1883 : An electrical wind turbine in Vienna

By Philippe Bruyerre

Josef Friedländer presented a particularly ingenious system for producing wind-generated electricity at the Vienna Electricity Exhibition in 1883. Friedländer (1836-1905) was a Viennese manufacturer of agricultural equipment with close ties to American manufacturers: McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, and U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Company.

Freidlander wind turbien 1881 Vienna Exposition
Fairgrounds, Vienna International Electrical Exposition 1883. Friedländer wind electric plant circled.

For this purpose, Friedländer uses an American pumping wind turbine of the Halladay type, 22 feet in diameter (6.6 meters) driving an electric generator. The regulation of the current is done by the A. de Calò system designed for the lighting of trains and tested on the Vienna-Trieste line in 1882. The idea is simple: thanks to a centrifugal regulator, different battery elements are switched according to the wind speed–and therefore to the current produced by the generator–to deliver a constant current. The installation supplies 25 lamps of 50 W each as well as a new model of threshing machine (Schuppisser patent). A Robey steam-powered traction engine was also present in case of too little wind, which seems to be often the case on this site.

Freidlander wind turbine controller 1881 Vienna Exposition

In 1891, W. H. Burnham of U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. writes in The Rural New-Yorker that, according to his agent at the site, “the operation of this mill seemed quite satisfactory at that time,” but that the cost of the batteries was still too high to make the system worthwhile.

Poul La Cour was also present at the Vienna exposition, presenting his phonical wheel. The Friedländer wind system may have inspired La Cour in his work.

Adapted from pages 104-105 in Bruyerre Philippe, Rétrofutur : une autre histoire des machines à vent, Paris, Atelier 21, 2022.

Short bibliography

Leonhardt, Ernst Rudolf. Die internationale elektrische Ausstellung Wien 1883: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Organisation, sowie der baulichen und maschinellen Anlagen. Freiberg i.S: Freiberg i.S. : Craz & Gerlach, 1884. http://www.e-rara.ch/zut/22499137.

Leonhardt, Ernst Rudolf. “Wochenzeitschrift des ö. Ingenieur- und Architektenvereins.” In Die internationale elektrische Ausstellung Wien 1883, 4 No 30:211–15. Vienna, 1883. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno-plus?aid=ina&datum=1883&page=219&size=45.

“The Vienna Electrical Exposition: Utilizing Wind Power for Generating Electricity.” In A Weekly Journal of Mechanical Progress, IV No 96:315–16. New York, NY: Progress Publishing Company, 1883. Google-Books-ID: o73mAAAAMAAJ.

Burnham, W.H. “Electricity from Wind Power: Windmills for Generating Electricity. Taming the ‘Free Force’ of the Air–An Austrian Experiment with American Mills.” In Moore’s Rural New-Yorker, L:113. New York, NY: Rural Publishing Company, 1891. Google-Books-ID: b6ZGAQAAMAAJ.

Wiener Landwirtschaftliche Zeitung. “Die Elektricität in der Landwirtschaft.” October 3, 1883, 33rd Year No 79 edition. Page 624. https://anno.onb.ac.at/cgi-content/anno?aid=wlz&datum=18831003&seite=4&zoom=33.