Steve Cunningham's Fan Definitions
A common abreviation for Aluminum Blade
A common abreviation for Alternating Current
In the twenties through the thirties, to capitalize on the nations facination with the airplane, fan companies installed an electric motor and blade into what looked like a small plane body. Some had wings, and almost all had tail surfaces like an airplane. These were used mainly as fans for large industrial shops.
Used mainly in flammable environments, fans were built that ran on compressed air which turned fins on a turbine which was attached the fan blade.
In the early 1900's, several companies made fans that worked on the Sterling Engine principle. Also called a hot air engine, it worked using a source of heat such as a kerosene or alchol lamp which heated the air in a piston. This piston turned a crankshaft to which the fan blade was attached. These fans were made by Lake Breeze, New Thermal, and Jost (German). Convenient where electricity was not availible, these fans are still used today.
In the thirties and fourties, some makers designed fans their fans to look as modern as possible. Air conditioning was becoming the standard in buildings and fans had become "old fashioned". The new designs where meant to appeal to a person's sense of style. The most famous of these designs were the Emerson Silver Swan and the Robbins & Meyers Modernistic. (See the the fan gallery for both!)
A period of art and architectural design which was also applied to household appliances and electric fans. This design style was popular from 1933 into the 50s. Where Art Deco designs had angular lines and geometric shapes, Art Moderne was characterized by more streamlined shapes. Another feature common in fans of the period was the design element of three parralel lines used in decoration on the base or in the cage.
These fans where made for use in vehicles. Several methods were used to power these fans. Some ran off of the vacuum generated by the running engine. Others ran off of the electrical system, while others ran off of a cable tied into the speedometer.
A common abbreviation for brass blade.
A common abbreviation for brass cage.
These were speed control switches mount on the back of the fan. Later on, these were moved inside a taller base with the speed coils. A back switch fan could break if tipped over backwards.
Some of the early motors were ball shaped. Most of these were direct current motors.
Bank Teller Fans
These are also called vertical axis fans. The shaft of the motor is vertical, rather than horizontal, and the blade and cage sit on top of the motor. It was said that bank tellers favored these as they would not ruffle the bills when the fan was on. They were made by Menominee, Signal, Savory (The Aerator), and Zippas.
The lower part of a fan body, that the motor rests on.
After the back switches, fans had the speed coils and switches moved into the bases. This protected the switches from damage.
These were smaller fans, eight inch blades and smaller, that ran off of battery power. They usually ran off 3-12 volts direct current.
Early fan motors were very crude. They used two poles to operate, thus the name bipolar. Usually a bipolar fan has exposed wrapped coiles, either vertical or horizontal in design.
This was a fan that was attached to a metal bracket which hung on the wall.
The Cincinnati Victor company made parlor fans, commonly called funeral home fans. Attached ahead of the blade were six louvers called "breeze spreaders". These would direct the air around the room. Later on, this same arrangement was applied to a ceiling fan. On the ceiling model, the louvers were allowed to rotate slowly under power of the air flowing through them.
This term describes the fans from the late thirties which were made to look more streamlined by putting a bullet shaped cover over the oscillator mechanism.
This is a term used in general to describe the Parker blade design used by Emerson Electric on the 8" BB/BC fans. The lobes of the Parker blade on this model were so deep that they resembled the horns on "Bullwinkle the Moose" from the "Rocky the Flying Squirrel" cartoon.
This is another term for the wire guard that protects the fan blade.
The hub is the center part of a fan blade which is attached to the motor and holds the individual blades. Early fans had hubs that were cast of either iron or brass.
A material used in fan manufacture. Liquid iron is poured into a mold to produce a part. This material was used at first for motor housings and bases of fans. As manufacturing techniques progressed motor housings were made of stamped steel. Eventually even the base was made of stamped steel.
A common abreviation for Counter Clockwise.
Early Jandus oscillators had a cast iron frame on the back of the motors in the shape of the letter C. The oscillator pivoted around this C to move back and forth.
The earliest fans were belt driven ceiling fans. Later on electric motors were introduced into ceiling fans. Besides the designs similar to modern ceiling fans, there were also designs that used desk fan motors in unusual configurations such as Gyro fans.
Early fans had two windings. The first was the start windings that were used to get the fan up to speed. Once up to speed the run windings were supposed to take over. The centrifugal switch was a mechanism used to switch between these windings as a function of the motors rotational speed. A fan with a centrifugal switch will have an audible click when starting or slowing down. Later on, changes in motor and winding design caused centrifugal switches to be obsolete. Ornate base Emersons and tank motor Westinghouses are two examples of fans with centrifugal switches.
This is the speed coil that causes a fan to change speeds through resistance.
Clover Leaf Base
A four lobed base used in Emerson Junior and Seabreeze fans in the 30s. Also known as a lilly pad base.
A design of Art Deco fan guard that resembles a cobweb. It was used mostly by Eskimo brand fans during the 40s and early 50s.
These were fans which required the user to insert a coin to operate them. They were used in hotels and bus stations. A nickel would run one these fans for 30 minutes.
This was a oscillator made by General Electric in 1912. It was an elegant design that contained the oscillating mechanism inside the motor housing and base. A collar around the top of the base was tightened to engage the oscillator. This design was discontinued for simpler and less expensive designs.
A configuration of a ceiling fan that placed it on top of a column rather than suspended from the ceiling.
A common abbreviation for Direct Current.
These are generally the smaller table fans, small enough to sit on a desk top and not blow strongly enough as to blow the papers around. These are usually fans ten inches blade diameter and smaller.
This was a base design that came after the "Step Base". Basically, it was a more streamlined design.
This was a fan made by General Electric. There is a wall mounted cast iron dragon, holding a round motor, suspended by three springs held in the dragon's claws, and mouth.
Eight Wire Guard
This refers to the number of spokes, or wires, in the fan guards, usually made of brass.
This term describes the light kit, attached to very early ceiling fans.
Emerson began making fans in 1891, and called their first motor the Meston. By 1893, the Meston had gone from a cylinder shaped base, into a tripod base.
This was an early oscillator, in the vane family. There was a piece mounted inside the cage, in front of the blade. The piece is shaped like the feather end of an arrow. A mechanical linkage would flop the feather over 180 degrees at the end of the arc, causing the fan cage to be blown back the other way, where it would flip again.
This was Emerson's ornate ceiling fan. The bottom plate had a design cast into the iron of fern leafs in a lattice work.
Filter Jet Fan
This fan was made by the Chemco corporation, about 1951. It was bright yellow, and flying saucer shaped. It utilized a paper coffee filter in it's interior for air freshening and deflection.
This is a term to describe a cage design used by Robbins-Meyers on their brass cages. There is an inner ring, with a stamped sheet brass American flag mounted inside the ring. Because of the sharp flag pole tip, we almost never find one with a flag pole tip intact.
This describes the flange like bases on some fans.
Early bases had ornamental designs. These are referred to as ribbed, or fluted bases. All are cast iron.
This was a base with feet on the bottom, or tabs.
This is a fan motor with four poles, as opposed to bipolar.
Funeral Home Fan
The Cincinnati Victor company produced what they referred to as a parlor fan. For whatever reason, nearly every one seems to come out of a funeral home. It was a pedestal fan, on a pipe. It originally had a pink tinted light bulb on each side, and a fan in the center. It has always been said that these were made to be sold to funeral parlors. The fan was to go at the head of the casket. The breeze would keep the flies away, and the bulbs would give the corpse a skin tone.
Several companies made fans, with cabinets made to seem more like furniture. Some used wooden cabinets, others used metal cases that were painted to look like wooden cabinets.
GE Quiet Blade
General Electric designed the Vortalux blade. It featured a swept trailing edge, and was very aerodynamic. It was a very quiet blade in operation.
GE Whiz Oscillator
This was a small GE oscillator, eight inch blades, with the name embossed on the badge on the cage.
In the teens, the ceiling fan makers tried to outdo themselves in design. Emerson brought out the fern leaf ceiling fan. Hunter, Diehl, and Robbins-Meyers brought out the grape leaf. The bottom plate had a design of a grape leaf cast into it.
The cage that protects the blades, as well as the fan user. See cage.
These were a combination table fan motors, mounted on a ceiling fan pipe. When turned on , both fan motors ran, as well as rotated 360 degrees. These were made by Diehl, Jandus, General electric, Emerson, and several other companies.
This term refers to a cast iron fan base that is ribbed, only halfway up the neck. Usually referred to no a General Electric Pancake fan.
These were fans with radial blades, made like a hassock, or ottoman. The top could be sat on, or used as a table, but it was also a fan.
Hot Air Fan
This refers to a fan that runs off heat. This was the Stirling Principle. These fans had burners under the base, which when lit, would operate the fan. Also known as alcohol fans. These were made by Lake Breeze, Kyko, Jost, and New Thermal.
This was used to describe an Edison fan. It is a small fan, on a tripod, and fully enclosed in a cast iron case.
This refers to a stamped brass piece, mounted atop the transmission, on a Menominee oscillator, this piece would keep the oscillator knob from unscrewing when turned.
This is a slang term for an early Peerless fan. The motor didn't have start windings. There was a lever on the back of the motor. You would "Kick It" like a motorcycle to get it started.
This refers to a model of oscillator made by General Electric, that had kidney shaped transmission on the back. The transmission housing was made of zinc alloy, or "pot metal". If pushed over backward, the transmission housing nearly always broke. It's very rare to find one complete, with an intact transmission.
Very early electric motors has a knife switch on top. It was a copper, or brass piece of metal, pivoting at one end. When the switch was pushed down, the metal edge would "knife" between two connectors of similar metal, closing the circuit.
Some makers combined fans with lamps. These were usually lamps with fans built into the tops. Also known as fan lamps.
The Lollipop was a variety of the vane oscillator. It had a wire rod, that pivoted at the center of the bottom of the cage. At the center of the cage, at the top of the rod, was a round brass disc, hence the term lollipop. The lollipop would lay to one side of the cage. When the fan ran, the obstacle of the brass disc would force the cage to the other side. Once it reached there, a mechanism on the base, would flip the lollipop over to the other side, reversing the process.
Loop Handle Oscillator
From the mid-teens, General Electric made a series of oscillators. To make the fan easier to move, GE put a loop handle on the top of the fans.
Mr. Meston was the first president of Emerson Electric. The earliest Emerson fans are referred to as Mestons. The Meston fans were made from 1890-1896. They had tripod bases, with bronze end caps.
This is an abbreviation for new old stock. This means the fan is brand new, never sold, usually in the original box, or carton.
This describes an oak leaf cluster ceiling fan made by General Electric. The bottom place had a design of a lattice work, intertwined with oak leaves.
The cup below, or above the shaft, that oils the shaft. Sometimes called grease cup, or oiler.
This refers to the iron casting on the fans. Plain would be smooth cast iron, while ornate would have a design case into it. The common use is "ornate base" referring to a GE pancake fan, with ribs running the length of the base.
This describes any fan that moves in different directions, under it's own power, blowing air around the room. While most moved side to side, some moved in circles, or rotated in 360 degree circles.
A common abbreviation for phenolic blade.
Early alternating current motors were large in diameter, and relatively flat. These have come to be knows as pancakes. This term also describes GE fans made from 1884 until 1908.
Emerson patented the Parker blade. It was said to be aerodynamically quieter, than regular blades, There were several improved versions of this blade. The Parker blade was used from about 1897, until the 1930's in various designs.
One of the first plactics used in fans were phenolic. Westinghouse first used this plastic-like material in the early twenties. It was lightweight, so smaller motors could be used, and also cheaper to make.
Phone Booth Fans
Several makers made fans for use in telephone booths. Most of them had motors, suspended by springs, attached to a housing on the wall of the booths. Later, the springs were removed, and the fans mounted directly to the walls of the booths.
Pizza Sliced Blades
The early blades were a triangle shape. This term was added by new fan collectors to describe older blade designs, versus later model rounded edge blades.
GE began using a dark green color on their fan bodies. It's known as Pullman green.
These fans had blades that were horizontal. There selling feature was they didn't blow air straight down, but rather out and away from the fan. Also know as bank teller fans.
Residence Fan Blade
This was a six leaf blade. Most six blades were used on six pole motors. The sic pole motor ran quieter than the four pole, but slower also. To get the same air, the manufacturers used six blades. These were advertised as very quiet.
This term defines fans that rotate in a 360 degree circle. This would include vanes, lollipops, Rotairs, etc.
This refers to a base design. These fans had cast iron bases, with vertical ribs cast into the bases.
The Ribbonaire was a novel idea. To promote safety, the Ribbonaire had blades made of ribbon. It had no cage. Even at full speed, making contact with the blades would not hurt anyone. These were made by Singer and Diehl.
These are also known as ring collar oscillators. These fans were made by General Electric. The entire oscillating mechanism was inside the neck of the fan. There was a brass ring on the neck of the motor, that when rotated, would activate the oscillator. This design was replaced by the star oscillators.
Rotair was a brand name used by Westinghouse. The Rotair was a desk fan motor that hung from the ceiling. The blade faced downward, and rotated in a 360 degree circle.
This was a switch used on fan motors that rotated in a circular path.
The vane oscillator was made in several variations. The vane, or flap fan, and the lollipop, were two models. In either case, if you removed the stops from the base, the fan would spin in 360 degree circles.
This is a term used to designate the spinning center of an A.C. fan motor. The same part of a D.C. motor is the armature.
A trade name for a fan made by Singer, Diehl, and Samson. The fan had blades made of a rubber, or vinyl material, and had no cage.
A common abbreviation for "steel blade".
A common abbreviation for "steel cage".
Was a name used by Emerson, for an art deco table fan.
Century's earliest oscillator is referred to as the sidegear. It had fourteen gears in the train. These gears were in a straight line housing that ran down the side of the motor.
The earliest General electric oscillator was called the sidewheeler. It had an exposed vertical gear, at the side of the transmission, that rotated. Eck also used a similar design.
This term also is used to describe the sidewheeler fan. It was also used to describe ceiling fans where the motor sides rotated thus turning the blade.
This was a name used for a certain Emerson table fan. It used a cast aluminum blade, and was Emerson's first attempt at the art deco design.
Most six blade fans used the six pole windings. While the six pole motor was quieter, it was also slower, but more powerful. To move the same air as the faster four pole motor, six blades were nearly always used on six pole motors.
Some early motors, especially Century, were mostly open cast iron enclosures. The housing resemble a skeleton, as they were more open than closed.
This is a switch that slides, as opposed to a rotary switch. Most all slide switches operate parallel with the bottom of the base.
A fan with the motor, neck, and base made of one cast iron piece.
About World War One, manufacturers were looking for a less expensive technique than casting iron. Stamped parts were developed. The earliest stamped parts were stamped brass. Later, as techniques improved, it became possible to make them out of stamped steel, after World War One.
After General Electric enclosed the oscillators inside the backs of the transmissions, they put a knob on top of the housing to activate the mechanism. The earliest of these had a wing screw in the shape of a four pointed star. There was also a star beneath the housing that attached the oscillator arm to the transmission. There was a third star used to tighten the base at it's pivot. Later on, the base star was changed, and the star under the transmission went next. Eventually, General electric went to a round knurled knob.
These were a set of windings used to bring the motor up to speed. Once up to speed a lever would be thrown, putting the windings into the run position. Emerson improved this with a centrifugal switch that would switch to the run windings once a speed was realized.
A stationary fan is one that doesn't oscillate.
The Stator is another term for the windings.
This was the wire that ran from the windings inside the motor, down to the speed coils.
A stick mount fan is a stationary, but without the ability to tilt up or down using a joint in the neck.
A step base was a design used by Emerson fans. There was a flat flange, and a dome above that. This design was referred to as a step base. The dome was designed to enclose the speed coils.
This was the metal piece that held the cage to the motor.
This is a fan that swivels where the neck of the fan meets the yoke or the motor.
The tag was the metal piece on the motor or cage that told the maker of the fan or model, etc.
This term is used to describe an early Westinghouse fan. It's called this because of its heavy, cast iron and is very low to the ground, like an army tank.
This refers to the number of wires in a guard. General electric used ten, as well we eight wires.
This term refers to the 1898 Westinghouse fan. It was vertically ribbed from the top to the bottom of the base. It was the first A.C. fan motor made and was self-starting. Tesla was to invent many things over the years and was very eccentric.
Emerson, Edison, and a few other companies used a three footed, or tripod, base on their fans. About 1900, the tripod was replaced by a more modern flat base design.
This was a design used on fan bases. Basically, it's like the bell of a trumpet.
The Trunion was also known as a yoke mount. It was a cast iron stirrup. The motor sat inside the stirrup. The motor could be pointed up or down, and tightened with screws on either side of the motor. The bases could also be attached to a wall, and the motor tilted parallel with the floor.
In the twenties, and thirties, airplanes had come into their own. Some companies made fans that hung from the ceiling and resembled airplane bodies. Without wings, they resembled torpedos.
This was a brush type motor, but would urn on A.C. or D.C.
This was a variation on early oscillators. It used a vane in front of the blade to force the cage from side to side. One type was the vane, and it had a brass flap in front of the cage. The other type was the lollipop, which had a brass lollipop inside the cage.
Verity was an English maker of fans. Two of their brands were the Orbit and the Typhoon.
A model name for a series of desk and floor fans made by General Electric from 1938 to 1963. These fans featured a super quiet blade design. The blade's trailing edge projected into a sharp point, allowing the following blade to slip into the air stream, quieting blade noise.
This was a fan that ran on water. Other fans were made that ran on alcohol (heat), springs, electricity, steam, compressed air, and belts.
This refers to the wire wound inside a motor, causing a magnetic field, which makes the fan run.
This refers to a type of fan that ran off a spring. They could be wound up, and run for a period of time.
This was a fan, made to go inside a window, used to blow air in, or exhaust air outside.
This was a cast iron U-shaped piece that the motor sat in. It was also known as a trunion.