20th century advertising hand fans. Most of the fans feature a vignette on one side and an advertisement on the reverse. The fans advertise various establishments and products, including funeral parlors, patent medicines, and food products.
Scope and Contents:
Scope and Content: The collection contains forty-seven fans, originating from a wide variety of states and dating from late nineteenth century/early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century. Many of these fans display artwork or other contemporary images related to the advertising message of the fan's producer, while the reverse side typically offers more detailed textual information about the product, service, event or organization featured. In several instances, the collection houses multiple fans issuing from the same creator over a span of time. While the fans in the collection primarily focus on advertising, a few feature a more commemorative intent.
The fans were acquired and received from many sources, including curatorial units, the public and Smithsonian staff. The initial fans were donated, along with numerous grocery store-related objects, to the Museum's Division of Cultural History.
The collection is arranged into five series. Series one consists of fans created by funeral homes. The fans in series two are from companies providing food products and services. Series three consist of fans from beverage companies. Fans in series four were created by businesses engaged in home products and services. Series five represents cultural products, services, events, and organizations.
The collection sis divided into five series.
Series 1: Funeral Homes, 1944-2000; undated
Series 2: Food Products and Services, undated
Series 3: Beverages, undated
Series 4: Home Products and Services, undated
Series 5: Cultural Products, Events, Services and Organizations, 1921-2002; undated
By the twentieth century, hand fans had largely evolved from the expensive, ornamental and uniquely crafted forms which characterized them in preceding centuries. Increasingly, they became souvenirs commemorating events or journeys and vehicles for mass advertising. Experts date the large-scale emergence of such fans to Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exposition, when a commemorative fan was sold to exhibition visitors, and another fan appeared advertising a local merchant's store. As fans assumed advertising and commemorative functions, certain industries found them particularly appropriate and useful and adopted them widely. Beverage and food manufacturers, retailers and funeral homes and mortuaries were among the businesses that prominently embraced the advertising fan. While many people now seek to acquire such fans for personal collections, they also provide scholars a window on past products and services, and the social group to which their manufacturers marketed them.
Materials in the Archives Center
Borden Company, 1939 (NMAH.AC.1063)
New York World's Fair Collection (NMAH.AC.0134)
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana (NMAH.AC.0060)
The initial fans were donated by Jerome Rudy to the Division of Cultural History, now known as the Division of Culture and the Arts.
Unrestricted research access on site by appointment.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.