The Oft-Forgotten Antique Fan

Antique fans are front and center at the American Fan Collectors Museum


| January 2001



Visitors to the museum look over some of the more than 350 vintage fans on display.

Visitors to the museum, Bruce and Delores Whiteman of Winfield, Kan., look over some of the more than 350 vintage fans on display.

Michael Coup's collection always causes a stir. The Wichita, Kan., man has piled up one of the largest collections of antique fans in the country. He's such a fanatic that he even bought the rights to a defunct fan, the Vornado, and put it back into production.

At his fan factory in Andover, near Wichita, Michael converted the large lobby into the American Fan Collectors Museum so other fan collectors could showcase their "finds."

"This is the world's most complete collection of mechanical fans," Michael says. The fans are arranged in a timeline to represent all major fan designs, beginning with the first modern electric fan built by Dr. S.S. Wheeler in 1882.

"The invention of the fan is a major factor in world history," Michael says. "It may sound like an exaggeration, but without fans, we would have no air conditioning, forced air heat, cars, trucks, planes and refrigerators." To make his point, he indicates three 1890s fans sporting familiar company names: Emerson, Westinghouse and General Electric.

"Out of something as mundane as the fan, these companies took off," he says.

The first motors were practically handmade. "They weren't big enough to grind grain or do anything industrial, except maybe work a sewing machine," Michael says. "The fan was the most obvious application; just stick a blade on it."