A Fan’s Fan
My name is Sylvie, I was born in Paris, France and I’m residing near Atlanta, GA. My passion for fans started at an early age, my first fan, now lost, was a new Spanish fan sold outside a bull ring in Bayonne, France. It was followed in the early 1960s by my first antique fan circa 1900 bought by my parents for my birthday from a junk shop in Paris. This fan was the start of a collection of about 500 fans. I have an interest in most fans and have numerous examples of European 18th, 19th and 20th century folding fans, fans from Japan, China, India and advertising fans from the 1920s-1930s when this accessory was losing its appeal with the ladies, it was given a second chance as a gift to customers. In 1996 a series of fans made of plastic sticks and printed on material leaf was issued for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
There are several types of fans, the most common being the folding fan consisting of sticks and guards to protect the fan when closed and a leaf that could be made of paper, skin, silk, lace, feathers. The sticks and guards could be ivory, bone, MOP, tortoise shell, wood, horn or various forms of plastic. Another type of fan is called brisé, it does not have a leaf, only sticks and guards, the sticks progressively becoming wider towards the top are held together by a ribbon. There is also a palmette aka Jenny Lind fan which resembles a brisé fan, but has palmettes made of either paper or silk attached to the sticks and held together by a hidden string. Finally there are fixed fans that do not fold and are attached to a handle. American cardboard church and funeral home fans from the 50s also have different shapes, but I will not go into detail on these as space is limited.
There is only one fan museum in the USA. It is The Hand Fan Museum of Healdsburg located in the Nappa Valley, CA. I would encourage a visit if in the area.
It is recommended that fans be stored closed and wrapped in acid free paper as leaving them opened and in the light could damage them. They can be stored in cabinet drawers, but oak must be avoided due to the acidic vapors emitted by this wood.
I belong to three groups of fan collectors: The Fan Association of North America (fanassociation.org, next April they have an Assemblage in Bradenton, FL), the Fan Circle International (fancircleinternational.org) in the United Kingdom and the Cercle de l’Eventail (cercledeleventail.fr) in France.
I encourage club membership for anyone who has an inclination to discover more about hand fans. Visit fanassociation.org for more information.