Propeller Beanie

The propeller beanie, originally helicopter beanie, is the universal symbol of a fan. "I and other amateur cartoonists began drawing cartoons in which the propeller beanie was the symbol of science fiction the way the yarmulke is the symbol of the Orthodox Jew," its creator, SF author and fanartist Ray Nelson, recalled. The beanie is shaped like a yarmulke, with a propeller at its peak.

Ray invented the whimsical headgear while a high-school sophomore in Cadillac, Michigan. A group of young science fiction fans met at his house to take photos of each other in the style of pulp covers. They needed to improvise costumes.

Ray recalled: "I said, 'Wait a second,' and I dashed up to my room. In a frenzy, I stapled together a little cap made of strips of plastic and affixed a model airplane propeller to it on a wire, putting a few beads on the wire first so the propeller could spin freely."

George Young donned the helicopter beanie for the photo shoot and later wore it to the Cinvention, where Bob Bloch complained of the Beanie Brigade: "an army of goons wearing beanies, false beards and Buck Rogers blasters."

Nelson visited relatives in California around that time and won a contest with a design of a character wearing a propeller beanie. That was the origin of Bob Clampett's "Time for Beany" (with voices by Stan Freberg and Daws Butler). "I never bothered to patent it. I never made a dime off it," Ray said.

Meanwhile, Nelson drew numerous fanzine cartoons depicting fans wearing the beanie. Other cartoonists, including Bjo, LeeH, Dave Rike and ATom picked it up.

Much later, Howard DeVore fashioned a giant propeller beanie from a construction helmet and a wooden prop from an airplane.

Propbeanie from Fancyclopedia 2 Supplement ca. 1960
Helicopter beanie.
Helicopter Beanie from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
The badge of a juvenile-type fan, popularized several years ago when the propeller-topped hats were an adolescent fad. Actual helicopter beanies are a rare sight nowadays, but the stereotype of a juvenile fan is a wight wearing a helicopter beanie, carrying a zapgun, and exclaiming goshwowboyoboy in his enthusiasm for stf. Ghak.