A Brief History of Ceiling Fans

Fans, even ceiling fans have been around for a very long time, they certainly pre-date the invention of electricity.

The traditional picture of Cleopatra has her flanked by two young men carrying fans taller than themselves – they weren’t just for shows – the fans were to keep the Queen comfortable in the hot Egyptian sun.

The fan was no doubt invented when primitive humans living in the warmer parts of the world found that palm frond made for a good cooling device!

The British while ruling India found the local climate a little more extreme than what they were used to at home. They adopted the local building style and in fact the words “bungalow” and “veranda” both came into English via Hindi and the English Raj. High roofs and deep eaves weren’t enough to survive the punishingly hot areas of India and the “pukka-wallah” was invented. The pukka was a long thin, flexible strip of lightweight wood or canvas which was suspended from a high ceiling in a home. A wallah (a man or servant in Indian English) was the person employed to sit outside the room and pull the string attached to the pukka – thereby creating a fan effect – with no electricity required.

Fast forward to the opening up of the southern US on the back of cotton and other crops. Huge areas of Southern USA have a hot and humid climate – particularly when combined to the settler’s tendency to wear way too many clothes! Developing on from slave driven fans, the south used water turbines to turn fans – in the same way as a paddle steamer uses a paddle to power a boat.

These days ceiling fans are still commonly used – though often in combination with air conditioning – the ceiling fan has survived the years and it is still a must have for the modern house in warmer climates.