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Milling Design in North America.

Mill Dam, Old Mill and Castle of Sleepy Hollow, North Tarrytown, N. Y.
Frederick Philipse, fist lord of the Manor of Philipsburg, in the 17th centurybuilt a dam
across the water of the Pocantico River, thus forming a mill pond to provide water power
for the grinding of grain in this rich agrarian area. The Castle and associated buildings
were the nucleus of a manor which streched from Spuyten Duyvil to Croton. The 1941 Fitz Water Wheel Company reconstruction more closely resembled the (post-colonial Oliver Evans) Beckman's Mill (circa 1783-1910), than the eariler 1684 (colonial) Philipse (Flypse) Mill. It was not until the year 1839, did the old Philipse or Beckman Mill repaired, and most modern improved machinery for cleaning grain and bolting flour were added with to the three pairs of millstones.

Milling Design in North America,
by Theodore R. Hazen.

Good morning, Mr Hazen, I hope you don't mind answering a couple of other questions:

1. One of your reports on the web site describes a general mistrust of millers by the Europeans through the 18th century. Does this attitude originate with the feudal sokes that required peasants and citizens to have their grain processed in a manorial mill?

2. In defining Old Process and New Process milling, does this refer specifically to the traditional extraction method of direct reduction (Old Process) and the new Gradual Reduction Method (New Process)? Or would the term New Process Milling also incorporate new technologies like the middling purifier and roller? If I'm interpreting the reference material correctly, it appears that the New Process Mill was defined by its gradual reduction method of grinding, and that the new technologies that revolutionized the industry were the direct result of switching to the "New Process."

Thank you very much and have a nice day.

Dear Thomas Jones,

Thank you for your e-mail. It seems like that I addressed these questions either on my web site, or to someone in the past, but I will answer them again.

The 3rd Level above ground floor "DeZwaan" (The Swan) Windmill, Holland, Michigan. Diek Medendorp, lifelong millwright and miller from the Netherlands, inspects wheat before grinding. The grain flows from the bottom of the hopper to the center of the 2-ton grinding stones, and as the mill stones rotate, the flour emerges at the outside and drops through a chute to the bins on a lower floor. The 200 year old mill is surrounded by colorful gardens and authentic Dutch architecture.

Question 1. One of your reports on the web site describes a general mistrust of millers by the Europeans through the 18th century. Does this attitude originate with the feudal sokes that required peasants and citizens to have their grain processed in a manorial mill?

Answer: No, the general attitude about the dishonest or mistrust of millers originates with the fact that milling was a trade that was learned though apprenticeship. Because milling was a craft or trade that was learned by apprenticeship, the knowledge of the art of milling was a safeguarded secret.

The secrets of the art of milling are safeguarded between the master miller, the journeyman miller, and the apprentice miller or miller's helper. The master miller has served his apprenticeship, and has worked an equal number of years being a journeyman miller. The master miller now operates a mill of his own, runs a mill for a miller owner, or is some how bonded to landowner. The master miller can take on apprentices, he is lord and master over their lives. The master miller has to cloth, feed, house, and care fore his apprentices. It is up to the master miller if what education is provided outside of the trade. Some do and some are just not interested in apprentices learning math, languages, grammar, etc. The master miller is master over his apprentices, so is rule is law. This means if the master says that he stole something, or has not completed the skills and knowledge that should be learned by set time periods, he can make the apprentice serve years over and over again.

The German children's song: "Das Wandern ist des Mullers Lust," talks about a whole way of life of the past that is behind this traditional song, which cannot be rendered by a translation. The following is a very poor interpretation of the song.

"Das Wandern ist des Mullers Lust"

1. Traveling by foot is the joy of the miller. He must be a bad miller, who never got the idea of walking from place to place.
2. The water was our teacher. It never is quiet, neither by day nor by night, always getting on.
3. We are also learning from the wheels, Which don't like to stand still. And don't get tired by turning around all day.
4. Even the stones as heavy as they are, Are dancing with them and would like to be faster.
5. Oh walking, walking is my joy! Mr. Master and Mrs. Master, let me go on in peace.

The miller would travel to find a mill, to serve the first 3 years of his apprenticeship. Then he would pickup and set a traveling again to locate a mill to complete his last 3 years of his apprenticeship. Because the wheels in the mill travel round and round, the miller must travel round and round. His old master must certify him that he has learned what he should have learned in his first 3 years of apprenticeship. A bad master would say that you have not learned it to the level that you should have and make you serve another year. Since the masters word was law, it could stretch it out again and again.

A dishonest miller was a craftsman after all and much to valuable to hang it he was found taking more than his far "toll" or payment for grinding grain. The miller collected his toll and the toll from the peasants for the lord, abbott, master or king. Instead of hanging the miller they hanged his helper or apprentice. The town gallows was often located outside in front of the mill. If it was a windmill, then one of the sail arms would serve as a gallows to hang the apprentice. The idea being in time, the master would have to change his ways or he would not get any parents of young children knocking on his door.

You apprenticed to a master craftsman for 7 years to learn a trade. You lived with him, and sometimes were mistreated. The master whose word was law. The journeyman who could go and work as a miller until he met the requirements to become a master in his own right. The apprentice who had no rights, was basically an indentured slave.

When someone came to the mill, The art of the miller or the millwright, is also part of the secrets of the craft. Basically if I tell you, or you see me practicing my trade, I will have to kill you! A craftsman who learned his craft though apprenticeship did not practice his trade or craft in front of others or shared that knowledge with others. This is the basic problem with interpretation of historical sites like an old mill or Colonial Williamsburg. The miller saw someone coming down the road, he turned off the mill. The visitor, farmer, or customer did not see the mill operating, or see anything apart. The mill told him to leave the grain, go fishing, swimming, picnicking or ice skating on the mill pond, but don't hang around here.

Then there is the dishonest miller in Chaucer 's "The Miller in the Canterbury Tales." Chaucer in the "Reeve's Tale" gave the miller a name, "Simpkin" is making fun of the person of the miller. Simpkin or Simpleton is intended to suggest a surname, but it is making a joke of the word "simple," meaning, "a fool."

Question 2. In defining Old Process and New Process milling, does this refer specifically to the traditional extraction method of direct reduction (Old Process) and the new Gradual Reduction Method (New Process)? Or would the term New Process Milling also incorporate new technologies like the middling purifier and roller? If I'm interpreting the reference material correctly, it appears that the New Process Mill was defined by its gradual reduction method of grinding, and that the new technologies that revolutionized the industry were the direct result of switching to the "New Process."

Answer: "Old Process Milling" generally refers to the method of flour and grain milling used prior to the inventions of Oliver Evans. "New Process Milling" is a system that came about after Oliver Evans which used millstones, but before the introduction of "Gradual Reduction Milling" which used rollers.

Mills in America passed through at least four major eras of technology:

1. The traditional pre-settlement European technology ("LOW MILLING," "FLAT MILLING," or "AMERICAN MILLING" technology).
2. The Oliver Evans "AUTOMATED MILLING SYSTEM" of 1787.
3. The NEW PROCESS MILLING SYSTEM of the 1850's and 1860's ("HALF-HIGH MILLING" technology) which involves regrinding middlings on smaller diameter millstones.
4. The ROLLER MILLING SYSTEM of the 1870's ("HIGH GRINDING," or "GRADUAL REDUCTION" technology), which incorporated the New Process milling system and the use of the "ROLLER PROCESS." This process of "WHEAT SAW MILLING" was developed by Hungarian engineers in the mid-century.

Early Pennsylvania mill.

1. "LOW MILLING," "FLAT MILLING," or "AMERICAN MILLING" technology involves the use of millstones. The millstones may be of a very large diameter of 5 to 6 feet. There is no cleaning of grain other than what the farmer uses to fail and winnow the grain. Flour and grain are stored in the floor in the mill. Each step is a separate stage in the milling process and must be completed before the next step can begin.

Grain is brought to the mill in sacks. The grain may or may not be weighed. If it is weighed then it is noted in a log book. It is either hoisted on the outside of the milling, hoisted on the inside though a series of trap doors on each level of the mill, or is carried up steps on the backs of the miller and his apprentices.

Some mills had the luxury of having a small pair of millstones 2 to 3 feet in diameter known as "Ending Stones." Ending stones were similar to hulling stones which were used to hull oats and buckwheat. The stones are set far apart with fixed rynds, to remove adhering dirt, beard of the wheat, the outer skin or bran and some of the germ. I have never heard why this pre-milling process is called, "ending." Ending stones are usually located next to the millstones on the mill's first floor or grinding floor of the mill.

There is an area on the mill's second floor or underneath the elves of the attic for grain to be dumped into open bins. Here the miller may mix grains of different types or qualities into one constant grade of wheat. The miller may also temper and condition the wheat. This is accomplished by the use of water and the heat of found in the attic. This process toughens up the bran so when the wheat is milled it comes off larger flakes, and the moisture level is maintained though the batch of wheat so it will all mill the same, and be milled properly.

The grain is moved to the hopper above the millstones. Grain is ground one time. Once all of the grain or wheat is milled, it is collected from a bin in the mill's basement, and either hoisted, carried up narrow steps or ladders to the upper floor or attic of the mill. It may be transported by sack or hoisted in a sack or large wooden tub though the trap doors on each level of the mill.

The grain is dumped onto the floor. Here the miller's helper or apprentice rakes the ground flour back and forth to cool it so it can be sifted, or then allowed to age. Aging allows the flour to naturally whiten, and to improve its baking qualities.

Sifting or bolting was not consistent from one mill to another. Some mills did not bolt the flour, and flour had to be bolted (boulted) by a boulting mill, or a baker. Some mills bolting was done by use of hand sifting screens or temes. This comes from the phrase "to set the temes (Thames) on fire." Temes were constantly agitated by a boy. Since the sifter was made of wood, too energetic might set it on fire. The phase was used negatively ("you will never set the Thames on fire") to signify that the young person is lacking in energy.

Some mills had hand sifters that were powered by a crank, or a reel sifter that was powered by rope drives. The problem with had crank and rope drive sifters was over-feeding. This was because feeding into the device was done by hand-feeding from a sack, scooping, or shoveling. The French considered sifting or bolting such a complicated operation that it could not exist in conjunction with a flour milling operation that it had to be in a separate building facility.

The miller's work station is in the basement of the mill where the flour and meal bins are located below the millstones on the level above. The miller when to the millstone level to fill the millstone hoppers and to dress the millstones. The miller's helpers did all of the work on the other floor or levels of the mill. A miller might have several to as many as four or five miller's helpers to operate the mill. Mills were primarily operated during the daylight hours.

Duff Robins Mill (circa 1842), Black Creek Pioneer Village, York, Ontario, Canada.

2. The Oliver Evans "AUTOMATED MILLING SYSTEM" of 1787. When Oliver Evans made his improvements in flour milling in 1782-3 he incorporated the rolling screen and fan mills to clean grain in his automated flour milling system. He invented five machines or devices (as he liked to call them). The elevator, the conveyor (or auger), hopper-boy (or cooler), the descender and drill (which were not designed to be used in all mills, like the marine elevator leg which was used in mills along canals and waterways to lift grain from holds in ships.

Some Oliver Evans continued to use "Ending Stones." They were used before the cleaning machines found in the mill's attic. The ending stones were often located next to the traditional millstones on the grinding floor.

The ideal Oliver Evans mill grain would be poured from a wagon into a grain dump. A hinged covered hopper that projects from the outside wall of the mill along the roadside. It the mill was converted to an Oliver Evans mill from a preexisting mill, then a small basement window opening was used to become the space for the grain dump. From the grain dump, the grain was poured into a bin scales, and from the bin scales the grain fell into an open bin that fed the grain elevator. The grain elevator took the grain to the top floor where it could be poured into different bins. One of these bins could feed into a lower bin that fed the ending stones. From the ending stones grain fell downward to be fed either by chute or conveyor into a grain elevator which took the grain to the top floor once again to be feed into a bin which feed the rolling screen, and the fan machine. From the fan machine the grain was feed either by cute into a bin, or conveyor that moved it horizontally into a number of bins. One of them was a cleaned grain bin, another was a tempering and conditioning bin, and one bin fed the bin hopper for the first pair of millstones on the first floor level.

Grain was ground by this first pair of millstones 48 to 56 inches in diameter. From this pair of millstones the ground material fell down a cute to be picked up by an conveyor in the basement that moved it to the chop elevator. The chop elevator carried the grain to the top floor once again where it passed though the hopper-boy or cooler. The cooled flour was feed though the floors by chute into a double reel bolter. The fine flour was feed into a flour bin from which it was packaged into barrels. The middlings were feed into a bin where it was mixed with fresh raw grain or wheat. From this bin the mixture when by a chute to the hopper of the second pair of millstones 48 to 56 inches in diameter where it was ground, and the material when when ground was moved by chute and conveyor to the chop elevator back upstairs once again to be feed though either the first or second hopper-boy and the double reel bolter.

For grain to be unloaded from ships there were several means available. One method was a grain dump on the waterway side of the mill which feed grain from the bottom to an conveyor that carried the grain across the mill to the grain elevator. A second method was a diagonal elevator mounted in the wall of the mill where the grain could be poured form sacks into a grain sink on the boot of the elevator where it would be elevatored into the mill where the delivery chute would be used to fill grain sacks inside of the mill. Third was the use of a marine elevator leg which was movable from the top of the up and down and on an angle to go into ships holds. Grain could be moved up the marine elevator leg up to the top of the mill where it would be poured into a hopper which would feed grain into a conveyor which carried the grain across the mill to the various wheat bins. So the first method feed it in from the bottom, and the third method feed it in from the top, while the other method used a traditional internal sack hoist to lift grain to the top level by the use of a sack hoist and trap doors on each level.

At one time would the grain or flour would be stored in the floors of the mill. A flour press machine would be pack the flour into barrels, and mud covered boots would not be used to press the right amount of flour into each barrel. The miller's work station is on the first floor of the mill where he could adjust the millstones, had control ropes and control handles that move grain from one bin to another, from one chute or down another without leaving the first floor of the mill. One or two millers, or a miller and his apprentice could operate the mill that was described. During this time period mills began to be operated around the clock in three watches or shifts.

The Rensselaerville Grist Mill, Rensselaerville, New York. The silent feed traditional millstones are on the level of the drive-through, and the "auxiliary millstones" are located on the level above, the road side level of the mill. Most anyone would not know that there are smaller diameter millstones on the floor above the main pairs of grain grinding millstones. In the mill restoration visitors are not normally allow acess to this floor of the mill. However, they are allowed down several levels to the water turbine pit


3. The "NEW PROCESS MILLING SYSTEM" of the 1850's and 1860's ("HALF-HIGH MILLING" technology) which involves regrinding middlings on smaller diameter millstones. This process of flour milling is difficult to explain since I have only ever found two existing examples that have survived into the 20th century intact.

With the first two methods of flour milling: (1) "LOW MILLING," "FLAT MILLING," or "AMERICAN MILLING," and (2) Oliver Evans' "AUTOMATED MILLING SYSTEM" the method of grain milling remained the same. The millstones should be always sharply dressed, running fast, close, and with a lot of pressure on the grain to produces as much flour in one grinding as possible. The problem was that this method produced a lot of hot damp ground flour. Three basic steps were necessary, cleaning, grinding, and bolting. The problem was that the flour produced in the second milling was generally poorer grading having been killed because of heat generated problems in the hot close millstones. Oliver Evans recommended that middlings be reground alone lightly, or along with fresh grain on regular pair of millstones so that they would not be overheated and the flour killed.

One American solution was offered by a "mealman" David Bonnell who in August 1849 in the United States and in 1850 patented his "improved process of flouring." David Bonnell used special millstones "auxiliary stones" or "middling stones" three feet in diameter and running at 300 to 500 revolutions per minute to regrind everything left over from the first grind, thus producing a more superfine and larger portions of the grain.

Grain was feed into the first grind millstones from here it feel down a chute to a bin where it was lifted upward by an elevator to the hopper-boy on the mill's top level. There it was cooled and the ground flour when to separating or scalping reels. These were double reels one one top of the other, with the tailings from the top reel feeding into the head of the second reel mounted below it. Flour would be separated out at this point, and the tailings from the second reel would go to the auxiliary or middling stones to be reground. These middling stones were belt driven and often located on a level above the first grind millstones. Most people who visited the mill on the first floor may never have know that there was a smaller pair of millstones mounted on a level above on a small table or platform.

The ground product of the auxiliary millstones went though two double sets of reels. The first set of double reels were the dusting and grading reels and the second set of double reels were dressing reels. The tailings from the first double set of reels used for dusting and grading when into an elevator back up to the hopper-boy to be recooled and reground once again. The material that when though the mesh of the dusting and grading reels when into the head of the dressing reels.

In the 1853 edition of "The Miller's, Millwright's and Engineer's Guide," by Henry Pallett, he advocated three methods for remilling middlings. The first two were similar to that of Oliver Evans' method and the third was similar to that of David Bonnell. Henry Pallett's third method was an improvement over the Oliver Evans' method, and an improvement over David Bonnell's method. The Pallett method used middling stones of 3 to 3 1/2 feet in diameter, with a different millstone dress and the speed slowed to 130 revolutions per minute. The middlings were treated with less heat and pressure than in Bonnell's method, and less likely to be killed.

David Craik's book "The Practical American Millwright and Miller," he described his version of a "New Process" mill has having five pairs of wheat stones, and two pairs of middling stones with a six reel chest of six bolts, and two three reel chests with three hopper-boys. David Craik's method involved the use of first run middling stones to grind first quality flour, and the second run middling stones to regrind second quality flour or a mixture of lower grades depending upon the quality of the middlings.

Signs that this milling period was coming to an end was forced flour bolters and dusters. Oliver Evans hopper-boy was replaced by other methods of cooling flour, and flour exhausts came into existence.

Schech's Mill, Beaver Creek State Park, La Cresent vicinity, Houston County, Minnesota. The interior view of the mill, first floor showing grinding millstones with covered vats (right stone run by a 35 inch Leffel turbine; left by a 23 inch Leffel turbine). The hopper on the vat to the left has conventional feed system of damsel and shoe. The one on the right has a silent feeding system which are used mainly to regring middlings. The chute at the bottom of the center vat sends the ground grain to the conveyor below. A HAER photo.

4. The "ROLLER MILLING SYSTEM" of the 1870's ("HIGH GRINDING," or "GRADUAL REDUCTION" technology), which incorporated the New Process milling system and the use of the "ROLLER PROCESS."

During this period it involved two methods of milling from Europe. The first being the continental method of running the millstones high and slow, to produce as many middlings as possible in the first grinding. In Europe labor was plentiful and lacked the automatic flour machinery of North America. The contrast between the North American system and the continental system was that it was not automatic.

John Storck and Walter Dorwin Teague in "Flour for Man's Bread, A History of Milling," University of Minnesota Press, 1952, wrote.

"in one account of this East European system of gradual reduction, mentioned is made of 84 classes of partial product - middlings and the like - each requiring individual handing from machine to machine for a long time with but little benefit of conveyor, elevator, or spout. Hundreds of little buckets stood around the mill, each in position to receive its own particular material, scores of men busied themselves carrying the products in the buckets on to the next state of processing, on the basic on decisions made on each batch of stock by the head miller. To an uninitiated observer a mill of this kind must have seemed as mysteriously confused as a busy ant hill, but actually an all pervading system controlled the curious activity, and each operation was definitely related to the others in a sequential chain. After one process, and you would have to change many others to get a satisfactory result; let something slip even so slightly anywhere and not one but possibly all of the ten or so grades of flour and several varieties of bran might be injured."

So what happens (second) when "gradual reduction" comes to America in 1863 is the development of a "second" "new process." In 1863 a patent by John Braun (changed to Brown) used ideas brought to North America by immigrants from France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the big mill owners of Minneapolis. A "new school" of flour milling was developed, using modern machinery. In 1877, R. C. Brown (no relation to John Brown) was published titled "The New Process Milling, or Practical Suggestions on the Reconstruction of Mills." This book deals with the revamping of old mills to the "new process" milling of stage number three. However, this book soon became out of date with the adoption of roller mills.

"New process milling" involved the flowing steps: Cleaning, milling, and bolting. Then remilling the middlings and rebolting the flour. "Gradual reduction milling" required these five basic steps: Grain cleaning, granulation, purifying, milling, and bolting (then remilling, repurifying and rebolting) Some millers and people regarded this method as "granulation" rather than "gradual reduction" or "high grinding."

If millstones were used, they were ran higher than ever before, and slower, especially during the first grinding of wheat, to "granulate" (this was later referred to as break, crack, or chop) the grain into a mixture f coarse granules known as middlings, which included the flour and the bran. The granulated meal was purified by being separated from the bran, offals, and the flour in a purifier so middlings were sent to millstones to be remilled. There was a greater increase in the number of steps which reduced the speed of flour production.

From 1865 to 1875 was the mechanical era of change. "New process milling" was replaced by a "new process of milling." The Oliver Evans automated system of milling was introduced to the European methods of flour milling techniques. The first step was the introduction of a new process of high grinding and gradual reduction of 1863, and the second was the change in gradual reduction was using millstones and rollers about 1875, and the third was the full adoption of the roller system about 1880. In the 1870's came the development of new machines to go along with and be used in the second development of "new process milling." The middlings purifier became the principal factor for "new process milling," and it had a widespread effect on the profit and loss of a mill. The machine that fit in with the roller milling and the purifier was the plansifter showed millers in American and in Europe that mills of any size had to be run on an automatic basis. Then mills became completely mechanized and automatic.

After 1885 the mills that were all rollers greatly increased, while the mills that were all millstones, and combination of rollers and millstones greatly declined. So when one talks about the "new process milling" there are two separate and distinct stages, steps or methods of milling (to make it more confusing) they are both called simply, "New Process" milling. During centuries of gradual isolation the miller's mysterious art of milling was little understood by the general public. In the late nineteenth century a new kind of miller appears who no longer had to deal with suspicious neighbors, but was a progressive manufacturer. The down side of this was that thousands of little grist or toll mills all over the country would stop entirely, and their picturesque building began to decay and crumble into ruins. The change began to happen in New England, New York and the Middle Atlantic States where Oliver Evans development led to automatic manufacture. Though all of this the miller played his part while they emerged from a craft stage to where they became mass producers, makers, and merchandisers.

Turner's Mill, Chadds Ford area of Southestern, Pennsylvania, an image of days gone by.

Thank you very much for all your help, sir. If you don't mind, I'd love to send you a copy of my summary to peruse and critique. I'll probably have it done in the next month, or so.

Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

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Copyright 2006 by T. R. Hazen