History of the Ceiling Fan



Rotating ceiling fans are a souvenir of the 1860s and 170s of the American history: long before they operated on electricity, the rotating ceiling fans used to function on the classic design of running water turning turbines to activate a series of belts and straps which used to rotate the fan.

How Was It Made?

The ceiling fan in these days was but a flimsy two blade design, but could successfully be used to accommodate a large number of units in this turbine system.

So, more than households, ceiling fans were popular fixtures of:

  • Stores
  • Restaurants
  • Offices

A few of these contraptions have been preserved till date and can be observed at many southern regions of the USA.

Who Made It?

Philip Diehl is the pioneer and genius behind electrically operated ceiling fans. It was he, who in 1882 has adopted the electric motors of electric sewing machines and had tweaked it such as to make it useful for a ceiling fan.

With a designated motor unit for each fan in use, Philip Diehl did away with the need for complicated straps and running water run turbines.

The Market for Ceiling Fans

While Philip Diehl himself contributed to this hugely successful mode of using ceiling fans, he was faced with very stiff competition. They were an instant commercial success, but that did not stop him from making constant improvisations on his original design and technology.

How World War Shaped Up the Sales of Ceiling Fans

By the time the world went to war with WW-I, the flimsy double blade ceiling fan was moving smoothly with sturdy four blades in place. Emerson Electric, Westinghouse Corporation and Robbins and Meyers (Hunter Brothers division) were the prominent names that benefited enormously from the light kits and efficient designs that Diehl made.

The small and compact design of the four blade fans allowed them to work faster, become silent and circulate air in a well guided manner.

How did the Great Depression Effect Ceiling Fans Sales?

However, by the time the Great Depression hit the USA, ceiling fans began to fall out of use. Moreover, with the introduction of electric air conditioning in 1950s itself, they were seldom in use. But this did not end the reign of ceiling fans. As other countries began to progress economically and the international market improved post WW-II, the use of the ceiling fan began for countries like India and Saudi Arabia where air-conditioning was impractical and expensive.

How India Became A Primary Manufacturer for Ceiling Fans?

In addition to that air-condition itself in those days was Freon based which was raising a lot of concerns for the environment. Thus in 1973, we see entrepreneurs like Hub Markwardt importing sturdy and economized ceiling fans from India itself.

These Indian fans were manufactured by Crompton Greaves Ltd. This company had been lauded and its products most coveted for being the world’s most effective and energy saving fans.

This was because Crompton Greaves had successfully patented and widely used an induction motor of 20 poles with an efficient rotor of cast aluminum which did a wondrous job of heat dissipation.

The Indian manufactured ceiling fans became a slow hit in the American market because they were energy efficient and did not use more than 70 watts per fan.

The New Thing Ceiling Fans Offer:

It isn’t just about helping you avoid the summer heat now. Here are a few things ceiling fans can do.

  • Ceiling fans are used with the air-conditioners to make the effects of electrical air cooling even more effective.
  • Ceiling fans with lights make it more cost effective, with the dual use.
  • Ceiling fans add in to the décor of the room
  • Offer more blades and improved speed, great during summers!

Now, good cooling ceiling fans made a grand re-entry into the commercial American markets. A number of turn-of-the-century American companies also started manufacturing ceiling fans, the most famous being the Casablanca Fan Co, F.A Smith and Co, Emerson Electric and Lasko.

With the new millennium, fans started coming with additional features and numerous companies have mushroomed across the world that provide the basic comfort of a ceiling fan in compelling designs.


I’ve always loved working with my hands. I love the challenge of building something new or saving something old. I have a passion for reviewing and testing the home products. I believe (hope) that there are people out there that might find this help. (Delusional as well.)

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