For many years I have had a weak spot for vintage fans. Fifteen years ago I brought a large black 1940s streamlined American desktop fan back from a visit to Israel – carrying it aboard the plane as hand luggage. I still use it today with a heavy, buzzing streamlined Bakelite Czechoslovakian 220 to 110 Volts transformer. Then on a visit to Istanbul last year I spotted another beautiful desktop fan in a little barbershop complete with a couple of vintage barbershop chairs. The old man who so perfectly fitted the vintage interior was actually willing to sell me the fan, but after returning the following day he had to turn me down. His wife had refused since the treasured fan had belonged to her late father. Perhaps for the best, it would have been a crime to remove it from the romantic little barbershop.
This year in Italy I came across a couple of similar fans at the Florence antiques market – stylish machines from cast aluminium with plastic propeller blades – encrust with the Marelli logo. Both fans have the same basic shape and differ only in the design of the grille surrounding the propeller and the electrics – one runs on 125 and the other on 220 Volts. I am particularly enchanted by the three delicate cast-aluminium arms, that curve outwards from the housing of the electric motor, and hold the grille in place. The housing of the motor sits on top of a strong aluminium arm that connects to a ball-and-socket-joint in the heavy-cast, streamlined aluminium foot. One plastic knob can be used to loosen and tighten the joint for adjustment; a second knob controls the 3-speed switch.
The fans were manufactured by the industrial concern Ercole Marelli S.p.A. from Milan. Industrialist Ercole Marelli founded the company in 1891 for the manufacture of electro-mechanical products, and produced fans for decades. My fans are of a model that originated in the early 1950s and must have been produced until at least the 1960s. Both fans seem to be in fairly good condition, but do need some cleaning and restoration work. The biggest concern is that on both fans one of the delicate aluminium arms is broken. The broken-off part is there for only one of the fans, but the antiques dealer is checking if he can find the second, still missing piece.