THE EMERSON PAPER WEIGHT
By Mark Neeley & Sam Morgan
As the years go by and the longer we are “Preserving History in Motion” at Vintage Fans, L.L.C., the more thankful we are to have met the individuals we have met through these marvelous machines. One of those folks is Mr. Sam Morgan. Many of you know that Sam has not only been a long time friend, but that he is also regarded by many in the antique and vintage fan and motor world as one of the nation’s experts on the subject. Sam has repaired many early electrical fan motors deemed un-repairable by other experts in the field and this has caused him to gain a well deserved and respected reputation across the country.
Landing Mr. Morgan as an employee is akin to having the late Keith Black building your race engine or having John Force as your race driver. Through all of his legendary status and reputation, Sam is the same humble man that I have known for nearly 20 years and one that says little to most, but listens intensely to what is being said. He is the kind of man that earns your respect for not only what he can do, but more importantly for whom he is. We are very happy to have him on board at VintageFans.com and thankful that we count him as a dear friend.
Of our many conversations in the shop, I have often asked Sam about the “Old Days”, those days he spent working (1969-96) for Central Electric in Fort Worth, TX repairing motors, both industrial and antique fan motors. Sam was quick to point out that he would not have been exposed to the antique fan work had it not been for his former foreman the late Mr. Travis Braddock. Sam corrected my misunderstanding that I believed at the time that Central Electric readily accepted antique and vintage fan motors to repair and return to service. As he pointed out, all of that work was sent to Mr. Braddock who had a side business working on the early fans, namely antique and vintage ceiling fans, but also the occasional desk fan.
Although Central Electric did not run this work through their shop books, most of the fan motor work did take place at Central Electric where the equipment was readily available and Sam did much of it in his off hours as late as midnight at the commercial shop location . During several lunch time conversations, Sam relayed fascinating information to me about Central Electric’s storied history in Fort Worth which dated back to the early 1900s and how the shop had moved to the old North Main location around 1920, which would have been the “sticks” in those days in Fort Worth. Once while visiting a local automotive swap meet, I saw the ghostly painting of “Central Electric Company” fading into Fort Worth history on the side of a building near the swap meet and I asked Sam the following week about the building near La Grave field in Fort Worth, and he relayed that it was the old shop building that became a storage area for Central Electric during his employment there.
All of the information that Sam shared with me has been quite interesting to hear, but one story in particular was really historical first hand knowledge and once I heard it, I told Sam we had to write a story for VintageFans.com’s newsletter Extra!, Extra!
As the story goes, Sam explained to me that when they needed certain things Mr. Braddock went about ordering parts. Thinking that Sam meant bearings or other items that we commonly use daily at Vintage Fans, I didn’t think much of this until Sam relayed that when they needed 3 lead cloth wrapped motor head wire, they called Emerson Electric Company with the catalog part number and Emerson sent the original head wire cut to length for them to install on the Emerson desk fan needing the wire! I almost fell out of my chair as Sam told me this information knowing that I was hearing first hand knowledge from someone who witnessed and participated in rebuilding fans at a motor shop when that type of thing had been obsolete for nearly 20 years at most shops across the country.
The fact that Sam knew that Mr. Braddock ordered the parts needed for Emerson ceiling and desk fans directly from Emerson as late as the early 1970s was astonishing. But wait this story gets even better. In fact, Sam recalled Mr. Braddock ordering an entire overlapping blade assembly for one desk fan repair that was brand new from Emerson. But without a doubt, the bombshell was that one day, they called to order their typical 3 lead head wire and the individual at Emerson told them they no longer sold the motor head wire by the part number cut to length. The Emerson clerk replied that they had it on a roll and would send them what they needed, but he needed to check to see if they had enough for the order. As the customer service person left to check he came back and said they were sorry, but they didn’t have any more motor head wire available and would not be carrying it anymore. As Sam and I discussed this must have been the time when Emerson was ending all manufacturing of parts for their 80 years of fan production in America.
The other really neat part of this story was that sometime around 1972-1973 circa, as Sam recalled, Mr. Braddock needed to order a set of Emerson ceiling fan brackets, the cast iron versions often seen on their 1907 through 1940 circa models. As he did always, Mr. Braddock called Emerson Electric to place his order for parts and this time found out that they had ended production on those brackets and no longer had them available at the plant. As Mr. Braddock insisted that he needed any of them that might be available, the Emerson representative stated that he had one left that he was using as a paper weight and it was the very last new one in existence at the company! Mr. Braddock promptly replied to “send me that one” and the Emerson representative complied with his request! So the last bracket that came out of Emerson Electric Company could have very well been the one that Travis Braddock and Sam Morgan used on an early Emerson ceiling fan that was repaired for a customer in Fort Worth, Texas. I have stated before that Fort Worth had a long fan history and this definitely proves the point.
As Sam has relayed this story to me about the end of Emerson parts production, I realized that he had witnessed and amazing account of the end of fan parts production by one of the premium fan manufacturers of all time. Sam literally witnessed planned obsolescence win the battle of made in America and “Built to Last”. The transaction he witnessed is a sad tale when you think about what that course has meant to America in the long run. We are firm believers in the manufacturing in America and we understand why manufacturing left the states in the first place. The real question today is can we afford not to manufacture here. Not every country on earth believes in freedom and liberty. We will once again have to defend the freedom. Can we do so effectively without a heavy manufacturing base? You know the answer and if you do not, you need to study about how we won WWII and destroyed the elite German machine. Of course the answer is we out manufactured them. As history is so important in our understanding, I knew we needed to share this story as first hand accounts of like this are often lost to history.
Hopefully in the future we will be able to share more stories from Sam’s memory of “Preserving History in Motion” during his 42 years of fan and motor repair.