Danish Windmills

Culture | FIND Iowa
Apr 18, 2024 | 00:01:18

How have Danish windmills contributed to life in Iowa?

Windmills are an iconic example of Danish culture in Iowa. For over 150 years, Danes have used windmills for energy.


(An old-fashioned Danish windmill. It is off white with windows framed in red and a black dome-like top. The windmill is pyramid shaped, and has four windows at different heights. It has four blades like combs extending from the top of the dome shaped roof.

Another old-fashioned Danish windmill in a green field. It is pyramid shaped with a white dome. It has four comb-like blades. There are three levels of windows running up the side of the windmill and circling around the pyramid windmill. There is a red car parked to the side of the windmill.)

[Tova Brandt] Windmills have been part of Denmark for a really long time and it was a way to get energy from the wind just like we do here in Iowa today. The windmill here in Elk Horn is an old one. It was built in Denmark in 1848.

(In a field is an old fashioned Danish windmill made of wood. It is shaped like a rocket with tripod feet. It has four red, metal, flyswatter shaped blades at the top of the rocket shape just below the point.

Across a farm field is an old fashioned Danish windmill. It is pyramid shaped with three levels of windows framed in red. The top of a small door is just visible above the plants in the field. It has three comb-shaped blades on the far side of the pyramid just below the dome top and a more recent six-blade farm windmill attached and hanging off the right of the dome roof. There is a white building with an orange roof to the left of the windmill.)

(Text on screen. FIND Iowa. Tova Brandt Executive Director, Museum of Danish America)

[Tova] The windmill here in Elk Horn is an old one. It was built in Denmark in 1848.

(The Danish Windmill that was brought from Denmark to Iowa in 1848. It is a brown, pyramid shaped building with a red dome. It has five windows at various heights that can be seen, and a door framed in white. The bottom of the pyramid shape is white like the building is sitting in a big cereal bowl. There is a red walkway running around the top of the white bowl-like shape. Three comb-like blades are visible on the far side of the building attached to the red dome. The American flag is flying on a pole to the right of the entrance to the building. The Danish flag of red and white is to the right of the American flag.)

[Abby Brown] Wait, so they brought it from Denmark all the way over to Iowa?


(The Danish Windmill that was brought from Denmark to Iowa in 1848. A white sign that reads “Velkommen Authentic 1848 Danish Windmill, Iowa Welcome Center”)

[Tova] That's right, that's right. They took it apart in Denmark, they shipped it across the ocean, and they rebuilt it here in Elk Horn to show people what life in Denmark was like when immigrants first started leaving Denmark for America.

[Abby] Which was when?

[Tova] Well this windmill is from 1848 and that's really at the start of when Danes started coming to the United States. In fact a lot of the windmills that we see, the modern wind turbines, those are still made by Danish companies.

(modern wind turbines with three blades)


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(text on screen Find Iowa, The Coons Foundation, Pella, Gilchrist Foundation)

(text on screen Iowa PBS Education)