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You will need to check inside the button contacts to identify if the control of current is by a series resistor or by the coil winding.
Since the high speed is working it is possible that the series resistor coil is open.So check for loss of contact continuity in the switch, if not you can use the present model of electronic fan controllers to give you a variable fan control. This can be connected to the main hi speed connection.
Tip: Identify the wattage and buy the regulator according to the specs.(42 inch type)
A potentiometer would overheat because when you tell it to turn the power down, it basically just runs the extra power through a heating element, which will probably catch it on fire for something that large. A dimmer switch changes the voltage that goes in, and is generally meant for incandescent lights. If you wired a regular old dimmer switch up, the motor would probably sound weird, and the dimmer switch or motor would break, possibly starting a fire. It's illegal to use a regular light dimmer switch on anything but an incandescent light socket. However, you can easily find a controller that will work. Look for a fan speed controller or motor speed controller. Make sure it's rated for the correct voltage and has an amp rating not exceeded by the fan's rating. These look like a dimmer switch but are designed to deliver the power the motor needs. See link http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=70801-539-SFSQ-FH-IV&lpage=none
Is it a single speed motor? All you need is a common toggle switch with two terminals and two positions (on/off). A good hardware store or farm supply store should have these, just check the amp. rating (10 should be good enough)
Always put the switch in the hot wire, usually black, maybe the fan is old enough that it doesn't have a polarized plug. If you change the cord, switch the hot side.