Thursday, February 17, 2011

The GE "pancake", 1894-1908

An excellent AFCA post about GE pancakes by pancake expert Kim Frank.  Be sure to read this:

Last updated 2-8-17
Highly revered among collectors, the early General Electric desk fans known as a "pancake" are one of my favorites.  As far as early fans go, they are common enough so they can be found at a somewhat high but still affordable cost.  They have been named "pancake" by collectors due to their relatively thin but large diameter motor.  With a single motor bearing instead of one at the front and rear of the motor as is far more common, they have a unique appearance.  Other companies made pancake style motors; Westinghouse, Emerson (Trojan), Holtzer Cabbot, and a few others during the very early, c.1900, time period.

To cover all the models and variations of the GE pancake might take a large book.  I hope to, in time, show many of the models and variations.  Different versions were made in 10", 12", 14" and 16" sizes, with solid, swivel, or swivel-trunnion frames.  There were some wall mount bracket pancakes and even a 10" spring mounted fan where extra quiet was desired such as in a telephone booth.

Possibly my favorite pancake is not a particularly rare one, nor one of the expensive ones, this 1900 GE "stick mount" pancake to the right and below.  This model is able to swivel about its vertical axis but does not tilt up or down.  For that feature GE offered their "trunnion" model which had the motor sitting in a trunnion allowing the motor to tilt forward and backwards.   Thank you John Fetner for these photos and for selling me this nice original and smooth running pancake.

I especially like the smooth and simple design of the early pancake 12" motors.  For the 1901 and later model years a number of vent holes were added to the front and rear outside of the motor.

As with virtually all GE pancakes there are thumbscrew terminals at the rear of the motor where the power cord connects, completely exposed and live, with roughly 110 volts.  This is not your child-friendly desk fan.  You don't want to pick it up to move it without first thinking of what's back there to bite you.

I will mention briefly one exception to the statement that all pancakes have the exposed power terminals; the 1901-1903 stick mount 16" pancake does not have them and the power cord enters into the base through a grommet.  All wiring is within the base going up to the motor which is a rigid part of the motor casting.  Technically the 16" pancakes are not true pancakes as they have a double bearing motor and a somewhat thicker motor than most 10", 12", and 14" models.

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.

Both black japan and nickel plating were used on the GE pancakes off and on prior to 1899 when the brass parts were left plain with a lacquer or gilt finish.  The first pancakes from 1894 through the middle of 1897 had a single speed motor.  In mid 1897 the bulge was added to the rear of the motor which housed a regulator coil with a two speed switch in the center.  In 1902 GE fans got a 5 speed switch and, in 1903, the rear motor bulge was eliminated with the speed coil and switch being placed in a larger, higher base.  5 speed pancakes were one of only a handful of fan makes to have 5 speeds.  Three speeds was more common on quality fans.

Now for one of the more popular GE pancakes, below, the fully ribbed base 1903 trunnion model.  This year the models started out with a fully ribbed base, cast hub blade, and 10 wire cage.  Later 1903 models introduced the partially ribbed base, stamped hub blade, and 8 wire cage with three cage struts and with a slightly modified cage badge but it is the former, earlier style that is the more desired among collectors.  In addition to the trunnion model a "stick" version was also made in most years of pancake production.

Early 1903 GE 12" pancake, 5 speeds

Above:  Rear of  the 12" pancake motor looks like this from 1903 through 1906.  In late 1906 or 1907 a simpler and less attractive motor design was used.  On the right is a photo showing the "notched clamp" introduced on the 1900 trunnion models to help hold the fan motor in position on the trunnion when the brass wing bolts were tightened.  The rippled washer has an extended arm which goes downward and is slipped over a protruding pin on the side of the trunnion arm.

This version of the GE cage badge was used on the 10 wire cages from 1899 and about halfway through 1903 when the 8 wire cage was introduced.   The badge is unique to these models only although the method of attachment to the cage was different; 1899-1901 cage badges had a thin brass strip soldered to the back of the badge which then clipped to a small open ring on the cage.  For 1901-mid 1903 the notched washer and nut was used to attach the badge to the cage center via a threaded stud soldered to the rear of the badge as shown in the photo above.  Badges of this era show a little finer detail overall and finer dots than on later badges.

GE cage construction for the years 1901-1907 was as shown in the left photo above.  Instead of the 'S-wires' being wrapped around the rear cage ring as was done prior to 1901 and after 1907 the wire was 'pinned' or riveted through the rear cage ring.  The portion entering the rear ring was narrowed down slightly to fit a hole drilled in the ring, the wire was inserted and then slightly peened over to make the wire tight.

One serious flaw in this construction is that it is a weak connection and, with any moderately rough handling of the cage, or if the fan falls over, the joint is likely to break right at the front side of the rear ring.  Always check for broken wires here.  A somewhat suitable repair can be done by shortening all wires, necking them down, and reinserting them in the rear ring.  Only upon close inspection will you notice that the depth of the cage is about 3/32"" less than original.

The right photo, above, shows the brass 'oil guard' just behind the blade hub.  Its purpose was to return to the oil cup under the bearing any excess oil from the front of the bearing.  The backside of the fan hub had two grooves in it to spin off any leaking oil into the oil guard from which it would run down the little spout into the top of the oil cup.  A small recess in the oil cup had a tiny hole drilled through into the oil reservoir.  The oil guard was an improvement added to 1900 model pancakes and was continued for the rest of production.  It is a press fit onto the front plate of the motor.

The GE pancake below is a real oddball and the only one I have seen; a 1905 stick mount with fully ribbed base.  Only upon close examination of the photos (from ebay 2-11) did I realize the fan is probably not a mix of 1903 and 1905 parts but an actual "made in 1905" pancake using some older parts.  This fan is a "swivel" model which became less common than the "swivel and trunnion" model.  Both models were offered in most years starting c.1897.  Due to the different construction of the motors between the two frame styles, the motor tags were different until, I think, the 1905 models where the same tags appears to have been used.  The "swivel" frame pancakes through 1904 used a thin brass strip tag that wrapped almost all the way around the motor and was held captive between the front and rear motor castings instead of being held on with two small screws.

There is nothing really unusual from this view, above, of the fan.  It could be a normal mid-1903 year pancake with the new stamped hub blade and 8 wire cage but it isn't- see why below.  The four strut motor gave way to three struts in mid 1903. 

Left:  The motor tag is of the 1905 and later style with no FORM letter.  The serial number 230058 is well into the 1905 year and the tag is riveted to the steel band used on post-early 1904 pancakes. (click on photos to enlarge)

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.

Some notes on the brass finish of pancakes:
The lacquer used to coat brass parts of GE pancakes does not seem to be very durable unlike some other makes which makes determining the actual finish on the brass difficult.  Recently I had the chance to see a very original and unmessed with 1903 pancake.  The finish, and a pretty fair amount of it was intact, was unmistakenly "polished and lacquered brass" and a full, high gloss polish.  This somewhat surprised me as most of the original pancakes I have prior to 1904 did not show much if any remaining "polished" brass even though GE catalogs stated "polished brass fan, guard, and trimmings" (1899 and 1904 catalogs).  The 1905 GE catalog states "Lacquered brass fan, guard, and trimmings".  My original finish 1905 pancake shows a finish looking something like gilt and which seems to have been the finish used through about 1915-16 on GE brass blade fans.  That finish is clearly not "polished" brass.  Whether the "gilt" finish was some kind of lacquer or a paint I do not know.

Dating GE pancakes (alternating current models):

1894-95 models  These first GE pancakes are very different in appearance from later pancakes.  1894 models were made for 125 cycles only and carried a 10" fan.  The 1895 models were made in 10" and a new 12" model was added.  Unique to these two years was a fancy cast and nickel plated name plate on the rear of the motor.

There was no brass or nickel band around the motor on the 10" models but the 1895 12" model did have a brass band around the motor.

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.

All GE "fan motors" had 6 blade fans from 1894 through 1898 after which all fans were of four blades starting with the 1899 models.  The 1894-95 models had a solid frame with no provision to rotate the motor upon the base or to tilt it.

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.

The line cord would be attached to the two terminals on the base.  The two speed switch knob is at the bottom of the wall base.  Power to the motor would exit the base between the two terminals and be attached to the two terminals on the rear of the motor.  In this photo the motor appears to be much thicker than a typical 1899 motor but most of the earlier motors were thicker.  I might assume that this is actually an older motor.  The four blade fan is new for 1899 replacing the previous 6 blade fans used on all pancakes prior to 1899.  Original wall mount pancakes are scarce.

1900 models, below, are similar to the 1899 ones.  Changes included making the rear ring of the cage of a larger diameter wire, slotted acorn nuts on the motor replaced the smooth nuts, return to the under-mounted oil cup, and the solid frame 12" pancake was now a swivel frame using the same partially ribbed base as the trunnion motors had since 1896.  The base was about a half inch taller then the older smooth base.  Other changes were a notched clamp on one side of the trunnion used to help hold the motor in a position on the trunnion, a new blade hub with grooves at the rear end which was to keep oil from moving to the hub spider and blades where the oil could be thrown around the room.  An oil return collar was now press fitted to the front of the motor in front of the bearing to catch oil thrown from the grooves on the blade hub and direct it back into the top of the oiler.  The motor was still devoid of the vent holes that would appear on the 1901 models.  The cage badge was held to the cage with the same method as in 1899.  Last year for S-wires to be wrapped around the rear cage ring.  1900 trunnion motors have a 7" long motor tag.

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
Swivel 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.

Below are the two different base castings, early on the left, later on the right.  A slight modification was made and the OFF tag redesigned so it would "smile".  The OFF tag on the left was a carryover from the 1902 back switch pancakes where it was mounted above the switch and, thus, the downward curvature.  From fairly early after the 1903 models were introduced the OFF tags were as in the right photo through the end of pancake production in early 1908.

About mid-year of 1903 some changes were made, possibly over a short period of time and not all at once:  A new cage now had eight S-wires instead of ten.  The badge was slightly different and an integral part of the cage, no longer held on by a small stud and nut.  The blades' cast hub was changed to a stamped brass hub.  The motor now sported three instead of four cage struts with one strut located at the top of the motor and the others at the lower sides of the motor.  The base lost its full ribbing with the lower part of the base being smooth.  The motor tag remained of plain brass with all the data stamped in it.  The regulator coil in the base was held in place with brass strap brackets.  "FORM C" will be stamped on 1903 motor tags.  The small brass "OFF" tag at the switch knob was riveted on with the ends of the tag curling upwards with the introduction of the half ribbed base in mid-1903.  The full ribbed bases have the OFF tag screwed to the base with adjustment slots in the plate.  The curve at the ends of the OFF tag could be either upwards or downwards on the full ribbed bases.  

1904 models continued in the mold of the later 1903 GEs with the partially ribbed base but with some minor changes.  Very early models still used the plain brass motor tag which was soon changed to a smaller etched brass tag with a black oxidized background.  The tags for 1904 are marked "FORM D" and would be the last GE motor tags until the mid-teens to have a FORM letter.  The regulator coil was held in place as for the 1903 models but the clips changed from brass to steel as shown below.  The porcelain switch now had mounting ears on it.  The very bottom rim of the base is much narrower than on the 1903 fully ribbed base models.

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.

Below is a comparison of the bases of a fully ribbed 1903 and partially ribbed 1904 and 1905 models.  The 1903 has the unpolished brass clips to hold the coil in place, the 1904 uses painted steel clips, and the 1905, with its new cardboard molded cover, uses a new cone shaped clamp piece on both sides of the coil.  This particular fan has a black painted brass cone but I have seen cone clamps made of steel.  Such a clamp is on a fully ribbed 1903 pancake I have but I suspect that it may have been a modification years ago.  The clamps are interchangeable among the different years of base switch pancakes.
(As with most of the blog photos you can click to enlarge them.)

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 oil cup on this fan has been screwed
into the threaded hole above the bearing
where there should be a screw that holds
the bearing in place.  Being as how the
oil cup threaded hole below the bearing
and the set screw hole above the bearing
have the same thread size the oil cup
and the set screw are sometimes found
in each other's place.  The oil cup should
be under the bearing on all pancakes
except for the 1899 models that used
a GREASE CUP above the bearing.

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.

The last patent date on this motor tag, June 25, 1901, was used on all GE fan motor tags from 1902 to 1913 leading many to believe any fan with that date was made in 1901.  It is not that simple to date GE fans and the patent date
only means that a fan so marked with that patent date, includes features of that particular patent.
GE trunnion motor tags were always screwed to the motor after the 1898 riveted tag.

Below is a 1907 model showing the condition I bought it in and the same fan after being restored by an AFCA member.

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.

Looking behind the cage badge you will see the brass disc used for the past few years which
is held in place by the small crimps around the outside of the rear of the badge.  Prior to the 1906
models the back of the cage badge was open exposing the eight "S" wires.
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.
"Colored motors available on special order"
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.

The fine gold striping is typical of early, hand applied striping and would account for the "gold" in the "white and gold" color.   The owner sent me these huge photos and, with his permission, I post them here.  He said he bought this white pancake off ebay around 2005 for a bit under $100 thinking it was just an old pancake that someone had painted white years ago.  He recognized it for what it probably is, the one and only known special color order pancake.  Of course there probably are a few others but I don't know anyone who has seen one.  Click on photos for larger versions.  Double click will get you even larger.
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.

added 2-8-17
Pancake expert Kim Frank posted this on the AFCA forum "Thoughts on a Pancake"  and it gives a good, simple, outline and evolving changes of the GE 12" pancakes.

"For me, trying to pick a favorite pancake would probably receive the same response. Here are some of my thoughts.....When you look at a Lynn Works, you have to marvel at the simplicity. 22 or so parts to that first fan, 12 of which are screws. Pure eye candy and a definite contender. The 96 - 98 12" trunnions have the beefier motor and the oval motor tag. The castings are more ornate and the six wing blades and large open ring cages complete the package. The 10 inch offerings for those years are stick mounts and have a character all their own. '97 was the first offering of a 3 position switch. These years could surely be considered as favorites. You have to appreciate the 1899 fans as they now become a bit more affordable to the collector. The stickmount has the appearance of the earlier ten inch fans, with the smooth base which becomes taller to accommodate the 12 inch blade. The trunnion mount carries the same look as it's earlier counterparts, except for the thinner motor housing, switch to a four wing blade, a new brass motor tag, and as mentioned, the grease cup. The GE badge makes it's appearance too. Sweet, sweet fans for sure. 1900 models are very nice. Both 12 inch models now have fluted bases and a return to the oil reservoirs. Motor tag on the trunnion becomes about an inch longer and the blade features two oil slinger grooves. These are also the last models of the 19th century. A definite maybe as a favorite.
    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..."

Thank you Kim, I'm sure readers will enjoy your musings.

...To be continued with additional information added after I update the other blogs and add some new ones, please check back...  


  1. Again another very educational posting about an early fan. I have a GE Pancake also. Type AK Form C No.175680. It is a trunnion type with a partially ribbed basr. No thumbscrew to swivel it, but it has some sort of friction washer where the yoke meets the base. The off escutcheon is screwed on in smile position.
    I am amazed at how quiet it is, especially in slow speed, it runs slow and quiet like a ceiling fan. One concern I have with it is that there is a lot of in and out play on the shaft like it is missing some sort of spacer. It has three struts and I don't know if the cage is original to this fan. The badge is attached with the nut and washer. In some ways if I go by your description it seems to be transitional, as GE probably used parts up as they went along. (Sort of the way Model T's were assembled!).

  2. The friction washer you mentioned is probably the large slightly bent washer between the base and trunnion and used to provide some friction at the joint while allowing the trunnion and motor to rotate on the base. Pancakes are, as you say, very quiet on their slower speeds. I run some of mine on high but using a Variac to adjust the voltage for the slower speeds that I like to run mine on. A favorite fan for many collectors! For your excessive end play in the blade check to see that the blade is on the shaft as far as it will go if you have a cast hub blade. Hold the rotor forward in the motor with a pencil, etc. and tap gently on the blade hub to seat the hub on the motor shaft then tighten the set screw well. Since you can't see the end of the motor shaft with a cast hub blade you can't be sure it's all the way on unless the fit is a very easy slip. With the later stamped hub blades just line up the end of the motor shaft with the front of the hub. Behind the blade hub there should be a thick (about 3/32") fiber washer slipped onto the motor shaft. Perhaps that's missing? If you or anyone wants to email me just phone me (# is in my very first "Welcome to my Blog' post and I will let you know my email address.

  3. i have an emerson 12666 3 blade with a missing nut in the cage and a frayed cord, other than that in great condition. Anyone want to help me out wiht an estimated value?

    1. I do not do appraisals here as there are too many things to consider regarding condition of an antique fan. You say your Emerson 12666 is a "3 blade" which makes me wonder if half the wings on the blade are missing. That alone would greatly decrease the value. The 12666 is a highly desirable and rare fan and usually fairly high priced. Prices vary depending on condition and other factors. Ebay will often give a good indication of values for "sold" items.

  4. I have a General Electric (Antique) 4 blade fan. The brass identification plate is mounted on the base, just below the switch. It is just a single speed. The CAT number is 42X548. There are two other numbers on the plate. One of them is No. V49998 and the other is SPEC 272526-1. The base appears to be black or very dark green. Same with the fan blades. It will oscillate. The blade cage is held on by 4 screws on the motor housing.

    Can anyone tell me what year it might have been manufactured and/or what the numbers on the ID plate mean?

  5. I found this video that is of a fan with the same catalog number as yours:
    The fan is from 1934-35 the best that I can tell. Just two weeks ago I found a non-oscillating version of your fan, Cat 42 x 542 in great shape. With a 10" aluminum blade which I assume is the same blade size as on your fan. The "V" number is probably a serial number but I have never discovered what the SPEC No. is. Probably fans built to the same exact specification had the same SPEC No. Some GE pancakes, for instance, have a SPEC No. on the motor tag while others do not. I had a fan that was probably just like your oscillator but sold it around 4 years ago. Nice simple fans with a neat old appearance. Be sure to clean out the old hardened grease in your fan's gearbox and replenish by coating the gears well with a good multipurpose grease. Also, clean out the oil cup and replace or clean in solvent the felt wick. 20 wt. non-detergent oil goes in there or Zoom-Spout oil from many hardware stores.

  6. I am looking for a wiring diagram for a 1903 model. I need to wire the switch in. Can anyone help me with where to obtain a diagram of how to wire the switch in? Thanks!

    1. Hi Beth, I apologize for the long delay in replying to you. I don't think wiring diagrams can be placed in a reply to a comment but have just added a CONTACT ME form at the top page of my blog. If you will contact me I will have your email address to send what I hope will help you. Please put in the message box what you are needing.

  7. Hello Steve,
    Thanks for the while lot of information. I just found one if these pancake fans that's we've had for quite a long time unnoticed. My only problem is is that I can't seem to find one like the ones you posted. I mean, it's similar, but I just can't identify it.
    For one, it's a four blade model. It has a fully ribbed base. It has a 10 bar cage. It's 16 inches. I'm not sure if how many speeds it has, as it is not oscillating, but I believe it would still work if the wiring could be fixed. It's fully brown minus of course the brass cage, blades and fittings. It has those fastener things you wrote of on the front and back of the motor. It has cream coloured hand-painted sparse pin striping around the base, the motor and the rear and front of the motor vents where it almost looks like a flower.
    I'd love to know exactly what it is and it's value (fixed or not).
    Maybe it would be easier if I sent some pictures if you're interested in helping or maybe you can just decipher what I'm talking about from my terrible description. Either way, thank you very much for your time.

  8. I just added a CONTACT ME form at the top right of my blog pages. If you will use that form I will get back to you so you can email me photos of your GE pancake. It sounds like your fan was custom painted at one time but GE did offer a few colors (wine red, white, royal blue- all with gold pinstriping- but not brown). I wonder if GE would do custom colors too.

  9. Steve hi my name is Derek, I live in the UK, and I have taken up restoring old fans as a hobby, now that i'm retired, I would appreciate your help, I have acquired what looks like what you fan collectors in the USA call a pancake,and I am trying to identify it,i have just started trying to clean the fan, its very , very, dirty,and looks very old, it has no nameplate that I can see,the only clue is the round brass plate under the on/off switch,which has three letters on it that look like EMC,and around these letters are the three speed positions and back to off,the fan has brass blades that have been bent a bit,and it has front and back oilers, that I have removed for cleaning,and they have a spring with a wick attached,one other thing , the S wires that mske up the fan guard, it has nine ,and none are missing, as the center ring indicates this , there are no empty holes/ gaps in it.
    would appreciate any help you give me,
    OH, nearly forgot I cant find a supplier if wicks in the UK,and I think they are 3/16", could you help with this by telling me how I could get some sent from the States.
    I have pics of the fan I could send.

    1. Hi Derek,

      Yes, please send me some photos of your fan. You can send me your email address via the CONTACT ME form at the top right of my blog page. I am wondering if your fan could be a Dutch E.M.I. fan of which many were of the pancake style and very nice fans.

      Darryl Hudson sells felt wick material. His site is
      You also might find some locally by searching for a supplier of FELT. Here in the US both and carry felt wicking but they may had a minimum order.


      Darryl's felt:
      White, 1/8" dia…………………………………………………………. $3.50/ft. # WWM1
      White, 3/16" dia……………………………………………………… $4.00/ft. # WWM2
      White, 1/4" dia………………………………………………………. $4.50/ft. # WWM3

  10. Steve hi , its Dek from the uk, sorry about the late reply ,I have been away for a week,i think the Pancake I am working on could be a very early GE,i will send pics to your email , thanks for any help you can give me , I have ordered wicks from the USA,i have had the fan rewired while being away, by a qualified electrician.
    I is a three speed , but only works at one speed, so I am having the speed windings in the base rewound, there are two separate coils in the base, and the round porcelain switch ,the cover from the base was missing so I made a new one today from steel plate 1.5 mm thick,and will cover the inside surface with 2mm thick high density fibre board glued to the inside of the new cover plate.

  11. Hi Steve i'm Derek from the UK, did you get my email address I sent it using the email send at the top of your blog page, in cas it did not get through here it is again , but please don't publish this on the blog,if you could just email me I will send the pics of the pancake fan i'm working on.our email is in my wifes name by the way.-----

  12. Hi Steve.

    from Stuart in Australia.

    I have a 1903 Pancake which I bought years ago in the US. It is running (very fast in fact) but the speed switch does not change the speed. I've checked the wiring and am sure all is OK. I guess this means the speed regulator coil is not working. I am unable to find a source for a replacement on the web, so I was hoping you could tell me how these are constructed and work as I have not wanted to tear it apart. I am guessing it is many winding of insulated wire with "T" junctions every so many rotations, with the lengths of wire between each adding resistance to lower the voltage. (I am not an electrician and this may be entirely wrong.) Finally do you know of a source for a new coil or, as a lst resort, is there a modern wiring that would suit the purpose?

  13. Addendum from Stuart,
    the wires from the coli to the switch are all just a single thread.

    1. Stuart, I can find and collect old fans, turn them on and run them, and clean and straighten the blades and cage but, when it comes to the wiring I am somewhat of a novice. Here is a thread on our Antique Fan Collectors Association forum that should be of help to you and your pancake.

      You didn't say if you have a 12" or a 16" pancake but new speed coils can be obtained from Sartron:

      *fan forum post by 'john'...
      GE speed coils complete with switch wiring diagram and marked coil wires.
      Contact Tim at Sartron...
      Send them a check... Excellent quality!!

      This is what I bought for a 12" 1903 GE Cake:
      Hi John, We do wind a speed coil for GE Pancake fans.
      It's our P/N 7526 and they sell for $75.00 which includes postage. (Note, Sartron also has speed coils for 16" pancakes but the price may be somewhat higher. Be sure to specify what fan you have and if two or five speed. Also, shipping out of the USA may not be included in the coil's cost.)
      Our address is-
      Sartron, Incorporated
      114 North Main Street
      Newberg, Oregon 97132 ·
      (503) 538-3191

  14. Anybody know where I can get a replacement switch for a GE pancake fan?


  15. Anybody know where I can get a replacement switch for a GE pancake fan?


  16. I think your best chance is to keep an eye on the forum of the Antique Fan Collectors Association for any availability of a switch. I think a new second batch of switches may be forthcoming in the next year from a member who had made a batch of something like 50 switches a few years ago. They are long ago sold out and, with a good demand for pancake switches, I think you will see some available in the next year. You might pry one away from someone who bought from the first batch and would be willing to sell an unused switch.

  17. Steve, I just bought my first pancake but it is a stump at this point. I have located a tag that is 1906, but I have a feeling it is later 1906. The serial is 254002 on the original replacement tag I have located, and mine is the earlier model with brass struts I believe, so I was going to ask you is you thought that tag would correspond with brass struts on a 1906, or if I am SOL on getting that old tag and need to get Donald to do me a new one with a lower serial number? If so I want to get the number close to one with brass struts for sure, I want this fan to be as correct as I can get it all but the switch and coil, which I am going to make from modified parts off a switch I found that is porcelain and has the correct alignment of the speed positions to match the original switches with 360 degrees of rotation and with a cardboard bottom cover you'll never see it. Here is a long to it, let me know what you think -

    Thanks for the help Steve if you happen to have time to look at your fans.

  18. How you doing Cory? The only reference to pancake and many other GE serial numbers are in an old survey done by an AFCA member years ago but it's probably fairly accurate. He lists the 1906 pancake numbers in the range 238000 to 277000 and I assume that is approximate and, also, that GE may have had some pancakes with higher serial numbers with brass struts and lower serial numbers with the later steel struts; it all depends on how they assembled the fans and if cages and struts were added just before shipping or at the time the whole fan was built. I would say that the tag you have located could be for either brass or steel struts. Suggestion, post on the AFCA forum looking for members to tell you their serial number and what their strut material is. That way you could narrow it down to when the change in struts vs serial numbers took place. Ask if anyone has a pancake near your number and what material the struts are made of. Good luck and get that pancake finished up and running, they are among the neatest fans ever.

    1. Cory, about the switch you found in your link above; I think it might work fine. I had bought a ceramic switch as an extra in case I found a pancake without a switch but ended up selling. The problem with that switch was that it was very stiff in turning although it would have worked and the person I sold it to did put it in a pancake. If there are no reproduction of an original pancake switch that should work fine. In time I think someone will make more reproduction pancake switches as was done a few years ago. If you can get that switch mounted in your pancake it should work. Pancake reproduction switch knobs are available in both sizes and can't be told from the originals.

  19. I believe mine is a 1908. Can anyone verify what makes the 1908 different than other years?. What's neat about my fan is my Mom's great grandmother purchased this fan new.

  20. Bill, I am drawing a blank here to come up with some details to help you with your fan. I think the pancake in a 1908 GE catalog were like the 1907 models but I am not sure. Compounding the matter is the fact that what is shown for illustrations in some GE catalogs are the last years' models. 1907 is the latest pancake I ever had so I'm afraid that I cannot be of much help here. If you want you can use the CONTACT ME form at the top right of my blog pages and send me your email address. I'll send you mine and then you can send me some photos of your fan.

  21. Good evening, I have been handed a GE Pancake Fan #174091 Swivel-trunnion 13" cage 4 12" blades Cage construction is "s-wires" there are brass thumbscrew terminals on rear of motor where power cords connect. The off switch plate it turned up like a smile the base is half ribbed. There is a brass disk on the rear of the "GE Badge". Although I have learned a lot about these fans with the above article, I am very confused, the brass plate states the last pat# in June 1901 but the article says that might not mean that it was made in 1901... so is there someone I can send pictures to that could tell me what I have... it will need new wiring although original wiring is all there but it isn't something I would plug in.. Thank you for your article and thank you for letting me know what I can do next to figure out this master piece..

  22. Nice post thank you Stacey

  23. I have a ge fan with serial number 506 750 and it’s a big motor yoke with three rubber feet. How do I know the age of it?


I welcome comments, corrections. or new information.