The Stipetich Wincharger
Before electricity was supplied to the rural areas in the United States, families relied on kerosene lamps for light, and wind energy from windmills for fresh water. Radios were just coming on the market and to promote their use, some companies gave away a battery operated unit with the purchase of a wind generator.
In the late 1930’s, my grandfather, Nick Stipetich purchased a 6 volt Wincharger, made in Souix City, Iowa, for his family. It was used to charge batteries which powered a radio that came with the unit. It was mounted on the garage and batteries were exchanged to use with the radio in the farmhouse. Later in the 1940’s electricity came to the farm and the Wincharger was no longer needed as a primary source of power. The machine was taken down and put into storage in a farm shed where it sat idle for many years. One day in the 1970’s, as a curious farm teenager, I pulled it out of the shed and tried to figure out what I had found. My father, John, explained to us kids how this windmill worked and suggested that we could fix it up and put it somewhere on display. This was my project, and with help from my dad and brothers, we placed four posts and made a support for the Wincharger at the corner of the field. There it could capture the wind from all sides. I sanded and painted the now rusted machine red and white, and put a two tone tail on one side and white stars on the other. The original control panel worked well connected to a 6 volt tractor battery. I found that there was plenty of power to light several auxiliary headlights. When power was generated, the lights would come on with varying intensities. I pointed them across the field which made a few cars slow down at night thinking they just witnessed an UFO landing on the field! It was amazing how fast that propeller would spin. We heard several comments from neighbors since it could be seen from the highway. They all were curious about that thing too.
The wincharger was set up at the farm to catch the wind in the early 1970s
In 1975, I went off to college and left the Wincharger to run on its own. One day when I returned home on break from school, I was told that during a big storm, the footings let loose, and the whole thing came crashing to the ground. The blade shattered and the tower legs bent. That was the end for the Wincharger, as it was returned to the shed once again.
Now, over 30 years later, I have my own family, living in the Superior, Wisconsin. We moved to a location adjacent to a city baseball complex to the west, a wooded creek to the south, and a street to the north. One night, I awoke from sleep and for whatever reason, started thinking about that thing. Why couldn’t it work here? The next time I traveled to the farmstead 60 miles away, I located the Wincharger and all its parts and brought them back with me. The problem was the broken propeller. I contacted Gus from the Wincharger web site and was given a name of a company in Wisconsin that still had parts for the old machine. I inquired about the propeller, which they had, but it was suggested that I should try to make one myself. I went to the lumber yard and found a nice clean piece of hemlock. With a six foot length, I began to whittle it down with a sharp draw knife. I used the remaining piece of the old blade as a guide. It went quite easy and I think I got it down to a close likeness in a couple hours. With a little fine tuning and balancing, I had a blade just like the original, and it worked The only thing it needed was a new slip ring bearing on the tower. I contacted that same company and they sent out a brand new one.
Peter Stipetich on the roof with the Wincharger
After straightening the tower legs, I wanted to repaint it with a proper logo on the tail. The best I could do was hand draw the Wincharger logo and 6 volt deluxe onto the tail. Not bad for free hand I thought. I got it mounted on my utility shed and away it went. On a windy day it looked like it was going to lift right off the roof! I later had the generator checked out and a new cutout diode added to the control panel. It got moved to the garage top which added more height to the tower. It doesn't seem to generate quite as efficiently as I remember, but the light still shines on a windy night. The Wincharger can be seen from many blocks away and from anywhere around the ball fields. Giving directions to my home is a little easier when you are the only one with an antique wind generator buzzing on the roof!
The garage rooftop allows for wind from all directions
The Wincharger is idle on a calm summer night