Polar Cub oscillating electric fans -- manufactured by A.C. Gilbert & Company -- were sold between 1915 up through the late 1960s. Noteworthy for their simple but sturdy design, these retro fans are now coveted by collectors and vintage enthusiasts. Today, a line of Polar Cub fans, made for use in motor homes, keeps the brand name alive.
Polar Cub History
A.C. Gilbert & Co. -- which was first known as Mysto Co. -- began manufacturing electric fans in 1915 in New Haven, Connecticut. The first model, the Mysto, sold for $5 at the time and bore the company's iconic polar bear image that would later inspire the Polar Cub fans. Through the 1960s, the company put out Polar Cub fans. Today, Coleman -- the company that acquired A.C. Gilbert & Co -- manufactures RV heat pumps and other related products under the Polar Cub name.
The first Polar Cub fans featured 6-inch steel blades. Later versions of the fans -- powered by a small motor -- featured 8-inch steel blades, as well as cast-iron bases. Models with brass blades are a bit harder to track down today. The fans were aimed at the average American, selling at an affordable price-point. A.C. Gilbert & Co. holds the patent on the enameled wire, which was used for building Polar Cubs and was a marvel of its time as companies, including General Electric, said an enameled wire was an impossibility.
Where to Find One
Today, collectors scour sites, such as eBay and Craigslist, as well as garage sales and estate sales in search of Polar Cub fans. The pricing for one of these fans can run anywhere from $15 to $100, depending on the year, model and condition of the fan. There are some sellers who sell refurbished models while others are sold in their original, possibly deteriorated condition.
About the Manufacturer
Alfred Carlton Gilbert -- born in Salem, Oregon in 1844 -- was a colorful figure; the company's founder was a gold-medal Olympian pole vaulter, who graduated from Yale medical school and was a magic trick enthusiast. His first business was making toys as he was the inventor of the first Erector set. Because the toy business tended to wane after the holiday season, Gilbert decided to use his manufacturing facility to produce fans the rest of the year.