Fans: A Link Between Cultures

Exhibition Introduction

Advertising Fans

Tortoiseshell and Sandalwood

Fashion, Sophistication, and Myth

European Influence

Fan Glossary

Language of the Fans

Photograph List

Exhibition Credits

Silver-Plated Napkin Ring with Pacific Fan
Pairpoint Manufacturing Company
ca. 1885-1895

Advertising Fans

Fans were often used for advertising or as commemorative souvenirs. In the eighteenth century, fans were popular gifts for guests at weddings or important public events. Churches and chapels provided Psalm- or scripture-printed fans for their congregations on especially hot days.

Names of hotels, shops, perfumes, and popular drinks soon decorated the leaves of cheaply made paper fans. Other fans had scenes from operas, plays or books – some even displayed dance steps. Many fans had political cartoons or were made with specific colors to represent one’s political stance.

00.180.80Several fans in the museum collection were used as tools for advertising. One such fan is marked on the back with a blue stamp or watermark that reads “The Breslin,” which was most likely a local hotel. This particular fan has open areas filled with netting as part of its decoration and therefore might also be considered a novelty fan because of these “spy-hole” details embedded in its leaf.

00.180.79Another advertising fan is simply stamped with the words “Pittsfield Milk Exchange” (a former Massachusetts business) near the handle on the back of the left guard stick. Each guard also reads “Made in Japan.” Such fans were mass-produced for trade and could be customized and given away by local stores or companies.

Perhaps the most intriguing of this particular type of fan is one that directly advertises a household product: “Use BISSELL’S “Cyco” Bearing Carpet Sweeper for perfect, easy sweeping”. The female figures, fully adorned with the “expected” Japanese attire, are happily using their Bissel Sweepers while holding their large, open fans.

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18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740