I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here it is blazing hot and way too humid. Thank heavens for air-conditioning. Most of our ancestors did not have it as good as we do in that regard. The earliest electric fans appeared in the early 1880s, but they weren’t manufactured for residential use until around 1910. And, of course, you can imagine that while fans offered relief, they were no substitute for the air-conditioners we enjoy today.
So, apart from serving as a fashion accessory, the handheld fan must have saved the day for many ladies, especially when you consider the fashions of the time. (For a history of the fan, visit Victoriana dot com.)
Wooden autographed fans gained popularity in the 1860s, and here is one that belonged to my great grandmother, Wealthy Ann Angus. The fan dates back to 1870-1871, before she married my great grandfather William Woodruff in 1872. It was common for the signers of these fans to leave some sort of verse or message. A couple of signatures appear to have been collected at an Armenian social club. Others, appear to have been collected while visiting Utica, NY, and traveling on some sort of pleasure cruise. A few are clearly from her home town of Elizabeth.
Wealthy wrote her address on the fan: 176 Elizabeth Avenue in Elizabeth, NJ. Somewhat puzzling is the fact that on the opposite side of the fan is written “The owner of this fan Jennie Angus, Elizabeth”. I have no idea who this Jennie Angus was. Wealthy’s dad James Angus had a cousin named Jane (b. 1805), but I don’t know if there is any connection there. Wealthy named her first daughter Jennie. Any thoughts, anyone? Well, I’ll leave you to enjoy the images of the fan. Stay cool, all!
Antique Fan Collectors Association – Museum