LaVerne W. Noyes (1849-1919)
LaVerne W. Noyes was born January 7, 1849 in Genoa, New York. By 1854 his parents had resettled in Springville, Iowa; where he grew up and attended school. As a young man Noyes already had become interested in developing improved types of haying tools, and he had begun experimenting with some of his ideas. Following graduation from Iowa State College in 1872 he settled in Marion, Iowa, where he engaged in the agricultural implement business; but soon began manufacture of haying tools at Springville, Iowa in partnership with a man named Plummer.
Noyes adopted improvements to many of the haying tools in use at the time and by 1875 he and Plummer began marketing their first real success – the Noyes Anti-Friction Hay Carrier. It featured chilled steel rollers in each of the two heads which rolled along a steel rail mounted on the top edge of a 2×4 wooden track at the peak of the hay mow.
By 1876 they had assigned manufacturing rights for the carrier to the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company (USWE&P) of Batavia, Illinois. Noyes married Ida Elizabeth Smith in 1877; a former college acquaintance. She also was of New England ancestry and her family had settled in Charles City, Iowa when she was four. Noyes relocated his small manufacturing concern to Chicago in 1879 and by such time had some 50 patents recorded in his name – mainly for harvesting equipment; and in addition to his hay carrier, other hay handling equipment.
By the end of the 1870s USWE&P Co. was also marketing a grapple hay fork designed by Noyes as well as a Noyes-invented block pulley with 6” maple sheave and a swiveling eye. Noyes is also credited with yet one other device for hay handling – the Noyes Field Pitching Apparatus was his version of an improvement to the many systems then in use for stacking hay outside. In 1882 the Noyes Patent carrier sold for $8.00. The Noyes inventions would remain in the USWE&P catalogs well into the mid-1890s.
Remarkably, with all these patents to Noyes’ credit, perhaps his best-known up until this time was for an item he named a “dictionary holder.” This was an ornate floor stand intended to be used in the home reading room to hold a large book in the open position. This was quite a seller for Noyes and we will see to what advantage later.
Through his association with USWE&P, LaVerne Noyes met Thomas O. Perry who was an engineer under contract with USWE&P. During innovative experiments conducted in 1882-83, Perry determined the most efficient wind wheel was one made of curved metal blades, not the flat wooden blades then in use for decades. Perry had tested 61 wheels. His tests defined speed, angle, curvature, and amount of sail surface to design a scientifically based wheel. In a surprising decision, USWE&P board members rejected Perry’s work and elected to continue to market mills with the wooden blades. Noyes, however, considered Perry’s work valid and entered into an 1887 agreement with him to market the metal blade wind wheels which were 87% more efficient than the common wooden wheels. Noyes secured outside capital and combined with profits largely produced from his popular dictionary holder, the Aermotor Company of Chicago, Illinois, was established in 1888. Perry’s unique design combined with Noyes’ marketing and manufacturing abilities resulted in immediate acceptance and demand. Only 24 would be manufactured the first year; factory expansion couldn’t keep up – by 1892 20,000 windmills were sold and by 1900 Aermotor Co. dominated over 50% of the market. By 1950, over 800,000 Aermotor windmills had been in service; half for more than 40 years.
Having achieved a modest fortune, both Mr. and Mrs. Noyes became recognized for their philanthropical initiatives. Ida had a life-long interest in the arts; a renowned advocate for women she was active in the Chicago Woman’s Club, Woman’s Athletic Club and a prominent member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. When she died in 1912 her husband donated $500,000 to the Chicago University for erection of a building in her honor to be used as a gymnasium and social center for young women. Before his death in 1919, LaVerne Noyes, to express his gratitude to those who made the supreme sacrifice, donated $2,500,000, along with his Chicago home, to be used to establish scholarships at many colleges and universities for veterans of World War I, their children and descendants. Having no direct heirs when he died, Mr. Noyes left the Aermotor Company to a tax paying trust, with 48 colleges and universities as beneficiaries. Scholarships are still available today.
After emerging as the premier leader in windmills over a hundred years ago, today the Aermotor Company is the only remaining windmill company in the United States. Thus, LaVerne Noyes made a name for himself in the windmill trade and few remember his innovative contributions to the hay handling tool industry.
Source: Article Written by Dennis Mcgrew