They Don't Make Fans Like They Used To

A San Leandro collector shows off a vintage fan that has the weight of a boat anchor.


The collector at Sabino's Coffee Shop didn't want to share his name or face but he would not stop talking about his 1908 General Electric tabletop fan.

"Go ahead, pick it up," he urged.

It was a two-handed job. The fan weighed about 30 pounds. It was made out of brass, with silent ball bearings that allowed the rotor to spin without quivering. It was driven by a big yoke motor, with lubrication points in front and back.

"Keep it oiled up and it'll run forever," he promised.

Forever is a long time.

But in this age of plastic parts and planned obsolescence, a 104-year old fan is singular find.

If you buy a fan this summer, how long would you expect it to last?

Our reclusive collector said he paid $250 for his vintage fan (plus shipping) and polished it up. He estimated that it would now fetch upwards of $500 if he were willing to part with it -- which he is not.

Have you got an oldie but goldie in your life? It could be a car, a sewing machine, a comb, a set of dishes or any manufactured good,.

Email a picture and a brief story to Patch with the subject line: Made to Last.

To read more about the big yoke motor, visit the Early Electric Fans blog. The attached YouTube video shows a 1908 GE fan in action.

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