In 1869 Richmond was the largest flour milling center in the United
States, upon the eve of the Minneapolis era. Richmond never had
many mills, but it was a natural place to exit most of Virginia's
wheat because her production grew as transportation facilities
opened up more distant fields. In 1833 there were only three mills,
and in 1859 there were only seven, but its annual average production
was 500,000 barrels. Gallego mill ground 900 barrels of flour
a day at its best, and from the Haxall Mill, could produce 700
barrels. The architecture of these mills transformed the Richmond
waterfront into an industrial center made up of some of the largest
structures then standing in America. The first Gallego mill was
established at the falls as early as 1796 by Joseph Gallego.
From the Richmond Whig, April 25,1865.............."Richmond
can boast of having within its limits the largest flouring mill
in the world. The erection of the mill was regularly commenced
some time in the year 1854. The superstructure rests upon a solid
foundation of granite, the base of which is seventeen and a half
feet thick. The width tapers to a thickness of six feet at the
top course of granite. The average thickness of the brick walls,
forming the first four stories above canal street, is three feet
two inches. The great mill is twelve stories in height, fronts
ninety-six feet on Canal street, and is one hundred and sixty-five
feet deep. The height of the front wall is one hundred and twenty-one
feet to the top course of bricks. Including the observatory the
total height is one hundred and thirty-five feet. The rear wall,
embracing a part of the granite foundation, is one hundred and
forty-seven feet high. Each floor contains 155,000 square feet
or rather more than three and a half acres. Altogether,
the available space within the walls of this building is about
200,000 square feet."
I am a postgraduate student studying at the University of Glasgow
and am at the moment doing a research project on Oliver Evans
which will result in a computer simulation of his automated flour
mill. I am having difficulty finding information about the production
itself, how many bags of flour were able to be produced after
automation, what were the throughput rates, seasonal fluctuations
and how it affected the production rates etc.. I came across your
website and I was wondering whether you had any information about
this side of a historic mill's working life or whether you could
point me in the right direction. I haven't had much success finding
books on historical mills and how they worked (production wise)
nor are there many research articles available.
Any help would be much appreciated.
Dear Karen Williams,
Thank you for your e-mail.
I think that your problem is that you are looking for output
of Oliver Evans mills in bags. Bags denote "household flour."
A mill's output is measured in how many barrels of flour that
it can produce in a 24 hour period. Each barrel of flour contains
196 pounds of white flour. During Oliver Evans day, for every
one hundred of wheat they ground the yield of white flour was
72 pounds or 72 percent.
A mill with Oliver Evans machinery installed depended upon
the number or run of millstones that the mill had. The owner of
the mill had to pay him a users fee based upon how many pairs
of millstones the mill had.
Most Oliver Evans mills had two or more pairs of millstones.
Mills may have two pairs, three pairs, four pairs, five pairs
or more of millstones.
A mill's output of ground flour depends upon the diameter of
A 42 to 46 inch pair of millstones can grind 300 pounds of grain
or wheat in an hour.
A 48 inch pair of millstones can grind 400 pounds of grain or
wheat in an hour.
A 56 inch pair of millstone can grind 500 pounds of grain or wheat
in an hour.
I should mention that this is all English wheat or soft wheat.
Hard wheat did not come from the Ukraine until the middle of the
1860's by the Mennonites who brought it to the Midwest and the
plains of Canada.
It is basically do the math. They did not call shifts in a
24 hour day a "shift" back then. It was called "first
watch," "second watch," and "third watch."
During Oliver Evans time flour was shipped from a mill in wooden
barrels. A wooden barrel was a shipping container that would last
300 years. It is called a "dry cooper" that means that
it has split ash hops around the barrel. Metal hops are used on
"wet coopers" which are used to contain a liquid.
Most flour from Oliver Evans' mills was exported. The Napoleonic
Wars were fought with flour produced by American Quaker millers.
Yes, most millers (for centuries) were Quakers. Milling was a
trade that was traditionally exempt from military service.
A cooper could produce or make three (3) barrels a day. That
meant if a mill could produce 25 to 50 barrels of flour per day,
there had to be a lot of cooper's and cooper's shops around or
near mills. At some point most pairs would be simply repaired
and reused. They had split ash hops so that they would not create
a spark of rolled on a nail head in the floor. Flour dust is more
explosive than gun powder, and 35 times more explosive than coal
In Oliver Evans mills the stuff that was sifted out, the middlings
and bran were most often tossed into the creek or mill stream.
They did do some regrinding of middlings, but they are difficult
to regrind using the traditional feed system into millstones,
and often the flour suffers from heat generated problems. If you
over heat the gluten, then the bread will not rise.
Regrinding of middlings came with "New Process" milling
that happened in the late 1840's and early 1850's. Animal feed
business does not come about until after the American Civil War.
So up until then the middlings and bran became fish food or euthanize
The following would be the labor force of a pre-Oliver Evans
mill.........A mill with one pair of millstones would take 6 people
to operate (two men and four children). A mill with two pairs
of millstones would take 6 to 8 people to operate. A mill with
three pairs of millstones would take 8 to 12 people to operate.
This would be the labor force for daylight working hours only.
A mill with the Oliver Evans automated flour milling system
would take one to two people to operate a three pair of millstone
mill. This would be per watch or shift of two 12 hour periods
The Oliver Evans system was not adopted in England because
they held a lower value on human labor than in America. Basically
they were not interested because a colonist came up with the idea,
and they were willing to maintain the labor and manpower in the
system they had in place. In America, or the United States we
had a manpower shortage.
The average three pairs of millstone mill with an Oliver Evans
system of automated flour milling could grind 1,200 pounds of
grain or wheat in an hour. The average mill of that size could
perhaps store 50 to 75 thousand pounds of uncleaned grain within
the building. A granary next door could perhaps store 100 to 150
to 200 thousand pounds of grain in storage. They would buy grain
from grain dealers and farmers. It came by canal boat, ship and
wagon to the mill (depending upon the location of the mill).
What happened was there became a shortage in the market where
a mill could now grind 10 to 20 times more than without the Oliver
Evans' system. Most mill streams had an average of one mill per
mile. What Oliver Evans did was create an industrial revolution
in the milling industry so the greater demand cause the agriculture
industry to come out of the dark ages (away from the plow, scythe,
flail and winnowing basket), and modernize as well. Both the milling
and agricultural industries had not changed in thousands of years.
If the agricultural industry had done it first there would have
been a glut in the market, and the milling industry could not
keep up with the oversupply. Oliver Evans saw that it was the
milling industry that had to take the first step in the industrial
An Oliver Evans mill would run year round with the exception
of freezing and flooding. A stream powered mill. A tidal powered
Oliver Evans mill run year round with the exception of storms,
and an Oliver Evans windmill ran year round with the exception
of storms, lack of wind or too much wind. This is why Oliver Evans'
son built a steam powered mill in Pittsburgh. Coal fired mill
with automated flour milling machinery could run year round.
A grist (custom, or batch) mill would grind grain for local
farmers at harvest time. It may run 3 or 4 months of the year,
and the rest of the year the miller had another occupation like
a saw miller, blacksmith. If the grist miller was also a saw miller
when the mill froze up in the dead of winter he went out to cut
his trees. Then he could skid the logs to the mill on the snow,
and begin cutting them with the spring thaw. If the miller was
also a blacksmith, when the freeze up happened he began doing
blacksmithing work for the logger and then afterwards for the
Shop keepers sold flour in cotton sacks. Originally people
brought their own sacks. Then after the American Civil War mills
began to sell flour in cotton sacks, and the birth of household
flour. Flour was basically sold in 10 pound, 25 pound, 50 pound
and 100 pound sacks. People used the fabric to make clothing items,
shirts, aprons, underwear (Jockey Oats), dish cloths, etc. Paper
sacks appeared around 1910 in 5 pound, 10 pound, 25 pound, and
The standard output for a mill up until World War Two was a
wooden flour barrel that contained 196 pounds. Then around World
War Two that changed to a standard "100 weight" sack.
How many sacks of flour could a mill produce that weighted 100
pounds. These were cotton sacks.
If you are going to make a computer simulation of an Oliver
Evans automated flour mill, then you really need to see........The
Oliver Evans automated working model of his flour mill in one
of the museum buildings at the Hagley Museum and Library in Greenville,
of an Oliver Evans Automated Flour Mill.
Have you looked on my web pages on Oliver Evans? I have a lot
of information out there.
Lily Mill Restorations Menu Page.
The thing about an Oliver Evans mill that it is automated,
which means that it was the first automation of any industry what
so ever. It saved manual labor. Oliver Evans came up with his
ideas for automated flour milling in 1782-83, using paper models.
His book, "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide"
was published in 1795 in 15 editions to 1860. It predated the
word "industry" which came into existence in 1814.
You mentioned the word, "throughput" which means
everything is happening at the same time, and if you want to increase
the "throughputs" everything is designed to keep up
with all of the parts in the system. So if you want to increase
the output, you just increase the flow of grain into the system
and increase the power source. With a pre-Oliver Evans mill to
increase the output, you have to add more machinery and increase
the amount of labor.
What happened to Oliver Evans' mills? They became something
else. The product remained the same which is flour. So what changed
is how the millers ground the grain. Evans did not fall out of
fashion, the methods of milling grain changed. Most of his devices
(as he liked to call them) or inventions of machinery were incorporated
into the new methods of flour milling. The millers would never
give up his idea of "automated flour milling." The machines
and how flour was produced changed. In Oliver Evans day, for example,
there was only soft or English wheat. Now there are a number of
known varieties of wheat. Roller mills replaced millstones, and
some of his devices have been replaced with pneumatic milling
where stuff is blown around the mill though metal and plastic
pipes instead of elevators, conveyors, and chutes.
You mention the computer simulation of the Oliver Evans' automated
flour mill. About 25-30 years ago the most expensive mill restoration
to day began on a mill in Northern Virginia. The mill was built
in 1810 and would have been an Oliver Evans flour mill. By 1790,
all of the new and existing mills in and around the District of
Columbia were being equipped with the Oliver Evans automated flour
milling system. This mill in time was converted to a "New
Process" milling system, and to the four pairs of millstones
was added a smaller diameter pair of millstones for regrinding
middlings.......Then around 1900-1910, two metal Fitz Water Wheels
replaced the mill's two wooden water wheels with an additional
steam engines, and a new roller milling system (that practiced
"gradual reduction milling."
People called it a "white elephant," and they had
to hire the most expensive millwright of the day who worked for
no less than a thousand dollars a day whether he was on site,
doing work for them, or not. Anything that they did, they went
the most expensive route possible........I was working in a nearby
1930's Fitz Water Wheel Company restoration of an Oliver Evans'
mill, Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. A man walked
into the mill one day, and said that he worked for John Hopkins
University in Baltimore. He said that he was going to create a
computer program for them that would simulate the mill operating.
The plan was that there would be computer terminals throughout
the mill. As a kid walked around the mill he, she, or they could
access the program. It would show the entire mill operating, and
if they were standing in front of the water wheels, millstones,
roller mills, bolters (sifters), elevators, conveyors, plansifters,
cleaners, flour packers, etc., that terminal would focus in on
that machine in front of them with details of just how that machine
worked. This was before the days of personal computers became
mainstream. I guess a packaged program could be sold in the gift
shop and to other mills for their sales...........Needless to
say, when I heard this, I thought that the mill would only work
in the computer simulation, and not for real demonstrations.
Well the computer program never became a reality. It was really
a heard of its time 20 years ago. And with all of the money they
overspent in the beginning stages of the mill restoration, the
mill years later is still basically an empty shell. They never
came up with the money to finish it. Things like 20 years ago,
they spent 250 thousand dollars just to stabilize the building
to keep it from falling down. Stupid things like if you put your
finger on a course of bricks, and walk around the mill when you
return to where you started, your finger will be on a different
course of bricks, and not the same one like it should be.
To explain some of the stuff that I talked about see the following
Design in North America.
Please feel free to contact me again if you have any questions
or need additional help.
Dear Mr. Hazen
Thank you so much for such detailed information about Oliver
Evans.. it is exactly what I have been searching for and have
been unable to find. As soon as I sent you an email I found the
pages you had written on Oliver Evans which were extremely informative.
The information you have provided will help me achieve more accuracy
with the simulation - my professor had told me
that finding information such as what you have provided is hard
and I would probably have to do some estimates - well not any
Thank you once again. I will be referencing you in my final
Illustration Number 631 - The Gallego Flouring-Mill-Richmond,
Virginia, by Edward King, 1848-1896 and James Wells Champney,
1843-1903, illustrators of "The Great South; A Record of
Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri,
Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina,
North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia,
and Maryland," Hartford, Connecticut., American Publishing
Co., 1875. The illustration shows dock steersmen along the canal
in the foreground, and the Gallego Flouring Mills, Richmond, Virginia,
in the background.
The Gallego Flouring Mills was twelve stories high, this building
was one of the largest brick buildings in the United States, producing
190,000 barrels of flour annually. The mill was powered by hybrid
vertical water wheels with water from the James River and the
Kanawha Canal. Hybrid water wheels have metal shafts and iron
hubs upon which a traditional two bucket section wooden water
wheel was constructed. Power was taken by a bull wheel on each
shaft that operated a smaller pinion wheel shaft. From this horizontal
lay shaft several rows of pairs of millstones were operated.
The Gallego Flouring Mills was actually two identical mill
buildings build end to end, much like Lyons or D.C. Federal Mills
on Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. Lyons Mill had a water wheel
on each end of the double mill structure. Gallego Mills had two
water wheels on each half of the double mill structure. To produce
the mill's daily output of 900 barrels of flour a day, that meant
that the mill had to have operating 20 pairs of millstones. The
mill would have more than likely, had 35 to 40 pairs of millstones
since one half of the mill's total amount of stones would always
be down for millstone dressing.
Gallego Mills may have had either Oliver Evans automated flour
milling system, or the "New Process" flour milling system,
the mill still ground flour on French millstones, and had the
Oliver Evans devices, elevators, conveyors, hopper-boys, and other
flour milling machinery like grain cleaners and flour sifters
By mid-century, they were joined by other Falls mills in shipping
out their flour to South America and to the San Francisco gold
rushers. Gallego had a fleet of three dozen schooners, carrying
flour as far as Australia. Until war came, Richmond was considered
the flour milling capital of the country, the hemisphere, and
perhaps even the world. The post-Civil War operation was unable
to compete effectively with competition that emerged in the Midwest.
Virginia had only the soft or English wheat, meanwhile, during
the 1860 the Midwest began growing the inferior Ukrainian hard
wheat which the invention of the middlings purifier made into
a superior white flour. Hard wheat grows in an arid climate. Prior
to the Civil War, Richmond had the tallest brick mills in the
world, The Gallego Mills. Some considered it ugly brick for the
city skyline of Richmond, Virginia.
Kline's Mill, a four-story stone and log building. Once
a common combination.
Jacob Kline built the original two-story portion of the mill
in about 1775 to press flax seed for oil, and grind wheat for
flour. When the flax seed oil business was no longer profitable,
Jacob and his son Anthony (one of 12 children in the family),
put their focus on the flour milling part of the mill's operation.
The Klines began to convert the mill into an Evans' automated
flour milling design system in about 1797. The son Anthony Kline
added two additional floors to accommodate the milling process.
Anthony using blueprints supplied by Evans in "The Young
Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide," published in 1795. Flour
from the mill was exported out of the country.
Anthony inherited the mill and 50 acres from his father in
1816. Four years later, he built a two-story brick home on a hill
overlooking the mill. Sometime during the course of the operation,
a general store was added to the mill and a post office was made
part of the store. Kline's Mill was still in operation in the
1950's, and the mill and home stayed in the Kline family until
Kline's Mill on Ridings Mill Road, south of Stephens City.
The mill is one of finest example of a preexisting mill which
was adapted to the Oliver Evans' design in the United States.
The mill contains the smallest diameter example of an original
Oliver Evans hopper-boy, and Peirce Mill contains a larger diameter
original hopper-boy. Peirce Mill is the best example of a mill
built with Oliver Evans' automated design in the United States.
Kline's Mill is in need of mill restoration and deserves to
become a living-history museum. This area is where the greatest
number of Oliver Evans mills were found, in the Upper South. The
majority of mills that have survived into the present had their
water wheels changed to metal, and or have had roller milling
systems installed. Kline's Mill represents a lost period in milling
technology. "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide"
is considered the miller's and millwright's bible, but Kline's
Mill should be one of its houses of worship.
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