One of the hundreds of little alleyways between dealers’ tents. If you were looking for it, it was there: were vintage Vespas, old tools, antique factory loaders, pinball machines, furniture, doors, tripods, easels, curios, plates, bottles, advertising signs, an eight-foot stained glass chandelier, an early electric sobriety tester, linens (women like linens, I’ve learned), shoe racks, pie safes . . . you name it.
Baseball, apple pie, Elvis . . . add the Brimfield Antiques Show to the list of classic Americana—it doesn’t get any more red, white and blue.
And it’s big, alright—not like a tag sale you might drive by. It’s got scale. Brimfield, if you don’t know, is a small town in south-central Massachusetts that hosts an open-air, rain-or-shine, dawn-’til-dusk antiques extravaganza over the course of several days over three different weeks during the year. This was my first time to join the more than 30,000 people to shop for things known and unknown. As I have become interested in vintage electric fans, I knew what I was looking for, but would be open to other items as well.
I couldn’t possibly cover the whole show in one day and certainly not with my wife. She slows down in hot weather and the 87 degrees was grinding her to a halt. I, on the other hand, had a persistent adrenaline buzz fueled by grit, grime, rust, chipped paint and other indications of age. The sugar-high from two pints of fresh limeade was a nice compliment.
Almost immediately, I saw a nice antique Emerson fan, similar to one that I purchased a few weeks ago, but an earlier piece for sure. Jack from Ohio put a price tag of 95 bucks on it. He said he could do $75. If I had bought it on the spot, it would have meant walking a half-mile back to my car’s hatchback. Carrying it around all day was out of the question. It was 40 pounds at least.
I passed. We had a long day in front of us, and I didn’t want to be hasty.
I think it’s fair to say that we saw a lot of stuff throughout the day. We spent, we’ll call it seven hours, strolling and shopping. There were vintage Vespas, old tools, antique factory loaders, pinball machines, furniture, doors, tripods, easels, curios, plates, bottles, advertising signs, an eight-foot stained glass chandelier, an early electric sobriety tester, linens (women like linens, I’ve learned), shoe racks, pie safes . . . you name it. Even if I didn’t see it, I’ll guarantee it’s there. If you’re a collector, picker, treasure hunter or just someone who likes to see cool stuff, I’ve got a town for you.
But it was Jack’s fan that was buzzing in the back of my head all day. It was that itch that I could only scratch with cash. I saw plenty of other vintage fans but none as nice and as value-priced as Jack’s. So before closing time, I headed back to his tent to see if the unit had sold.
It was still sitting there. So was Jack. I doubt he got out of his fold-away lawn chair all day. We settled amicably at $60—a fair price, I think, for all the work that I created for myself. Got it home, popped off the cage and started to polish the brass blades.
Then I had to talk to Darryl.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Darryl Hudson collects and restores vintage fans. He’s an artist masked by the title of machinist. He makes old fans look like hot rods. Seriously. Wander over to his website and check out his work. I particularly like the 1952 Vornado with metalflake amethyst base paint.
So I shot an e-mail off to Darryl with the model number and he promptly got back to me. “Congratulations,” he wrote and then proceeded to tell me more about the fan anyone could ever imagine.
I saw a nice antique Emerson fan I likes, but if I had bought it on the spot, it would have meant walking a half-mile back to my car’s hatchback. Carrying it around all day was out of the question. It was 40 pounds at least. I passed and later bought it at the end of the day.
Allow me to summarize what he told me about my new Emerson:
• 16-inches, three-speed and oscillating;
• Cast iron construction, brass blades, steel cage;
• Well-made, sturdy and rugged;
• A “work of art”;
• Superior mechanics;
• Superior durability;
• A single-bearing design that allows the fan to never get out of alignment as most other fans will that have a front and rear bearing design. [Sorry, readers, I didn’t know how to summarize that];
• New leather rotor seal and grommets likely needed;
• One of his favorite Emerson designs.
Oh . . . it gets better.
Darryl advised me that I will need to disassemble, thoroughly clean, lubricate, replace worn parts and reassemble the unit for optimal usage and best care. And he’s generously offered to walk me through the whole process. Darryl and I live about 800 miles from one another, so this is getting done over the phone. Keep in mind that I get lost coming out of the shower, so navigating the inner complexities of an antique electric fan—again, via phone—could present a challenge.
I’ll need back-up, and my neighbor Tim just might be the guy. He’s a homebuilder, so a very handy guy by trade. His new pet project is rebuilding a 1968 Camaro from scratch. It’s gonna be sweet and I’m sure he’ll never let me drive it.
If I didn’t have my best friend’s wedding this weekend, I’d be in Tim’s garage with Darryl on the phone right now. This is going to be fun and, naturally, I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
Brimfield is just as much a lesson in American history as it is an antiques fair. Everyone has their stories. I hope you’ve enjoyed mine.
John Londoner is a digital media professional and antiques hobbyist. He frequently attends antique auctions in the Upstate New York area and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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