Any pancake prior to 1899 is a hard one to find. Here is an 1898 10" pancake and the last of that size made as a desk fan. It is also the last to use a 6 blade fan as GE changed to using 4 blade fans for all of the 1899 through 1907-08 models. The finish on this fan is believed to be all original. Photos courtesy of Paul Pierson. The fan is now in my collection after having been owned by several fan club members.
Right: A cardboard switch cover was used starting on the 1905 model pancakes. The round, conical shaped speed coil holder was first used on 1905 (maybe late '04) pancakes.
Below: Here's what is almost certain proof that this pancake was made in 1905. Note the thumbscrew at the top of the base neck and the two slotted screws immediately to the right. In 1903-04 the pancake bases had just the center (slotted) screw (compare this photo with the photo above of the early 1903 trunnion pancake base. The earlier base has just one slotted screw in the middle of the boss on the casting. In 1905 the base casting was modified to have a thumbscrew on the left while the original slotted screw was moved just to the right of where it had been in 1903-04. Here you see the original hole filled with another slotted screw. Since the thumbscrew and its placement did not happen until 1905, this base must have been modified by the factory in order to build this stick mount fan. Did GE not have any 1905 model stick mount castings and had to resort to using older castings for a limited run of these stick mount 1905 models?
Below: A 1905 base showing the modification of the screws at the top of the base- thumbscrew on the left and slotted screw on the right. Between the screws is the boss where the original, single (slotted) screw was located. In the early, modified base above, the original center screw hole has been filled with another slotted screw since the fully ribbed base was made with a screw hole in the center location.
Dating GE pancakes (alternating current models):
What you see to the left and below is a "fan outfit" comprised of a "fan" (blade) and "fan motor". Only years later did the terminology change where "fan" meant what we think of it today; the whole of the appliance consisting of a blade, motor, and base.
1896 models brought a new look to the GE pancake as well as the introduction of direct current (DC) motor pancakes which I will not cover at this time. A new trunnion frame (below) was introduced which allowed the motor to tilt up and down. This trunnion pancake carried a 12" fan, ran on only a single speed, and had no switch; you plugged it in when you wanted to run the fan.
The 10" model solid frame from 1895 was continued for 1896. Ball bearings were introduced on one of the new trunnion models while the other had parallel bearings. The 10" model retained the cast iron bearings used from 1894 with holes in the top of the casting to add oil to the bearings.
Left: The 1896 trunnion pancake had new motor castings and a different look. The data plate was now the "football tag" on top of the motor and the base was a new, partially ribbed style. There was no regulator coil to provide more than a single speed. Lubrication was now by underfeed oil cup with a felt wick to the bearing. For 1896 the cage was attached to the motor with four struts that were soldered to the rear cage ring. 60 cycle motors were now offered as well as for 125 cycles.
1897 models were the first to be provided with regulator coils contained in a new bulge on the rear of the motor with a two speed switch in the center. Fans for 1897 were black japanned and brass bearings were fitted to the motor. A 10" solid frame motor and the 12" trunnion frame were the two styles of AC fans. I do not have photos of the 1897 models to include here.
Right: Motor tag from an 1897 10" model. Acccurate dating can be done on many pancakes that have (not all do) the TYPE and FORM letters on the motor tag. This tag from a 10" solid frame model is TYPE U.I. FORM F. which is an 1897 model. Trunnion models used a different FORM letter (Form E) prior to the 1901 models.
1898 models continued with the 10" solid frame motor and the 12" trunnion frame motor. Fans and other brass parts were nickel plated as standard this year. This fan has been "decorated" by my cats. This is the most cat hair I allow to get on my fans before dusting them. Some details of this 1898 10" solid frame pancake follow.
With the rear motor plate removed from this 10" 1898 pancake you can see the inside of the motor construction. The large and heavy rotor is held by a single bearing attached to the front motor plate seen just ahead of the four arm spider of the rotor. The stator coils surround the motor and are usually very easy to remove from the motor housing. These coils just fell out when I was inspecting and cleaning the motor. The nickeled brass motor band has also been slipped off the iron core around the stator. Like most pancakes this one is a four pole motor. Six, eight, and ten pole pancake motors were made for other frequencies or for special slower running motors.
Above: You can see the porcelain 2 speed rotary snap switch in the center surrounded by the regulator coil which allows for two speeds. Beginning with the 1902 models a new 5 speed switch and 5 speed regulator coil were used but they look almost identical. At the bottom of the photo you can see how the two rear motor terminals where you connect power to the fan hook up to the switch. New regulator coils are being made by a company named Sartron but original switches are very hard to find.
Below: A small batch of new pancake switches to fit most models were made in 2010 by two AFCA members. They quickly sold out with indefinite plans for more to be made. Two photos show an original switch next to a new reproduction. Click on photos for larger view.
Cage struts on the 1898 models (right) were the same as for 1897 and an integral part of the cage.
1899 models are the first models with a cage badge and with 4 blade fans replacing the older 6 blade fans. This is an easy year to identify for it was the only GE pancake year that used a top mounted grease cup over the front bearing. There is no hole for a bearing set screw on the other (bottom) side of the bearing housing as in other years so an undermounted oil cup as used in 1896-1898 and 1900-1907 cannot be fitted to an 1899 model motor.
1899 was the first year that a cage badge was used. The early 1899 models, however, do not have the badge but have a small open ring cage- probably the same cage but without the badge being fitted. Most '99s will have the badge though a significant number of no-badge '99s turn up and mostly with lower serial numbers. The small open ring cage is NOT an 1898 model as was reported in older GE pancake research since the small open ring cage pancakes all have the top mounted grease cup which is identified as an 1899 model by a GE report dated 1900. The photos above show an early 1899 solid frame model (no cage badge yet) which continued with the smooth base from the previous 10" solid frame models but made about 1" higher than the 10" frame.
Below is an 1899 solid frame with the cage badge. The badge is held on to the cage with a small brass strip soldered to the center of the cage. Motor acorn nuts are still smooth without a screwdriver slot.
The trunnion frame model, left, no longer used the "football" motor tag which was replaced by a long sheet brass motor tag.
On the motor tag, right, note the TYPE UI and FORM F7. Types and Forms changed over the years. The FORM letter is the best method of dating a pancake. Solid frames were Form E and trunnion frames were Form F through 1900 models. Each year a subscript number was added after the first year of Form letters, 1896. 1899 was now Form F7 or E7. Some fan tags were not stamped with the appropriate Form sub-number after the letter for some reason. 1899 trunnion motors had a 6" long motor tag.
1899 was the last year the rear cage ring was made the same diameter as the front cage ring. Separate cage struts replaced the integral struts of previous years (and the soldered-on struts of 1896).
Trunnion mounted desk pancake fans could be converted to a wall mount using a special angle adaptor. When you ordered a fan made specifically to be wall mounted it came with a special base to mount on the wall that contained the switch as well as a special motor casting that did not have the switch in the back of the motor. This motor casting appears to be the same as used prior to later 1897 models when the back switch was introduced. Below is an image of an early 1899 wall mount pancake.
1901 models, below, were the first pancakes with large vent holes surrounding the motor front and rear. The partially ribbed base now had three holes added to allow for solid mounting to walls or other surfaces. The switch knob was considerably enlarged from the small knob used on 1897 through 1900 models (note: at least one pancake expert believes that the 1901 models retained the smaller switch knob yet I keep seeing mostly the large knob on so many existing 1901 models. Research is ongoing).
The cage badge was now held with a special nut to the center of the cage with a small stud soldered to the badge, an arrangement that would continue until about half way through the 1903 models when the 10 S-wire cage was replaced with an 8 S-wire cage. Cages starting this year had the ends of the S-wires narrowed slightly and inserted into holes in the rear cage ring then lightly peened instead of being wrapped around the rear cage ring. 1901 models are "FORM A". 1901 and 1902 trunnion motors have a 7-3/4" long motor tag. The easy way to tell a 1901 model from a 1902 is the lack of the small brass OFF plate just above the switch on the 1901 model. 1902 models have 5 speeds and the OFF tag or will have holes where an OFF tag was once attached.
|1901 trunnion frame pancake. This is the last year for the two speed switch.|
1902 models, below, are the first pancakes to have five speeds. A swivel frame model is shown here but the trunnion frame was also offered as in other years since 1896. Other than a new brass OFF tag on the rear of the motor just above the switch knob, the 1902 models are indistinguishable from the previous year's two speed pancakes. 1902 models have "FORM B" stamped on the motor tag.
|Swivel frame models used a brass band tag nearly encircling the motor|
in place of the shorter brass tag used on trunnion motors.
1903 models, below, brought a major change in the looks of GE pancake fans. The switch and regulator coil that had been in the back of the motor was moved to inside an enlarged base with full ribbing. The back of the motor was again flat much like the 1896 models but with a different venting design. The cage was still of the usual construction with the ten S-wires "pinned" to the rear cage ring and a fan blade with a cast hub.
Still available in "swivel" and "swivel and trunnion" models, the swivel is shown below, left. Note the motor tag used on the swivel frame models that wraps almost all the way around the motor and is held captive between the front and rear motor castings. The trunnion models had a shorter motor tag held on with two small screws and covering much of the top half of the motor circumference. The large brass wing screws only were used on trunnion models of the GE pancake.
|Swivel and Trunnion frame|
Under the base of switch-in-the-base pancakes will be the 5 speed regulator coil held in place with two brass clips, one under the coil. The early base switches do no have porcelain ears to mount to the later bases which had provisions for mounting through the switch ears. The power cord is connected to the two thumb nuts near the photo's bottom, below where the power goes to the switch and coil, then up to the rear terminals of the motor. As with all pancakes you don't want to touch the rear terminals on the motor which are carrying, in most cases, 120 volts and will give you a nice shock.
1905 models look nearly identical to the previous year's pancakes. Changes were a new, slightly narrower motor tag no longer marked with a "FORM" letter, a new cover under the base formed of grained black cardboard which covered the regulator coil and switch. Terminals for the power cord were left exposed under the base. The regulator coil was now held in place with a cone shaped retainer replacing the bent strap retainer used previously. Added to the top of the base was a new thumbscrew used to hold the fan in any position when rotated. There had been a slotted screw for that purpose which also acted to hold the base to the motor. The slotted screw on the 1905 models remained but was located to the right of the old boss for the screw used in 1904. The thumbscrew was located to the left of the old boss.
1906 models introduced a new, completely smooth base without the previous ribbing, new steel struts replacing the old brass struts although brass struts were used on earlier 1906 models, and a new single iron thumbscrew to lock in the tilt position on the trunnion models. The two brass wing bolts used previously were eliminated and the trunnion was supported by two brass large head screws. The motor remained as the late 1903 through the 1905 models until late in the model year when it may have been changed to the design used in 1907. The cage badge received a new sheet brass backing plate held in place by a few small crimps on the edge of the badge.
Scroll down past the 1908 models to the special white pancake to see a typical (other than the special white color), earlier 1906 model with the brass struts.
|The new steel thumb screw is shown on the left side of the |
trunnion and served to lock the tilt of the motor in place.
The bushing between the switch shaft and and base was
enlarged over the one used in 1902-05 making the
switch knob seem tighter in the base.
|Original black japan paint showing how |
rough the castings could be on pancakes.
|1906 steel struts. Note the poorly repaired|
cage wires. The "pinned" cage wires of the
1901 to 1907 pancakes are very prone to
breaking at the joint. A clean, nearly
invisible repair can be made if one
takes extra care and knows how to do it.
1907 models may have started out the same as the late1906 models. Somewhere in the year, if not early on, the design of the motor casing was changed to a simpler and smoother design. The struts were also changed, still of steel, to a unique design where the rear cage ring was held in place by a flat head machine screw. Loosening this screw slightly would release the cage. A wonderful design I think that was not used again on GE fans. The trunnion pivot screws were now made of steel instead of brass.
The 1907 pancake motor was changed to a simpler and smoother design for this trunnion
model. The cardboard cover under the base that was used on 1905-08 models is missing on this fan as is often the case.
|A nicely restored motor tag. Most restorers use paint on the tags|
although they originally had an oxide on them.
*1908 models. The 1908 GE catalog lists the pancake for the last time along with the newly introduced "Big Motor Yoke" design that was entirely new. I am not too familiar with the so-called 1908 pancake but believe it to be a swivel frame style with the "big ugly" motor which is plainer and uglier than the 1906-7 trunnion design. The 1907 style trunnion model seems to have been carried over into 1908 also. The 1908 model pancakes are scarce, probably due to them being a carryover model or to clear old stock from 1907 until the newly designed "Big Motor Yoke" models were made more available.
|A rear view that is hard to love. "Big Ugly" is a name that suits these last swivel mount pancakes.|
|The swivel frame model had an extra piece added into the neck of the base|
to take up the space that would be used by the trunnion on those models.
Most GE pancakes from 1904 and later were of the trunnion frame style.
|The usual brass motor tag was attached to a steel band with rivets|
on the later swivel frame models.
Below is what is thought to be an original "white and gold" pancake from 1906.
To the right is a page from a 1905 GE fan catalog.
Note where it says "Motors in any of the following special finishes can be furnished at an additional net price of $1.50:
-Royal blue and gold
-Wine red and gold
-White and gold
An additional note in the 1905 GE
catalog states "The fan, guard, and small trimmings will be nickel plated, on special orders only, for 50 cents net additional to price on each motor."
To date I am unaware of any pancakes that have shown up with these special finishes or with nickel plating with the exception of a single white pancake shown above and below.
In examining this pancake one can see that there is a very good or better chance that it is one of the special finish pancakes. There is no overspray on the motor tag, switch, inside the motor, etc.
Note: A DC "pancake" has shown up with what looks to be original "red wine and gold" paint under a poor flat black repaint. When the motor tag was removed the red was under the tag.
A new century ushers in some changes to the fans. Perimeter vent holes, beefier struts mounted to cast in bosses, trunnion tags become even longer. 1901 is a year that can be appreciated by collectors. 1902 models now feature a six position switch. Other visual cues are about the same as the previous year. The five speeds put these models in the running for favorite fan.
As a collector of pancakes, 1903 models seem to be in demand. I am always hearing other collectors say that they want a 1903 12 inch cake. My reply is "which one? '03 featured a lot of changes to the GE line. There's the early 1903 models, with full ribbed bases that now housed the switch and coil. Motor housings are sleeker now without the dome in the rear cover. Middle models feature a change to three struts. Late models have a half ribbed base and the eight wire cages and stamped brass blade hubs start to show up. All of these models are right up there as near and dear.
That being so, then the 1904 early offerings are the same as the late 1903. The only difference is Form letter. The only change to the later year model of 1904 is the change from the eight inch long brass motor tag to the much smaller motor tag. Both of these models are killer, imo. Not a lot of difference in the 1905s, except the loss of type and form letters on the motor tag and the appearance of a thumb screw and set screw in the neck of the base. You also start to see the use of brass shoulder screws to secure the motor to the trunnion, instead of those wonderful brass wing bolts. Cool fans for sure but I already miss those wing bolts. Maybe a contender in my book.
Now going into 1906, GE loses the ribs in the base but still uses the earlier motor housing. Not quite as cool as the earlier years, but hey, it's still a Pancake. Then comes mid year '06 and the motor housing becomes smooth. My very first Cake was this model. A 1906 2nd variant Canadian General Electric.....Big Ugly I think not.....Isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder? Like Chris says, with a bit of paint and some imagination, these can be made to look Hot. On that same note, there is nothing wrong with leaving them alone. Clean off the dirt and grime, put on a new cord and head wire, put in a new wick and it's good to go. Second variant 1906 morphs into the 1907 and 1908 models. The only change for these that I see are the struts, which are now using a beveled screw head to hold the cage to them. That's almost as good as some brass wing bolts..... I look at these late offerings as GE coming full circle, Look at a Lynn Works and you can make the comparisons. Smooth bases and housings. Simple lines.... Everything is about function over form. Contenders all the way.....
In my rambling, I haven't even mentioned the oddball fans, the Bracket fans, the Fishtails, the 14 and 16 inch stationaries and trunnions, or any of the other things you'll see with collecting Pancakes. So I guess I do have a favorite Pancake fan....but I'll keep it to myself.
They're all good, just some are better than others..."