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The Truman Windmill

George Edward Truman circa 1910

George Edward TRUMAN was born 9 July 1867 in Mount Gambier, South Australia. He was one of eight children and the third son of Joseph and Elizabeth TRUMAN. Joseph TRUMAN arrived in Western Australia from Southampton on the "City of Bristol" on 14 August 1857. Joseph left WA in 1858 and spent some time in Port Augusta and Adelaide before settling in Mt Gambier in 1864. He was an ironworker and later became the pound-keeper for the Mt Gambier Council. Young George TRUMAN was partly educated at the National School and partly at a private establishment and was subsequently apprenticed to the wheelwright trade.

RIGHT: - George Edward TRUMAN, circa 1910. From Cyclopedia of South Australia p.957 advert for George Truman's business 1888 at Mt Gambier, South Australia

TRUMAN worked for Mr John COCK, a wheelwright and machinist who also made windmills, for several years learning his trade before he went into own business at premises in Grey St, Mt Gambier in March 1888 aged 20. An accident with an adze in August 1888 that severed an artery and sinews in his right foot below the ankle disrupted his fledgling business but by November 1888 TRUMAN was advertising that he was taking orders for windmills.

LEFT: - Early advert from George E. TRUMAN advising that he is able to supply windmills from his business in Gray St, Mt Gambier. From The Border Watch, 10 November 1888.

In 1893 George married Maria BONE of Wye, near Mt Gambier and the couple had five sons and a daughter. Their second son, Percy Oswald TRUMAN, a post office employee, was killed in action in Egypt in April 1917 during World War One.

George TRUMAN was elected to the Mt Gambier Town Council in 1900 and served as a Councillor for many years, being elected as the Mayor of Mt Gambier between 1918 and 1919.

TRUMAN died on the 17th of November 1935 at the age of 68 years. He is buried at Lake Terrace Cemetery, Mt Gambier, Section E 444.

The Truman windmill, Millicent museum, South Australia

Information about George TRUMAN's blacksmithing business is sketchy at best. However we do know that he started making windmills and selling them from about November 1888 from his premises in Grey (also spelt Gray) St. He remained at this address until he purchased the Commercial Street premises of the Mount Gambier Iron and Brass Foundry from Samuel BARRATT in August 1898 for the sum of 600 pounds.

A fire at the Truman workshop on 2nd October 1908 destroyed all the blacksmith's and wheelwright's parts of Truman's establishment with the plant and workmen's tools. The building was not insured and the loss was estimated at over 600 pounds. The fire also damaged the next door premises. However, within only a few days of the fire TRUMAN had before the Council for approval, plans for building a new workshop on the same site.

It is not known for how long George E. TRUMAN manufactured windmills. The earliest advertising collected from the local newspaper the Border Watch gives us a date of November 1888. Company letterheads from 1889 and 1892 include mention of windmills being made and repaired. However a letterhead from 1907 makes no mention of windmills. A theory that W. Williams and Son took over the manufacture of the Truman windmill in 1900 is so far unsupported by documentary evidence.

The Truman windmill was direct acting, with a heavy iron windwheel, pipe spokes, corrugated iron tail and wooden tower. The shaft bearings were made of redgum.

The Truman windmill, Millicent museum, South Australia

There are two known sizes of Truman windmills. The five spoke wheel had a diameter of 6ft and the six spoke wheel had a diameter of 8ft. However there seems to be some variation in the number of blades per section in the known examples of Truman windmills, which leads to some speculation as to whether they are all Truman's or of another manufacturer.

To date there are five known examples of Truman windmills that have been restored. Three of these are on public display and two are in private collections. The ones on public display can be seen at the Millicent National Trust Museum, Millicent, South Australia, the National Trust's Glencoe Woolshed, Mt Gambier, South Australia and the Valley Lakes Conservation Park, Mt Gambier, South Australia.


Photographed at the Millicent National Trust Museum, Millicent, South Australia in August 2002 by B. G. Hewitson.
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