Frank Alvord Perret was born in Hartford, CT on August 2, 1867. From an early
age he was fascinated by electricity. In 1886, at the age of 19, he went to work
for Thomas A. Edison in his New York lighting company, which had been building power
stations and wiring downtown areas for incandescent lighting for the previous 5 years.
Not long after working with the famous "Wizard," Perret left to found his own electrical company, Elektron Manufacturing Co., in partnership with Edison co-worker John Barrett. Perret was so young he could not legally sign documents of incorporation; his father had to co-sign for him. Elekton made various motors and other electrical equipment of Perret's design. In late 1888 Perret applied for a patent on a small bi-polar motor suitable for electric fans; it was granted in May, 1889 (number 403,487).
Perret fans were wound for either "mains" current (100-110V DC) or battery operation. The fan seen here was designed with a 1/12hp motor to be powered by a wet-cell battery (an Edison-Lalande cell was recommeded). Although rated for 2 to 10 volts, it is hard to imagine running it at top voltage. At a mere 5V the fan blades spin at nearly 2,000rpm!
In 1891 the company moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, and in 1896 Perret left to work on electric automobiles (the first commercial cars had been just been put in the market in Springfield by the Duryea brothers). Perret did not succeed in that venture, and in 1902 he suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1906 Elektron was bought out by the Otis Elevator co. Perret moved to Italy for his health, and soon became interested in Mount Vesuvius. Over the next four decades Perret made his fame in a new career, as one of the world's foremost volcanologists. He returned to Brooklyn in 1940 and died in 1943.
Perret fans were made in tiny numbers and only a handful survive today. This particular fan is very early, with a low 3-digit serial number.
This illustration appeared in the July 16, 1890 edition of "The Electrical Engineer." The long article hyperbolically included the following comments: "Among those who have from the first exploited the small, as well as the large, motor field are the Elektron Manufacturing Company, of Brooklyn, whose fan motor we illustrate on this page. A large number of these have been put in service all over the country, and in Brooklyn these Perret motors have literally become a 'household word' . . . the motor is fixed on a neat japanned iron stand, which permits it to be set on any flat top table. . . . The operation is smooth and quiet and the motor is ornamental as well as useful . . ."