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Smith-Putnam Industrial Photos


Note. The York County Heritage Trust in York, Pennsylvania has uncovered records, log sheets, shop models and photos in its collection.


These industrial photos of the construction of the Smith-Putnam wind turbine came into my possession in the 1970s. Carl Wilcox gave me a box containing these photos and other artifacts after I had interviewed him about his work with Palmer Putnam and the Smith Company. Carl lived in York, Pennsylvania where the Smith hydro company had been located. I lived nearby at the time in the state capital of Harrisburg.

The Smith-Putnam wind turbine was the largest in the world until the Mod series of machines in the 1980s in the USA and the Growian in Germany. The turbine was installed atop Grandpa's Knob near Rutland, Vermont in the early 1940s.

Here's what I had to say about it in my 1995 book.

". . . Both styles of development can be traced to World War II. On one side of the Atlantic, Palmer Putnam assembled a talented team of engineers and academics to build a giant wind turbine 53 meters (175 feet) in diameter for the S. Morgan Smith Co., a manufacturer of hydroelectric turbines. The 1.25 MW Smith-Putnam turbine became a technological guidepost pointing the way to subsequent American downwind designs of large wind turbines. . .

". . . In contrast to Juul's measured development and Hütter's use of previous wind turbine experimentation, Putnam, with no prior experience, leaped from the small battery-charging machines then in use on the American Great Plains to a multi-megawatt machine. Of the three, Putnam was the most unsuccessful. His machine threw a blade in 1945 and was dismantled. Only dusty photos remain of Putnam's bold effort. . ."

The photos below were glued to leaves in a large format album. Each is numbered. With the exception of those obviously in Vermont, the photos were likely taken in either the Budd Co.'s shop near Philadelphia or the Smith Co.'s plant in York.

My thanks to Howard Mayo of York, Pennsylvania for the photo captions below.

Howard Mayo's family was closely connected to the Smith-Putnam project. Howard's father negotiated the contract with Central Vermont, the local utility, for the delivery of the electricity from the turbine. His mother took a 16 mm film of the project, a portion of which was used by General Electric in a recent advertising campaign. Howard himself presented a prescient technical paper in 1945 predicting that if the wind turbines were built by the hundreds and located along mountain ridges with remote control and scheduled maintenance they might become economical.

Howard donated the two wooden models of the Smith-Putnam turbine that were in his family's possession to York's Heritage Trust Museum. The museum also houses files on the Smith-Putnam turbine, including the files of Carl Wilcox.

If anyone has further information or details on the project not found in Palmer Putnam's book or in the captions, please contact me and I'll further update this page.

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