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C. John Vander Weele Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3068

Scope and Contents

The items contained within this collection date from the era of Charles Clarage’s son, Harry Clarage. During the time of Harry Clarage, the company experienced an expansion in scope, and a subsequent need for facility expansion. In 1957, Clarage Fan Company upgraded from their previous plant of 200,000 sq. ft. to one of 340,000 sq. ft. From there, the company continued to thrive, was seen as a lucrative opportunity to outside investors, and was purchased by Twin City Fan Companies Ltd. in 1997. Under the ownership of Twin City Fan, Clarage has grown to become an internationally based producer, and is still in operation today.


  • Creation: 1922-1961


Biographical / Historical

The company that would soon become known as the Clarage Fan Company was started in 1872.

Originally called the Bird and Clarage Foundry, Thomas Clarage used his learned skill as a machinist to found a company that would be passed down to subsequent generations of Clarage’s. In 1912, the company acquired a Detroit foundry which specialized in the making of industrial fans. After perfecting the technique of making these fans, the company focused efforts to the making of that product to the point that the name was changed to the Clarage Fan Company in 1915. From there the company grew immensely.

Under the control of Thomas’s son Charles Clarage, the company consolidated the two locations, those being the original Kalamazoo and the later acquired Detroit foundry, into one. This new formation realized the company’s full potential. Clarage Fan Co. became the 4th largest producer of its product in the world, supplying to both foreign and domestic buyers, as well as some local Kalamazoo businesses such as the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company.


5 boxes

Language of Materials



This collection is composed of negatives and photographs of all sizes. The subjects of these photographs are largely employees of The Clarage Fan Company. The collection also includes some artifacts related to the production process of fans.

Physical Description

The collection amounts to 1.4 cubic feet and is composed of one Hollinger box containing medium sized photos and negatives. The Hollinger also holds a “small shoe box” containing production related artifacts. Also included are three “shoe boxes,” all of which contain negatives. Lastly, the collection’s wrapped parcel contains oversized photographs. Photographs and related negatives picture employees, production equipment, company facilities, and finished products. The photographs are in good condition save an oversized group picture of company employees included in the wrapped parcel. The artifacts, which are in good condition, include display pieces, advertisements, measurement conversion slide rulers, and a paperweight bearing the Clarage Fan Company logo.


This collection was donated by Mary Ann Wise, the daughter of C. John Vander Weele, the employee of Clarage Fan Company, for which the collection is named.

Further information regarding Clarage family and company history can be found in the donor file.

C. John Vander Weele Collection Finding Aid
Christopher Miller
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490