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Every society has used a hand fan of some sort. From palm fronds to feathers - from beautifully painted works of art to jewel encrusted, gold plated objects of incredible value. Fans were used in fashion, religion, battle and ceremony. Why there is even a language devoted exclusively to the hand fan! Fans tell the stories and histories of the cultures and individuals who used them. Art, culture, geography and history - all in the palm of your hand. (From the Hand Fan Museum Website)

Thanks to donor generosity, the museum has a nice representation of hand fans that were used by North Country ladies. Unfortunately, we can't identify every fan's donor. Only four of the fans were labeled by donor. Marion and Frank Murray, Edna Ackerman, Mr. and Mrs. James McCormick and Alice Bigelow. Many of the fans belonged to Betsy Hamlin.


Throughout history, fans have been a practical solution to personal comfort. But they have also served as a simple communication device.

With handle to lips... - Kiss me
Placing it on left ear... - You've changed
Twirling in left hand... - I'd like to get rid of you
Drawn across forehead... - We are being watched
Drawn across cheek... - I love you
Drawn through hand... - I hate you
Twirl in right hand... - I love another

goMore about hand fan language here.