The Tippecanoe County Historical Association presents a collection of antique hand fans, owned by both queens and commoners, that tells the story of this amazing tool and its place in history. Far from its origins as a simple device for making a breeze, the hand fan has variations ranging from jewel-studded works of art to paper versions printed with advertisements and reading material.

The hand fan: cell phone of the 17th century

Think about all the ways cell phones are used today in ways other than making calls: storing information, taking pictures, connecting to the Internet, playing games and music, and even as a reflection of the owner's wealth and "hipness." The hand fan has survived for thousands of years by similarly adapting to fit a variety of needs. The hand fan went from a simple tool for creating a breeze to works of art owned by royalty, souvenirs of historic events, and cheap paper versions used as advertisements. Human ingenuity and adaptability are seen in our tools, and the parallel between fans and cell phones is hardly unique. Just as fans changed over 4000 years, so too does modern technology change to fit new needs. In the following sections we hope you will come to not only a better understanding of the hand fan and its place in history, but also the way other tools and technologies change to fit human needs today.

How to use the online exhibit

In each of the following sections, you will learn a bit about fans and their place in history. Each section also contains a gallery of images from the TCHA fan collection. Click any of the images for a larger view and additional information about fans of that type and then click "next" or use the arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll through the image gallery.

Also, please do not forget to check the TCHA site to see if the fan exhibit will be featured in the museum anytime soon.