddle stone. The Scriptures record there early value, for the Law of Moses provided, "No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man's life to pledge."

These devices gave him meal in quaintly, but the grain seeds were small and the husks rough and numerous. To separate the husks from the meal, he invented the screen to sift them, and thus he obtained the first separation.

The rubbing together of the stones produced grit in the meal, which was most unpleasant and tooth-wearing. Man's ingenuity then suggested that the grist might be reduced if the stones used for grinding were slightly separated. Thus caused the quern and the millstone, with surfaces which "reduced" the grain rather than ground it.

These were the first, and only, basic advances in the art of milling. The techniques and tools were further improved, but flour milling today is still reduction, and sifting, supplemented by air-classification.

The miller's tale recorded in this volume is necessary to an understanding of our modern industrial civilization. The ways in which man has made flour for his bread have forged the patterns of technological progress: the refinement of tools, the increasing use of power, the development of large scale production and distribution. That progress has had far-reaching influence on man's social development. And that story is not ended. Research in pointing to the way to as yet unknown possibilities.

In the words of the authors, "American millers may have their share in the most urgent business now before mankind - the business of raising the standard of living the vast backward populations of the world, so that they too may become fertile fields for the spread of freedom and enlightment."

James F. Bell
(son of James S. Bell. James F. Bell became President of Washburn Crosby Company, that became General Mills, Inc., in 1928.)
Minneapolis, Minnesota.
July 1, 1952.

Caption: A Tide Mill, Figure 58, page 113. Tide Mill. At the left, the sluice gate is closed and the millrace gate is open, with the water wheel in action. At the right, the incoming tide has opened the sluice gate to fill the pond; the millrace gate has been closed, and the mill is inactive. Milling can be carried on in two periods of five or seven hours each for every twenty-four hours.

Caption: German Bolting-Bag Mill, Figure 83, page 193. An early nineteenth-century German mill, with long bolting bag shaken by mill power after the manner of the insert at the upper right. A bolter of this type is illustrated in Ramelli (1588). The overs of the bag were given a second sifting on a flat sieve, which was also shaken by mill power.

Text, page 192. "On the Continent a slanting cloth-lined sifting bag shaken back and forth by mill power was sometimes used for bolting (Figure 83). Such an arrangement would make use of only a small part of the entire cover area of the sifting bag, although the bag might be reset from time to time to bring a new area into service."

Please Note: This was the state of the art of flour milling in Germany (Figure 83) at the time Oliver Evans invented his improvements for automated flour milling, and in the early nineteenth-century when two German flour millers-millwrights came to America to steal the technology. Before the mechanical bolting bag sifter, a boy (often the miller's helper or son) would stand in the basement of the mill hitting the bag with a stick. The sifted or bolted flour would fall through the bag, sock, or tube onto the floor of the mill, and the tailings would often flow into the mill stream where the bag collar was attached to an outside wall.

Source of Used Copies of "Flour for Man's Bread," by John Storck and Walter Dorwin Teague, can be found at Advanced Book Exchange, Inc. & ( Price ranges from 8 dollars to 80 dollars.
The original publication price was $7.50.

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Copyright 2002 by T. R. Hazen