Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lucky Brand Jean's Pasadena Store 1920 ca. "Gatsby" Ceiling Fan

How often do you hear people say they wish that more companies would buy American? Well, Lucky Brand Jeans not only started a line of American made jeans, they recently requested that VintageFans.com restore a couple of century old ceiling fans for their new Pasadena, California store. The fans, 1909-24 circa Westinghouse 56" ceiling fans were originally manufactured by Westinghouse in the U.S.A., almost 100 years ago. Lucky Brand specified that Vintage Fans finish the fans in a durable baked finish matching other fixtures in the store. The dungaree company also requested the blades be painted in a matching finish for uniformity and durability through the years.


Gatsby Style 1920s Westinghouse Ceiling Fan Featured at Lucky Brand's Pasadena, CA, Store

The look, sometimes referred to as the "Gatsby Style", by Vintage Fan's President Mark Neeley (referencing the F. Scott Fitzgerald tycoon's impeccable style) produces a clean, or sanitary look that was most often employed a century ago in stores, hospitals, hotels and apothecaries.  Lucky Brand's Pasadena Store is a shinning example of the possibilities today of incorporating professionally remanufactured  vintage ceiling fans in modern commercial or residential spaces. They not only add peerless style and American made quality, but they economically move a ton of air at will and are reclaimed American antiques remanufactured in Fort Worth, Texas. Lucky Brand Jeans and Vintage Fans®, two American companies that understand American made at its finest.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


 1931ca. General Electric 12" Hotel Alms Electric Fan

At Vintage Fans® we are surrounded by hundreds of cast iron and steel machines that have decades (usually 8 to 10), of hard use which have left them a mere apparition of their former glory days. And speaking of apparitions, we often wonder about the folks who originally owned our fans or those who simply enjoyed the comfort they provided. Occasionally little clues are present with some fans that speak of their history. We have been fortunate through the years to catch a glimpse of where a few fans may have spent their service lives.  Many years ago, we opened a 1904 ca. Emerson Trojan desk fan only to be amazed to find a message stating that the fan had originally been used in a trolley station in Toledo, Ohio! It's always a pleasure to witness such testimonies from the past and we believe them to be a treasured gift to be preserved with each fan since we are certainly stewards of these icons of America's Iron Age.

About a year ago we received a call from a lady who was cleaning out a garage filled with her late father's items. She explained that she had ran across two old electric fans that she simply did not want to throw away after realizing that they were well made American machines. She sent us some photos and we agreed that we could either find them a good home down the road or use them for our parts inventory. After the fans arrived we realized they were in fairly nice shape and one in particular, a standard early 1930s General Electric, seemed to be a fairly clean fan with an aged, but well preserved original GE green finish. 

We worked the fan into our schedule between our customer's repairs and when the servicing began we noticed what looked to be an old decal on the side of the motor. One look under a magnifying glass confirmed that this was an owner's identification decal. We made out what we thought was "AIMS HOTEL Cincinnati, Ohio". Internet research led us to the fact that the "I" was actually an "L" and we soon learned the history of the "Hotel Alms" , a place where our 1930s General Electric fan was undoubtedly a welcomed site to many a weary traveler looking for a good night's sleep. 

The Hotel Alms with WKRC towers on top

The Alms Hotel was built in 1891 by prominent Cincinnati businessman Frederick Alms. It was an  addition to the hotel in 1925 made it a massive structure that housed among other things WKRC...... in Cincinnati, to all of you who remember the 70s and early 80s, does this sound familiar? Replace the C with a P. Through the years, the hotel became a fixture in the Ohio River city and it certainly appears in old photos to have been a very nice hotel during the era. Electric fans were among the standard fixtures that finer hotels boasted about in the early years. General Electric actually made a prepayment fan marketed by a Memphis firm as a "taxi" fan that would give you an hour's worth of air for a nickel, but the Alms' it appears the air was free! We found an image of the Cocktail Terrace at the hotel that appears show a G.E. fan wall mounted. You can't help but wonder is it our fan?

Cocktail Terrace at the Hotel Alms showing a possible wall mount GE fan

We made a call out to California to speak to the nice lady who sold us the fan and told her of the decal and she explained  that she had grown up in Cincinnati. But how in the world had her father come to own the fan? Did he work there? The answer made perfect sense. Her father had owned a garbage disposal business and had trucks running all over town. She speculated that he had very likely seen the fan come in on one of the trucks when the hotel disposed of it sometime in the 1960s. We knew that many hotels and commercial buildings had rid their properties of the considered "obsolete" breeze makers when centralized air conditioning became the standard. So this assumption by the former owner about the Alms Hotel fan seems appropriate. No matter how her father obtained the fan, one thing was certain; it had originally been the property of the Hotel Alms.

And so the story goes with another fan history partially discovered. We like to think of this historic hotel fan as a survivor, the mechanical lady left after the ball, and one whose new life is just beginning as she recently received a full electrical/mechanical service restoration at VintageFans.com. Now she's ready for another 8 decades of service and we wonder where the future will take her. Who in the future will enjoy her comfort on a hot day? Who will become part of her history? They say history repeats itself, so maybe she'll go home to Cincinnati. It would be nice to see that full circle journey which would seem appropriate. Regardless of her future, when we look at her now we can't help but think of the old lyrics "Baby, if you ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me, I'm living on the air in Cincinnati!    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


  Oswald's Interrogator FBI Agent Boohout's Emerson Fans

We are always intrigued by the historical aspect  of the vintage electric fans we repair, service, and sell at VintageFans.com. Many times their histories are seldom known to us, but we see signs of their service lives that sometimes lend clues to their past owners. Occasionally we will see a factory inspection mark in pencil that has survived to our amazement when we see dates from more than a century ago. We visit with folks from all over the United States every week that describe tales of their particular fan's history and the importance it has played in the lives of their families. With all of this being said, we often wonder about the majority of the fans in our inventory and what important events to history their breezes may have blown around. One can't help but ponder if that early Westinghouse ceiling fan removed from a Woolworth's in Denton, Texas provided relief in 1933 over Bonnie Parker as she purchased a pack of gum? In most cases all we have is wonder, but occasionally we do know the history and sometimes it can be quite interesting.

Two early Emerson desk fans that we acquired this past spring are ones that have significant histories because of who once owned them. The early 20th century desk fans are tied to one of America's most controversial events by way of simply being a possession of one of the characters of the event.  Unlike inanimate objects, early electric fans can be animated as living history representing the same motion and providing the same comfort produced by the energy that past generations felt. We like to call it "Preserving History in Motion". Our story's featured fans were purchased from the Dallas, Texas estate of former Dallas FBI Agent James Bookhout who interrogated Lee Harvey Oswald extensively on the afternoon of November 22, 1963. Agent Bookhout's early Emerson desk fans were in very good condition, but in dire need of VintageFans.com's Electrical/Mechanical Service Restoration. During the servicing of the fans,  it was evident that the turn of the century electric fans had seen some attention in the last 100 years as aged line cords appeared to have been changed in the last 50 years or so. With this exception, the fans were in original condition and they had developed a rich patina that we chose to preserve rather than destroy. Once again, our imagination runs wild speculating whether Agent Bookhout caught a nap under one of these Emerson fans as he rested from interrogating the man charged with assassinating President Kennedy. In the very least, the fans represent a tangible link to the Texan that spent numerous hours interrogating Oswald preserving that history in motion for generations to come.  


Bookhout's 1906 ca. and 1914 ca. Emerson Fans 

Monday, October 8, 2012


110 Year Old Emerson Induction Table Fan Motor

 Historic fans come to us in various states of disrepair, but this desirable early Emerson Type 1220 table fan seems to have spent a cage less lifetime of utilitarian use mounted to this board in southern Kansas. A fan in this condition can be deemed charitable and had it been a more common model, this one might have wound up in our parts bin, but as seasoned fan aficionados know, the Type 1220 is seldom seen so we felt obligated to return this one to service. Just think, in eleven decades this massive 16" fan has survived it all, the dust bowl, scrap drives, yard sales, severe storms including massive mile wide tornadoes that can frequent the region only to make it to a destiny last seen 110 years earlier when it rolled out of Emerson's ST.Louis factory.  

1903 circa Emerson Table Fan Under Construction

In the past, this unique piece of American history was silenced when her blade made contact with something harder than her cast iron hub, shearing off one wing in a perfect break that also rendered the fan useless. There is no telling how long the fan sat dormant, but by the look of the break, it was in another lifetime. The good news was that upon her arrival at Vintage Fans® , antique motor ace Sam Morgan used his 44 years of experience to repair the hub virtually erasing the mistake that someone made decades ago. When Sam carefully evaluated the motor he found an open in the start winding, which he repaired saving the original motor from his initial inclination of performing a full rewind. Craftsman Ted Kaczor fabricated a fantastic reproduction cage and struts from original specifications to replace the one that went missing years ago. Other parts are being source from Vintage Fan's® parts inventory and as this one comes together we'll feature it on our Facebook page and our blog, so stay tuned.

Barn Wood Added On The Kansas Prairie


Sunday, September 30, 2012


1903 circa Emerson Electric Company Ceiling Fan Rewound at VintageFans.com® by Antique Electric Motor Expert Sam Morgan.

 Our customer's are often amazed after they receive their fans back from our shop and run them for the first time. We hear "It has never ran this quiet" or "I can't believe how great this fan runs now". This makes our day, but it never surprises us.The reason is simple, we know what it takes to build a fan to our level of quality.One key ingredient to our recipe of success is the ability to rewind our motors in house. We have a professional vintage winding machine at our Fort Worth facility and more importantly veteran antique electric motor expert Sam Morgan on our staff. Sam's 44 years of experience with antique and vintage American made electric motors enables us to offer the customer one of the most thorough antique fan motor rewinds in the country.  Whether you select a fan from our inventory or send one to us for repair, you can rest assured that the job will be performed correctly at VintageFans.com. We pride ourselves on all of our work and our rewinds of factory antique and vintage fan motors will stand the test of time just as they did during their first century of use. For antique or vintage fan motor rewinds, Call 817-431-6647 or write today at VintageFans.com.

1912 circa Dayton Fan and Motor Company Ceiling Fan Motor Ready For Installation at Vintage Fans® in Fort Worth, Texas.

Friday, April 20, 2012


The April 3, 2012 outbreak of tornadoes across Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas brought to mind an article that I had planned to write for the 100 year anniversary of a tornado that almost changed Roanoke, Texas, forever. This historic event is very likely unknown by the general public, but it gives one an insight into the historic potential of significant tornadoes in the DFW area.

My interest in tornadoes was born on March 28th, 1984, when the small town of Newberry, S.C. , was badly damaged by two tornadoes, killing one and injuring many in that beautiful town. What is known as the Carolina Outbreak today was a rare outbreak of violent tornadoes that made their way across South Carolina and into North Carolina. Those storms changed the lives of many Carolinian and one of them was this author even though I  was not a storm victim.It forever changed the way I viewed storms. I grew up near Newberry and saw the power that a violent tornado could unleash on an unsuspecting community. It also spawned a life long interest in severe weather, namely tornadoes and a yearning to learn more about them. 

When I eventually moved to Texas, I was scared to death of the storms that I knew the Lone Star State was famous for. Tornadoes were associated with Texas, just like oil, cattle and the old West is. The first severe thunderstorm I went through in Texas  nearly made me run for cover to the amusement of my co-workers. I thought we were experiencing a tornado with the 70 m.p.h winds.  I had never seen such fury in a thunderstorm, the rain, the hail. I was accustomed to "normal" thunderstorms, not the supercharged ones that I soon learned were a common spring occurrence in Texas.

 I began to believe there were two types of Texans, those that respected storms and those that didn't pay too much attention to them.
 As I grew older and wiser, I learned this was probably more indicative of human nature in general, not just Texans, but many people become too comfortable of their home and their surroundings. This leads to their falsely believing things will always be the same so they are sometimes unprepared when a real emergency happens. When I went back to college to finish my degree in the 1990s, I took a few elective classes in Emergency Management at the University of North Texas that opened my eyes to the behavior of individuals during tornadoes. It was an eye opening experience to learn that so many people often ignored tornado warnings, sometimes needing visual confirmation before seeking shelter. Another cold hard fact that I finally accepted and realized during this time was that my wife and I didn't really have shelter, unless you consider a drywall closet under the stairs a shelter.

Each spring we had to hunker down in the "shelter" under the stairs hoping that each tornadic super cell we faced wouldn't actually be "the one" to change our lives forever or end them altogether (see our previous shelter story on this blog). As I learned more about tornadic storms, the more my concern grew because I suspected this area had the potential to produce a violent tornado. I had grown accustomed to hearing about the tornadoes in Oklahoma, but when EF-4 Lone Grove/Ardmore survivor Rick Pack told me "Mark, you better get a shelter" after he described in vivid detail the experience with it's "1000 jet engines reverse winding" sound that  finally made enough hairs on my arms stand up that I became serious about constructing a storm shelter.  I realized we were due in this area, as Ardmore is not that far up the road. If only one positive to come from Mr. Pack's experience, his testimony urged one non native Texan to take action and began the research for a shelter that would survive the strongest tornado.

I soon picked up a scarce, but invaluble copy of "Significant Tornadoes" by Thomas P. Grazulis. I wish that I had purchased it years ago. This book chronicles significant tornadoes that occurred in the United States from 1680-1991. I was amazed at the detail in some of the accounts in areas that had suffered tremendous outbreaks of tornadoes in years past. Grazulis sourced many different forms of records to accurately place the correct rating on each tornado. This out of print book should grace the shelves of every library in Tornado Alley because it allows you assess your risk accurately by looking at past occurrences. The historic data provided in this volume is a valuable tool to discern the potential for future outbreaks. Many of the towns featured have repeatedly over time been involved in multiple tornadic events. Towns like Tanner, Alabama which has had multiple opportunities for strikes by F4-F5 violent tornadoes over the years, and has indeed been hit by three F5 tornadoes.  In many cases Grazulis provides the reader with historic information that most people have little or no record of. As generations pass away that experienced the events the stories might be lost to history without the valuable data that Grazulis provides.I suspect this would be the case about the April 20, 1912 event near Roanoke, Texas, when a 800 yard wide F4 tornado  missed the town by 1/2 mile sparing the town, but obliterating farms on the outskirts on it's way to Flower Mound, Texas.

Roanoke, Texas sits on the northern edge Fort Worth in southern Denton County just outside of the "new" Fort Worth city limits. It is very close to our commercial shop that houses VintageFans.com. We have experienced several episodes in this area in recent years including the May 24th, 2011 super cell explosion that one weather service meteorologist described to me saying "we came real close" when I asked about the potential for a violent tornado that evening at a recent storm spotter class. Roanoke, which is famous today for "Babe's Chicken" and a host of other good eats, has seen a rapid expansion over the last 10 years. The Texas Motor Speedway is located just outside of Roanoke to the west. The speedway sits on land near an area once known as the community of "Elizabeth" which left the "Elizabeth Cemetery". According to
Significant Tornadoes  the F4 tornado on April 20, 1912, began 7 miles west of Roanoke and passed close by the community of Elizabeth, heading due east. Grazulis description of the tornado as an 18 mile track "very large and intense" twister sent chill bumps racing down my arms as I first read about it. After reading it I thought about all of the modern housing additions in that area should an intense tornado take a similar path today. The April 20, 1912 storm leveled and swept away at least five farm homes on it's path, "but the roar alerted most residences" that it was coming. The tornado missed Roanoke, by one 1/2 mile in an area today that would likely be where Hwy.114 intersects with Hwy. 377  near a shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Its path took it toward what the book describes as "Flour Mound" which is surely the town we know as Flower Mound, Texas. When it arrived in "Flour Mound", it killed one boy and injured his family before the funnel lifted. It is also said to have "maimed or killed hundreds of farm animals" in the extremely rural area of the day. The tornado was preceded by another intense F4  tornado in Wise County that night that killed 4 and injured at least 10 near the town of Boyd, TX. It appears that they were part of an outbreak that occurred with 14 tornadoes recorded in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In fact, Wise County had two tornadoes that night, both likely spawned by the same super cell as it moved along.

History tells us a story as we move through this life. If we pay attention, we can prosper from the knowledge we have of past events. For a small community of rural farms outside of Roanoke, Texas in 1912, the night of April 20, 1912 was undoubtedly seared in the minds of many of the residents for the rest of their lives. Personally responsible citizens who built storm shelters, the miss on Roanoke and the rural location which remained that way as recently as 18 years ago, very likely kept the death toll to a minimum back then. But, I still wonder what would happen today if a violent 1/2 mile wide Tornado took the same path.  The lack of personal responsibility today, a growing population, questionable construction, no basements and few storm shelters might have catastrophic results in loss of life. When we blame it on "climate change" or say it has never happened before, I would encourage anyone to purchase a copy of "Significant Tornadoes" and look at the past tornadic events for your area. One thing for certain is that between 1896 and 1940, North Texas had tornadoes nearly every spring that caused significant damage. Some of the storms destroyed entire towns. History often repeats itself. Our fortunate situation of being blessed with a "capping" inversion in place has protected us countless times in recent years. For those of us who call the DFW area home today, we can learn from the 1912 event near Roanoke, Texas and plan accordingly because one day it will happen again.History teaches us it's just a matter of time.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Back in the late 1980s, the country group "Shenandoah" had a song that I just had to have on cassette tape (remember those) when it came out because it reminded me so much of my South Carolina roots.The entire tape was full of hits for the group, but one song in particular struck a cord with me. The song was called "Sunday in the South". In "Sunday in the South" it seemed Shenandoah provided a looking glass that when gazed upon, one was able to see nearly any small town in the South in all of its elements. The Sunday centered anthem spoke of the essence of southern communities which featured their faith, history, traditions, family, friends and food. It was simple, brilliant writing in telling the story of small town community and life.

Whenever I hear "Sunday in the South", one of the many memories that I recall include weekend family cook outs in the 1970s and 80s, when my grand parents were still alive and in good health. Sometimes this included family reunions, where we visited with cousins that came from as far away as Georgia or Maryland! Most of the time the cookouts included good friends as well. In nice weather, we almost always included cooking BBQ chicken in South Carolina's exclusive mustard based sauce. My grandfather, "Daddy Bob" had a way with cooking chicken halves and the caramelized coating that the mustard base sauce created was a delectable delicacy that would undoubtedly transcend the Palmetto state had it been tasted when properly served. I have converted many Texans to appreciate and even long for our South Carolina version of "Daddy Bob's chicken" most of whom equally long for Palmetto State style BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, but that is another story for another blog entry.

Growing up in the midlands of South Carolina, our preferred sauce was one created by the Bessinger family, because it had a slightly sweeter taste that blended with the vinegar and mustard base. On occasion we used other mustard based sauces from around the region, but we almost exclusively used Bessinger's sauce throughout the decades. Our cookouts generally consisted of cooking on more conventional methods such as a couple of grills. But in the South it is quite common to still see larger "pits" especially in rural areas for community wide cookouts. Most of what we cook on a Weber is grilled, but you can  also slow cook indirectly and true BBQ is actually "low and slow" or cooked for a long time on lower heat. In the old days, "pits" generally consisted of a concrete block, and sometimes brick, "pit" usually at least 10 to 15 feet long  and about waist high that you could cook several whole hogs on top of the heavy catwalk style grate over the shoveled coals.  Nearly every church building or community center had a pit such as this that the men constructed. You will also see these traditional "pits" in the German Hill Country of Texas where they cook pork along with beef,chicken, and turkey. I am not sure when those boys mixed the tomato based sauce into the mix, but word has it that Saluda County, S.C. natives W.B. Travis and J.B. Bonham, definitely had some of the Palmetto State's mustard based sauce with them at the Alamo! Seriously, before I am banished from the Lone Star State, let me say that I am only kidding and that one of our favorite spots in Texas is  City Meat Market in Giddings, TX .  They cook on a traditional style pit as many of the German Czech meat markets doubled as some of the best BBQ joints you have ever eaten at. I am sure some of the same settlers that settled the Hill Country of Texas, had relatives in  South Carolina and the rest of the south because you see the same style pits in both places.

 When I was growing up we always used Weber grills because of the fabulous way the kettle cooked the chicken. Weber Kettle grills are an American icon with many of them lasting the original owners lifetime. Today, I use a vintage Weber kettle grill that we have owned for over 20 years. We use it mainly when we are cooking burgers, hot dogs or a small amount of chicken or steak. We also have a custom built larger direct pit for grilling steak directly over mesquite, and a custom made indirect "Texas" style pipe cooker  that my father-in-law had constructed over 20 years ago that was passed down to us about 12 years ago. We use it for the S.C. style pork butts and Texas style beef briskets, ribs, and sausage when we are cooking BBQ for our family and friends. If you are unfamiliar with them, traditional Weber grills are a kettle style BBQ"oven". Our vintage model has three individually controlled aluminum dampers on the bottom that are basically temperature control knobs that control air flow. We recently purchased new Weber grates, handles and a cover for our grill and then we spent an afternoon "restoring" it because our classics's wooden handles were rotting away. With a little elbow grease the old Weber cleaned right up and one of the first things we cooked on it was "Daddy Bob's Chicken". My chicken just never seems to be quite as good as his was though, or at least that's the way I remember it. I think we all do that with loved ones that only speak to us in our distant memories. And as a child, on summer evenings after a big meal of BBQ chicken, we would often sit on the concrete patio at Daddy Bob's and Nanny's and listen to distant whippoorwills call out and watch the fireflies.
"I can feel the evening sun go down,
And all the lights in the houses one by one go out
Softly in the distance nothing stirs about
And the night is filled with the sound of a whippoorwill".