of the Flour Mill from Prehistoric Ages to Modern Times
By John Elton, 1905
In asking visitors to the Paris Congress to accept this Souvenir, the
author expresses the hope that the event, unique as it is, will not be the
last of its kind. The history of Corn Milling, from the appliances used
by primitive man to the highly complex and magnificent machinery of today,
will, no doubt, be read with interest by those who have not well studied
a most interesting subject. The story of some of the principal Miller's
Associations is given with the view of promoting a spirit of fraternity
amongst members of the old and honorable craft the world over. It is hoped
that the present gathering will seal friendships and lead to more uniformity
in matters of vital interest to all millers, of whatsoever nationality.
GEO. J. S. BROOMHALL,
EDITOR OF "MILLING."
Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society of London.
Statistician to the Grain Trade of Liverpool.
European Correspondent of the Board of Trade, Chicago.
British Correspondent of the Produce Exchange, Buenos Ayres.
BRUNSWICK STREET, LIVERPOOL.
October 2nd, 1905.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE FLOUR MILL, FROM PREHISTORIC
AGES TO MODERN TIMES.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH AND IRISH MILLERS: ITS LIFE STORY
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FRENCH MILLERS
THE GERMAN MILLERS' UNION
THE GERMAN MERCHANT MILLERS' ASSOCIATION
THE ASSOCIATION OF BELGIAN MILLERS
THE DUTCH MILLERS' ASSOCIATION
THE ASSOCIATION OF BOHEMIAN MORAVIAN MILLERS
THE ITALIAN MILLERS' ASSOCIATION
THE MILLERS' NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE U.S.A.
THE FRATERNITY OF OPERATIVE MILLERS OF AMERICA
Before the first actual grinding mill came into existence, grain was
merely shelled or husked by pounding. This simple kind of a "first
break" was effected by spreading the grain upon a slab or block of
stone and beating it with a hand stone; a subsequent development of this
rude apparatus being a hollow mortar and an improved hand stone. The original
hand pounder was used on a flat block, this being an early English specimen,
sows the improved mortar and pounder, this being an early Welch sample.
Such relics are found throughout both hemispheres, having been used by all
primitive nations throughout the world; but eventually they were universally
discarded for more perfect apparatus, which really ground the grain into
The "saddle stone" so called from its more or less fanciful resemblance
to a high peaked saddle. It is the most interesting of the whole series
of hand stones, as being the first real hand mill- highly esteemed and used
all over the globe. Saddle stones of the ordinary types of the stone made,
and are used by kneeling in front of the stone, the operator used a back
and forth method of working it. Though the loose hand stones seem to assume
the form of rollers, still they were not so used; they were simply pushed
backwards and forwards without any rolling motion, the grain (probably after
being broken in a "Mortar") being placed on the lower stone in
handfuls as required. Though we see it in use in Central Africa in modern
times, it is found in the exploration of the relics of prehistoric ages;
it abounds in the remains alike of rude historic periods and of the civilized
days of early Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Its chief survival is found in the
"Metata" of Mexico and Central America generally, where it is
in ordinary use grinding maize for the making of "Tortilla" cakes.
A sample of extremely elegant form into which the Indians of Mexico carved
these stones may be still found. But as the Saddle Stone had displaced the
Mortar so it, itself, was displaced in turn by the next improvement - the
In the Quern a rotary movement was for the first time introduced into the
operation of grinding grain. The machine originally consisted of two circular
stones of about equal diameter, the top stone resting on a pivot in its
center, this pivot being fixed in the center of the lower stone. A wooden
handle projected upwards from the top stone, and by this the latter was
turned. The grain was placed in a hole or hopper in the upper stone, and
as the latter revolved it gradually trickled through the top stone and was
drawn "between the upper and the nether millstone." As it became
reduced into meal it was automatically pressed to the circumference of the
stones and expelled. The action of this simple hand stone was in fact nothing
more or less than that of the water mill and wind mill, which were developed
from it. The Quern is believed to have been a product of the civilization
of the Roman age. "No early Greek writer mentions the revolving Quern,
and the earliest allusion to it seems to be made by Cato (232-147B.C.)";
though after this date it can be identified through all ancient history.
The Indians of American knew perfectly well the Mortar and the Saddle Stone,
yet the relics of their period do not seem to disclose that they ever knew
or used the Quern.
So vastly improved a mill as this became the subject of all kinds of development.
Very early the bottom stone was made in conical form, the top stone being
funnel shaped; this being to render the outflow of the meal easier. Another
alteration was the provision of the rim round the bottom stone and a lip
or spout at one side, the object here being to bring out the flow at one
fixed spot. Grooving the stones soon followed the mere roughening originally
adopted, and many Roman and early British specimens show excellent samples
of this ancient art. The grooved lower surface of the top stone, illustrates
a rimmed and grooved lower stone. In modern times the rimmed lower stone
was generally discarded for the original form, and those in use in the last
century, in Scotland, for example, differed very little except in perfected
mechanical detail from the querns of Ancient Rome.
The most notable early development made from the Quern was the horse Mill
or Slave Mill in use a century B.C. It was nothing but a huge enlargement
of the conical and funnel shaped stones, with the turning handle at the
top abolished for a horizontal bar, to which slaves, horses, or asses were
attached. The "Slave Mills" or Ass Mills" of Pompeii are
seen to be constructed in this way. The fanciful representation of a Horse
Mill on a marble carving in the Vatican, but it is in no degree indicative
of the sorry beasts and the mean contrivances that were the actualities
of the period.
While the Quern was in the height of its success as the premier mill of
the world, there came about a final development which ultimately abolished
both it and all other hand mills. The revolving principle of the Quern was
retained, but human and cattle labor was abolished, and water power adopted
instead. The vast change was made only about a century after the invention
of the Quern had given its impetus to the construction of milling appliances;
it being about the year 85 B.C. when the Greek, Antipater of Thessaloica,
gave us the first allusion to a mill driven by water. The mill, as he knew
it, is believed to be identical with a very primitive and crude contrivance
that soon spread throughout Europe and Asia, and survives in some places
This Greek or "Norse Mill" consisted of a large Quern fixed above
a stream, a vertical spindle being fixed in the top stone, but passing loosely
through the bottom stone and desending into the stream, where it was pivoted
on a block of stone. A little way above the pivot, a horizontal water wheel
was fixed on the spindle, and the stream playing down on the vanes of the
water turned, with this latter, both the spindle and the top stone of the
mill. such horizontal mills, the crudest know, have survived on a small
scale till even the present day. Many of their small "Hurst" were
formerly to be found in ordinary use by cottars and farmers in the Shetlands;
the mosses of Ireland have yielded numerous relics of them; so frequently
do they occur in Norway that the term "Norse Mill" is that by
which they are now generally know; and they are met with in large numbers
on the great Chig-tu Plain of China.
The Roman water mill, a much superior contrivance, was introduced about
sixty years after the Greek mill, and, as described by Vitruvis about the
year 20 B.C., was in all essential particulars identical with the world
known water mill of modern times. the Roman improvement consisted of the
abolition of the horizontal wheel in favor of the now well known vertical
wheel; the Roman mill is similar to the present day mill comprising an almost
literal specification of the ancient Roman milling engineer. From his day
to our own the rudimentary principles of the universal water mill have never
changed; its simplicity and general applicability kept it at the front as
the only possible mill for no less a time than eleven hundred years.
Wind mills are of comparatively late origin. Amid many apocryphal allusions
to wind mills of very remote periods, the earliest known was an English
one erected at Bury St. Edmunds in 1191. The original type of wind mill
the peg (or post) mill was built round an upright shaft fixed in the earth,
and was laboriously pulled round from time to time to bring its sails up
to the changing wind. This type seems to have been universal till as late
as about 1595, when the Dutch were accredited with the invention of the
fixed tower mill. it had a movable cap that could be turned to bring the
sails up to the wind without turning the entire mill; but alter the cap
was made automatic in its action. Of course, the grinding apparatus of the
wind mill was merely copied from that of the water mill, the only change
being in the accessories suitable to the aerial motor.
Steam was first introduced into water mills solely for the purpose of pumping
water from below the wheel back again into the race. This was the case about
the years 1780-1790. But by 1784 the first known installation of steam as
a driving power had taken place at the Albion Mills, Blackfriars Bridge,
London, which, till their destruction by fire in 1791, were worked with
Of roller milling little need hare be said. As early as 1651 iron rollers
were advocated in England for the bruising of horse corn; a century later
stone rollers, working at a differential speed, were suggested for the manufacture
of flour. Little practical result arose from these and other crude ideas
on the subject till, between the years 1820-1830, the system of roller milling
was largely exploited in France, Austria, and Switzerland, and the initiative
was definitely taken for the vast developments that have since been evolved.
Now that roller milling is so firmly established a fact in all the civilized
countries of the world, the demands made upon the scientific and commercial
attainments of the miller are infinitely greater than any previous age has
seen. Necessarily, therefore, have arisen huge developments of that spirit
of mutual co-operation among the members of the craft which their modern
successors find essential still. The great milling nations of the present
day all possess their Associations and Federations for promoting the welfare
of the trade, and in the following pages is given some account of the history
and constitution of the principal of these valuable aids to successful modern