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One of the most interesting pieces of equipment located on the third floor is a device labeled "Eureka Brush & Finishing Machine Pat’d Nov 23 1873 Re-issued July 30, 1878"

I was made immediately curious by its strange shape, and wondered what its function was. There is a horizontal suction/ blower (blue), and a smaller vertical cylinder beneath it. (Brown)

A drive pulley with a one inch vertical shaft belt powered the device. An additional pulley drum mounted above the larger drive pulley, was used to drive a pulley which operated a vibrating screen sieve on the top of the machine.

The top of the device has an arching curved plenum chamber with the front end terminating in a hopper box like snout.

Brush machine, showing front discharge snout. Fan Housing is colored blue. Divided Plenum chamber is above fan with side door for cleanout. Brush scourer and air chamber are in vertical cylinder(brown) below blue fan section.

Front view. Extending out upper left side is the exhaust trunk. In front is the double chamber where the chaff and dust are discharged.

Side view showing exhaust trunk and, above it, the shaking shoe (tan) where grain was originally loaded to machine. Green hopper passed thru to second floor.

Rear view showing shaker shoe (tan rectangle) above exhaust trunk. Also shown is the rear suction leg where cleaned, scoured wheat, discharges into a small hopper containing a screen at floor level. The bottom of this suction leg is open to the atmosphere admitting a strong updraft of air that passes through the descending wheat. The wheat enters that leg, for final aspiration, from the vertical scouring chamber that is below the blue colored fan housing.


This machine was manufactured by "Howes & Ewell, Silver Creek, New York, Propr’s & Manuf’rs." as stenciled on the drum cylinder. It is number 17235. The S. Howe’s Company, of Silver Creek, New York, still exists, being in business since 1852! I enquired of the Company if any information was available on this device, or could they explain how it operated. I was not able to obtain this information.

Since I had the patent dates, I searched The Unites States Patent Office, on line. The Patent Office has all U.S. patents on file, and searchable. To search patents prior to 1960, you must have the patent number, or the patent date. After several hours of checking many patents by "type" of invention number, for the dates I had, I found the patent I wanted, with accompanying graphic and written explanation of how the device operated.

The patent explained the operating principal, which all grain separators and those still made at the S. Howes plant in Silver Creek N.Y. use to this day.

The earliest patent date I could find for this type device, called a "Smut Mill" or "Smutter", was issued July 8, 1856, patented by R.M. Dempsey, Pat. No.15284.

The next earliest patent date for the same type of device was a patent issued to a Howes & Throop for a new type smut mill, dated March 16, 1858. Pat. No. 19637.

It was this patent of 1858, which the machine in Castle Valley Mill is based upon. The inventors of this machine were Simeon Howes and Gardner E. Throop.

The next patent issued involving Simeon Howes and Gardner E. Throop also included several other signers of the patent. They were Alpheus Babcock, Norman Babcock and C. Ewell. This patent was a reissue of Patent 19637 originally issued March 16, 1858. Date of re-issue is March 5, 1872. During this time the company was named "Howes, Babcock, & Co."

In 1878, when the machine in Castle Valley Mill was marketed, Simeon Howes and C. Ewell (a co-inventor whose name appears on the 1872 re-issue) were in partnership with the firm bearing their names "Howes & Ewell".

These devices came to be known generically as "Smut Mills" and were one of the first steps in the grain cleaning process for Wheat and similar grains. The machines were able to "both scour the grain and also separate the heavy grain form the light grain and screenings, and the cheat and light grain from the dust, chaff and other refuse".

Almost every mill in the country had at least one and they were prolific.

There are numerous patents for devices similar to the Howes & Ewell Smutter issued after the original patent of 1856. All styles and shapes were developed, but it seems the Howes smut machine won the favor of millers across the country and in Europe.


The Eureka Smut Machine Works, Silver Creek, New York, c-1885            1892 Map of Silver Creek, New York-Courtesy Bill Maecker of www.thinkofmeever.com

After the death of Simon Howes a trade-mark infringement case was brought to the New York Supreme Court-HERE


Advertisement showing the Vienna Exposition Award of 1873, and the Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1869.


     Loose Smut                         Barley Smut


Front view of Eureka Brush Machine #17235 in Castle Valley Mill. Note small pulley near leg on the left, and double bin snout. Capacity rated as 10-13 bushels per hour. Side view showing the metal horizontally-mounted fan, and beneath it the vertical brush scouring cylinder with company name on it.

The wheat grain to be processed by this machine arrived via a spout from the Front Left Elevator head located near the front of the mill. The first device in the process is called a shaking shoe which is positioned at the top left of the machine as viewed in the left photo above. It comprises two screens pitched at about 30 degrees. The top sieve is called the "Scalping" sieve. It is made of perforated metal, the holes being about 14/64th inch diameter. It scalps off sticks, stones, straws, unthreshed heads, corn, bolts, nuts, screws, nails, and anything larger than wheat. Many foreign objects are found in a load of wheat! The scalps, too large to pass through the scalp screen simply fall off the end of the sieve and onto the floor. The entire shaker shoe was made to shake horizontally.

The lower sieve is called the sand screen. It lets sand, weed seeds, cockle, broken and shriveled kernels, and anything smaller than wheat pass thru it and enter a discharge spout. It can be made of wire screen or perforated metal with holes about 1/12th inch diameter. The wheat passes over these sieves.

The scalping and sand screens are missing from this machine.

The wheat  and like-sized materials would stay on top of the sand screen, and would fall off the screening into an enclosed tray beneath it, and directed by shaking and gravity to a discharge chute on the low end side of the shaker shoe. The grain from this chute entered the first "suction leg" of the plenum chamber. The plenum has two separate wind trunks arranged side by side horizontally the length of the plenum chamber


Top view showing plenum chamber with fan below (Blue), Shaker shoe (here labeled shaker box) with screening (top scalping sieve is missing). Grain arrived at the shaker shoe and began primary cleaning as the shoe continually vibrated, separating the refuse from grain and passing grain into machine for further cleaning through the plenum chamber suction legs.

Sheet showing sieve sizes for shaker shoe. (Courtesy-Phil Robertson)

As the grain fell from the shaker shoe chute, it passed thru a slot on the side of the first (or right) suction leg of the Brush machine, falling a height of about six inches down through the rear wind trunk of the plenum chamber by gravity, before dropping in a metal diagonal chute below the plenum.

Between the bottom of the plenum and the metal diagonal chute, there is a small gap, which allows air to be drawn up into the plenum thru the first suction leg. The grain falling into the plenum passes thru this air current which gives the grain its first blast of air in the preliminary aspirating process. Most light debris particles, smut balls, chaff and dust, lighter than the grain, are sucked into the plenum chamber wind trunk and directed to the area of the plenum chamber called the settling chamber in the front "snout" section.

View showing rear trough from shaker shoe to side suction leg of plenum chamber. As the grain falls through part of the plenum chamber, it is cleaned by the air blast being sucked into machine from bottom of plenum. The grain then falls into a metallic diagonal chute directing the grain into the dome of the lower scouring chamber.

The heavier, full, or plump grain which fell into the diagonal metal chute below the plenum, is then moved by gravity and vibration into the dome of the cylindrical brush/scouring chamber of the machine.

The grain entering the scouring cylinder from the top falls into the scouring cylinder which subjects it to the action of rotating beater brushes and wind vanes. The beater brushes and centrifugal force of the rotating vanes, throw the grain against the sides of the finely slotted inner metallic scouring cylinder. This action rubs off and detaches from the kernels the smut and other adherent matter and forcing it through the slots in the cylinder wall.

The scoured grain, falls to the bottom of the cylinder, while the grain chaff, cheat, light and shrunken grain etc, which passed through the slotted case, fall into the space between the slotted inner cylinder and the outside container shell. Here they are sucked away into the fan by air entering the cylinder shell area thru large slots in the bottom of the cylinder floor, between the outer shell and the inner slotted cylinder. This debris is directed into the eye of the fan, by the conical metal dome over the scouring chamber, not allowing it to mix or comingle with the scoured grain and directed to the exhaust trunk.

View showing outer scouring cylinder (tan) below the fan (blue). This outer scouring cylinder encloses the interior slotted metal cylinder in which are both rotating brushes and propeller like metal vanes. Small doors allow access to the inner slotted chamber.

Detail of slotted scouring cylinder. During operation the outer shell is closed by removable doors. Note large slots in metal base, between the scouring case and the outer cylinder. Air was pulled into these openings.

This action of being exhausted directly after scouring is one of the main features of this machine. The pulverized smut is very sticky and adhesive in nature. If the kernels become smeared with this, it becomes almost impossible to remove it, and causes problems when the grain is to be ground. The scoured wheat that has fallen to the bottom of the metal inner perforated scouring case is then directed down an enclosed metal spout leading into the second "suction leg" of the machine.

As the wheat falls into the second suction leg, it is again subjected to a second pneumatic scouring. The bottom of the leg is open to the atmosphere admitting a strong updraft of air that passes through the descending wheat for a final aspiration of whatever dust, etc, remains. This air blast carries away the remaining, chaff, dust, etc.,  up the trunk into the top plenum head, and moved through the horizontal trunk to the settling chamber of the machine. The cleaned wheat falls into a hopper where it is spouted to the second floor for grinding.

Detail with fan chamber not shown. Center rod is drive shaft for brushes and blower fan. Note conical dome to direct debris directly into the eye of the fan. (fan blades not shown).

View of slotted inner scouring cylinder of brush cleaning section. Door shown open.


The air from the scouring operation is simply sucked up through the dome and directly into the eye of the fan.

The following explanation of the wind trunk process, contributed by a long time mill/milling specialist and mill restorer Phil Robertson of Brownstown Indiana, is one of the best I have read:

"The fan provides all the air for the "Eureka" Brush Machine. Considered apart from the mechanical operations of screening and scouring, the air system could be describes variously. Some would call it a suction system, Others an aspiration system, while others might call it a pneumatic operation. The main point is that all the dirty air is sucked into the eye of the fan and discharged through the exhaust trunk.

The air from the two suction legs travels a more complicated route. The route is the same for each leg; they are separated by a single divider. The air is sucked vertically up through the suction leg. Then it is directed into a horizontal duct formed by the curved top of the case and a bottom floor just a few inches below. This duct runs from the suction leg at the rear and empties into the expansion chamber or plenum at the front. The space in the expansion chamber is much greater than the cross section area of the duct. Therefore, when the air enters the expansion chamber it loses its velocity (force pressure) and is no longer able to hold the solids in suspension. The solids (screenings) fall out of suspension into the tapered snout at the bottom of the expansion chamber.

Adjacent to and below the upper duct is another duct for the spent air that has dropped its solids. The floor of this duct has a hole directly above the upper eye of the fan where the air is sucked into the fan and finally discharged through the exhaust trunk.

Near the bottom of the tapered snout, below the expansion chamber, and mounted on the outside of the vertical side is a flapper (currently missing) for each suction system. The flapper is held against the side by the slight negative air pressure inside the expansion chamber. In theory, when the accumulated weight of the screenings is sufficient it should force the flapper open and discharge the contents. It usually did not work, because when the flapper opens the slightest bit, air would rush in and hold back the screenings. In practice the miller must open the flap and scrape out the screenings by hand. One might say that by opening the vent hole above the flapper the air would not be sucked into the flapper opening. It seldom worked!""

The inventors of the machine had found a way to use gravity, wind currents and suction, in a delicate balance, to create one of the best grain cleaners ever made, as attested by sales world wide

View showing the underside of Brush Machine. Large pulley was for the main drive belt (not shown) Above it is a smaller diameter pulley with belt driving the shaker vibrator pulley (center right). Behind the drive pulleys on the left is the enclosed metal chute directing the cleaned grain from the brushing cylinder, to enter the rear vertical wind trunk chute, here it encounters for the third time, a blast of air pulling debris up the chute, while allowing the wheat to fall down the chute passing into a spout to the floor below.

View of bottom of the machine showing drive pulleys and vertical drive shaft and lower discharge chute into rear wind trunk.

View of shaker assembly arm. The vertical shaft from the shaker pulley extends up to the shaker head arm, where an eccentric cam caused the shaker arm to vibrate horizontally, transmitting the motion to the shaker box which is mounted on two spring-steel ribs. To the right of shaker arm is a wind trunk control damper, for adjusting the air flow for the wind trunk on the left side of the machine. There is an identical one on the opposite side plenum chamber.

Debris from the final air blast is carried up the rear vertical wind trunk chute into the plenum head, where it is pulled through the transverse channel (wind trunk) to the front of the machine above the settling chamber "snout". The control damper in this illustration is shown in the almost fully closed position, which would have reduced the amount of draft through the rear chute or "wind trunk".

After being pulled across the transverse wind trunk, the grain debris entered the space above the snout called the settling chamber, where the change in air pressure, and gravity, causes the  heavier screenings to fall into the narrow snout bin. The lighter debris is sucked into the bottom transverse chamber or trunk, and pulled into the blower through a hole in the bottom chamber separating board. The debris was then blown out the side exhaust trunk. (Blower not shown)


Top view with plenum covers removed showing settling chamber area above front snout where circulating wind currents carries the debris across the top separating board and into settling area above the snout. Changes in air pressure causes the screenings to drop into the snout and the light debris is then pulled into the lower wind trunk and into the fan assembly through the hole in the lower board. It is then blown out the side exhaust trunk (Fan assembly in blue). The screenings fall down into the snout and enter a bin (green) where it is channeled to the second floor.

Grain fluff, chaff, and debris from both sides mingled in the front of the plenum head the "settling area" causing the heavier particles to fall into the snout bin. The dirty air was discharged from the Eureka Brush and Finishing Machine via the exhaust trunk.

The screeningl that fell into the divided bin was held by atmospheric pressure against two hopper flap type doors. When the weight of the accumulated product exceeded the air pressure holding the flapper door closed, the grain would fall into the bin.

This machine cleaned the grain by a combination of vibration, first air cleaning on entering the machine, scouring and brushing with a second air cleaning, then third and final air cleaning.

The scoured wheat dropped from the machine down the rear vertical suction leg (where it subject to the third air cleaning or blast). From there it went into a roller mill to be ground into fine grade flour on the second floor.

Discharge from the snout hopper was discarded.


Illustration of the period showing internal parts of a similar Brush Machine based on the same operating principal. Air flow is indicated by arrows.

After being exhausted out of the Eureka Brush Machine, the discharge was blown along the exhaust duct carrying the discharged material to the "Cyclone Separator". This device further separated the heavier dust particles out of the air before discharging the cleaned air to the outside of the mill


View showing exhaust duct connected to vertical separator towards rear of mill. Note power take off pulleys and belt which powered the Eureka Bruch Machine.

Another view showing exhaust chute connecting to vertical "Cyclone" separator and belt drive to Brush Machine (lower right).


Illustration for patent re-issue, March 5 1872 describing operation of Brush Machine. Arrows depicting wind currents

Illustration for original 1858 patent.


"INVINCIBLE" Smutter c-1905.This machine was very similar in design to the Howes & Ewell "Eureka" machine. This unit was manufactured by the Invincible Grain Cleaner Company, also of Silver Creek N. Y. as was the Howes Company.



Horizontal model of the "Invincible" with some description of operation.




     1856                                                          1858                                                           1859


                                                                           1860                                                   1872                                                       1872


Scientific American for Jan. 16, 1858