Polar Cub and Related Electric Fans

March 27, 2014 · by David Gilbert · Appliances, Other Products

By A.D. Goolsby, A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society Newsletter, June 1999

In addition to Erector, A.C. Gilbert was of course responsible for many other products as well. One category that has been “slighted” are the Polar Cub fans. There is a dearth of information about these fans and other Gilbert appliances, and what I am presenting here is what I have learned about the fans through assembling a small collection of my own. These fans were collected via purchases on eBay, from antique shops, and at ACGHS annual meetings.

1925 Polar Cub fan

1925 Polar Cub fan

Fans were branded as Polar Cub, Gilbert, or Busy B. Busy B fans were manufactured in the Gilbert factory, but were products of Kelmet Corp., a captive company of A.C. Gilbert’s in the 1920s (see Volume 1 of Bill Bean’s “Greenberg’s Guide to Gilbert Erector Sets”). I suspect that Polar Cub fans were sold under other brand names as well.

My feeling is that the small early fans with the P56 motor and nominal 6-inch diameter blades are not very scarce. Two-bladed fans are less common than four-bladed ones, and counter-clockwise rotation is less common.

Jay Smith and I have discussed the use of “Erector” motors in the construction of these fans, and in models produced for sale as Sears. At first glance, it appears that some of the earliest fans used P56 motors that were identical to those found in Erector sets. However, comparing a P56G Erector motor to a motor in one of my fans, I have observed several interesting differences, aside from the mounting and shaft exposure at one end only. For instance, the fan motor housing is ¼-inch to 3/8-inch longer. The cylindrical portions of the fan motor are longer than those of a P56G, but the tapered portion of the blade end is shorter. Furthermore, the extensions on the ends for lubrication are cylindrical instead of tapered. These differences are not observed between P56Gs and the P56 motors on the earliest 6-inch breezes. It may be that later fans needed a heavier-duty housing compared to the motors intended for toy applications.

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