Original Document
Original Document
Oliver Evans, The Young Millwright & Miller's Guide, Part 5, 1795.

I being requested by Oliver Evan, to assist him in competeing (sic) his book, entitled, The Yung Millwright and Miller's Guide–have thought proper to give the reader a short history of the rise and progress of merchant mills, towards their present state of perfection since the beginning of my time.

It is upwards of 38 years since I first began mill-wrighting: I followed it very constant for about ten years, making it my particular specialty. Several of my brothers being also mill-wrights, we kept in company; and were often called to different parts of this of this, and the adjacent states, to build mills of the first rates (sic), in their day. Some of them entered into the manufacturing line, but I continued at mill-wrighting, and other business connected therewith; such as rolling screens, and fans, and making them go by water, in merchant and grist mills; also farmers fans, for cleaning grain; being the first, I believe, to having made these things in America: but for several years past, have done but little else, than build mills, or draught to build by.

When I first began in the business, mills were at a low ebb in this country; neither burr-stones, nor rolling screens were used; and few of the best merchant mills had a fan. Many carried the meal on their backs, and bolted it by hand, even for merchant work; and I have frequently heard, that a little before my beginning in the business, it had been customary, in many instances, to have the bolting mill some distance from the grinding mill, and there bolted by hand. It was counted extraordinary when they got their bolting to go by water: after this, fans by hand, and standing screens took place; then burr-stones, rolling-screens, and superfine bolting cloths, with a number of other improvements. Some of the latest are, the Elevators, hopper-boys, andc.–Invented by Oliver Evans, late of Delaware, tho" now of Philadelphia.

Being very desirous to improve the art of building mills, and manufacturing grain into flour, I have frequently went a considerable distance to see new improvements, and have often searched book-stores in expectation of finding books that might instruct me, but never found any which was of use to me in that respect, more than to learn the ancient names of some parts of the mills; for although they had been wrote by men of considerable learning, other respects: yet, as they had never been mill-wrights themselves, they had neither practical, nor experimental knowledge to direct them in their work….So that what knowledge I have gained, has been by steady attention to the improvements of our own country; I have wondered, that no person of practical knowledge in the art, has yet attempted to write a treatise on it, feeling it is a worthy subject of attention, and such a book so much wanted….I called upon Thomas Dobson, printer of the Encyclopedia; and asked him if would accept a small treatise on mill-wrighting; he said Oliver Evans had been there a few days before; and had proposed such a work, which I thought would save me the trouble. But some time afterwards, the said Evans, applied to me, requesting my assistance in his undertaking; this I was more than willing to do, having built several mills with his additional improvements; and draughted several others–and without which improvements, I think a mill cannot be said to be complete.

By them the manufacture of wheat into flour, is carried on by water, with very little hand labor, and much less waste, either in small or large business. And I do believe, that taking a large quantity of wheat together, that we can make 2 or 3 lbs. more out of a bushel by the new, than by the old way, although it is equally well ground" because it so much more completely bolted, and with less waste. In the old way, the wheat is weighed and carried up one or two pairs of stairs, and thrown into garners; the bags often having holes in, is spilt and trampled under foot; several lbs. being lost in receiving a small quantity; and when it is taken from these garners, and carried to the rolling screens; some is again wasted, and as it is ground, it is shoveled into tubs, a dust is raised, and some spilt and trampled on; it is then hoisted, and spread, and tossed about with shovels, over a large floor, raked and turned to cool, and shoveled up again, and put into the bolting hopper; which all occasions great labor, besides being spilt and trampled all over the mill, which occasions a considerable waste.

Besides these disadvantages, there are others in attending the bolting hoppers; being often let run empty, then filled too hard, so that they choke, which occasions the four to be very unevenly bolted; sometimes too poor, and at other times too rich, which is a considerable loss; and when the flour is bolted, it is finer at the head than the tail of the cloths: the fine goes through first, and has to be mixed by hand, with shovels or rakes; and this labour is often neglected or only half done, by this means part of the flour will be condemned for being too poor, and the rest be above the standard quality. The hoisting of the tail flour, mixing it with bran, by hand, and bolting it over, is attended with so much labour, that it is seldom done to perfection.

In the new way, all these inconveniences and disadvantages are completely provided against: See plate X; which is a representation of the machinery, as they are applied to the whole process of the manufacture, taking the grain from the ship or wagon, and passing it thro" the whole process by water, until it is completely manufactured into superfine flour. As they are now applied in mill of my planning and draughting, now in actual practice, built on the Occuquam river, in Virgina, with 3 water-wheels and 6 pair of stones.

Credit: Oliver Evans, The Young Mill-Wright & Miller's Guide (Part 5), (Philadelphia: [Oliver Evans], 1795), v-viii.
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