Among our collections here at 19 Kingsbury Avenue are some lovely hand-held fans. Ostrich feathers were very popular in the 1820’s while the ‘30s and ‘40s saw some romantic confections embossed with gold.
Southern belles of the 1860’s were most fond of the “autograph” fan. Years later, in their dotage, they could look back at the names and remember those special soirees of their youth.
Throughout the late 1800s fans were created from hand painted silks and satins edged with lace. Gauze, crepe and vellum were also popular choices with the ever-present ostrich feather. Fans were also crafted from ivory, mother of pearl and sandalwood.
Besides serving a practical purpose of keeping cool, fans had their own language; the language of flirtation. For example, if you snapped it open and shut, you were proclaiming the gentleman was being cruel. If, on the other hand, you carried it in your left hand, you wanted to make a gentleman's acquaintance .
As the 19th century drew to a close, the gracefulness and mystique of the flutter fan was soon lost.
The photos show an overall look at part of the collection with close-up looks of a child’s fan, a fan with an embedded mirror so ladies could keep track of their potential gentleman callers, a beautiful paper fan with a pastoral design, a paper fan with a silver leaf design and, finally, a gorgeous mother of pearl fan decorated with a gold bird and vine motif from Cuba.
There is also a photo from the Victorian National Trust of the United Kingdom offering a glimpse into the language of the fan. Enjoy!