Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Antique Robbins & Myers Fan

This post will be a bit of a quickie house-related find and restoration. Basically, if you know me well enough, you know I love all types of old stuff (tools, lamps, clocks, furniture, etc) and I've wanted to get an antique desk fan for about 1-2 years. Lately there are stores that sell modern copies (places like Restoration Hardware, or Pottery Barn) but nothing beats the real thing.

As is usually the case, the older fans are the nicer ones. I'd really love an early 1910 era fan with the brass blades and the old telephone style pedestal; like these ones below:

Source: http://earlyfans.blogspot.ca/2011/10/robbins-myers-list-1404-desk-fans-1911.html

... but what I ended up finding isn't quite as showy (as you'll see below).

There are plenty of available fans on the web that I could have bought (eBay and Etsy are loaded with them and they range in price from 20$ to 600$), but the main problem with them is the WEIGHT. These old fans have heavy cast metal bodies (the ones above are cast iron), and they usually weigh well over 20Lbs. This makes shipping them insanely expensive. In my case, one of the quotes I got was 75$ USD for the shipping. That's a bit much.

On Friday, I decided to visit Johnson's Antiques (since I haven't been in over a year), and I came across this wonderful, but severely neglected fan. I recognized the logo of Robbins & Myers from previous "vintage fan" web searches, and since it was marked down from 95$ to 50$, I decided to go back and pick it up (with Mom) when we were on our way to a family BBQ at my aunt's.

Here's pretty much the only "before" photo I took. I had a few other detail shots, but they all turned out a bit blurry/crappy. Basically, it was absolutely filthy, the cage was covered in rust (and bent), and it really needed some love.

The power cord on it was SO BAD that I couldn't even try it out to see if it worked. In this photo you can also see how dirty the base was.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the really awful rust on the cage came off fairly easily (I won't even lie though: this still took HOURS).

The original info plate (under the motor portion of the fan at the back):

The paint/body cleaned up fairly well with some scrubbing, but I also polished it up a bit with some clear paste wax. I love the really Art Deco feel that's on the ribbing in the main body, and on the switch.

Main logo/plaque (I had to remove it to clean the rusty cage):

Overall the fan came out looking pretty great! The paint looks pretty decent, and it's still the original colour (metallic brown), the cages cleaned up nicely, and I rewired it with a vintage cloth (repro) power cord (which I already had on hand).

I did a bit of research and the fan dates to around the late 1930s, to mid 1940s. It has a metal hook under the base that lets you be able to wall-mount it, which is pretty cool.

This video shows a very similar R & M fan, and how to switch it to a wall-mount. My fan has the exact same setup.

The head tilts quite nicely, and locks in very securely with a huge wing nut (this isn't your typical cheapo plastic set screw).

And does it run? You bet! It pushes a LOT of air, and it's fairly quiet. There is one blade that's a bit off, so the cage rattles, but I can probably make a few more adjustments. I also need to see if I can find someone who can fix a few of the welds on the back portion of the cage, since that isn't helping the rattling.

Overall, well worth my 56$ and I'm sure this fan will last me a lifetime. I'd still want one with brass blades though, so I'll still keep an eye out for one.


  1. Awesome cleanup job! Something about these old fans that takes you back to the time they were new. I have a R&M list 3000 up for sale brass blades and all. You can contact me at b2586bjp@live.com for pics and more info if you'd like.

  2. I have a Robbins & Myer desk fan but the plate says Springfield Ohio Made in USA
    The list no. Is 5612, do you know if this is an earlier version of the one you show?
    Great job on the cleanup!

    1. Hi, no idea. You would probably need to go by the serial number, but I don't know if anyone has those documented by year or not. R&M was a pretty big company that made LOTS of fans over quite a long period of time.

  3. I have a 6 foot Robbins & Myers stand up fan the model number is.AC24A6N SER. NUMBER IS. MM1363WK. F2236 FR.# KPB147 IT'S A FORM AVS AMPS.2.7 HP.1/5 CYC.60 VOLTS 100/120 I need to know how old it is its in perfect condition. You have to see to believe

  4. my husband brought home today the very same model from a yard sale, he only paid 10 dollars andit runs great,we are trying to find out what it's worth. We are not looking to sell but rather restore and keep for personal use in garage or on outside deck. Have you had any luck finding out it's value?

  5. Hello Jc,
    Hey any chance you have a picture of the wiring in the base? Have the same fan and I'm unsure of what wires the power cord hooks to.

    1. Hi Jamey. The wiring arrangement is pretty complicated. The power cord has the black (hot) wire connected to the switch, with the white (neutral) connected to the green wire returning from the motor (which uses a red, white and green wire). If that's no help, you'll have to send me an e-mail so I can send you photos. It's in my "about" section.