Fans are often a hot favorite when it comes to historic fashion accessories, but this month the Delaware Historical Society had the opportunity to play host to the biggest fan “fan club” of them all, the Fan Association of North America, who were visiting Wilmington for their annual convention. As part of their schedule of activities, they visited the Read House and Gardens for a special tour of the house that featured some of our fans in period room settings throughout the house, in addition to a special exhibit of fans from our collection. Our fans range from the late eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, so, not only were we able to share a nice variety with our FANA visitors, we also had the opportunity to share some of our collection’s interesting Delaware stories as well.
One of our oldest fans from the late eighteenth century originally belonged to Jane Richardson McKinly (1727-1805), wife of Dr. John McKinly (1721-1796), who served in the Delaware General Assembly and was the first elected President (governor) of Delaware. This fan has pierced ivory sticks and a paper leaf that is printed and hand-painted with a fashionable Classical scene. Even more exciting, it still has its original cardboard box from the period that is inscribed “Aunt McKinly’s fan – given to sister Jane.” We had originally dated this fan to circa 1780, but thanks to input from our FANA visitors, it seems it is closer to circa 1760, which is older than we thought!
Another of our fans with an interesting pedigree originally belonged to Marguerite Badailh Lewden (1783-1859), the French wife of Josiah Lewden (1770-1812), a sea captain from Christiana, Delaware and the second son of John Lewden (1739-1809). They married on January 23, 1808 in Libourne, France, and had three sons, so the family has descendants in both France and Delaware. Marguerite’s French-made fan, with its heavily gilded, japanned sticks and lithographed paper leaf featuring colorful eighteenth-century genre scenes, dates to between 1840 & 1850 and its exceptionally good condition impressed everyone.
One of our most interesting fans from the early twentieth century (the last gasp of the fan as a serious fashion accessory) originally belonged to Jean Kane Foulke (1891-1985), the wife of Eleuthere Paul du Pont (1887-1950), the founder of Du Pont Motors and later President of Indian Motorcycles. This brisé fan dates to around 1905 and has solid rosewood sticks that are hand-painted with pink, purple, and white floral motifs on one side, and the royal blue initials”JCF” on gold shield backgrounds on the reverse. According to the donor (her son), the”C” middle initial was an artist’s mistake.
So, all in all, the afternoon went well and our FANA visitors seemed to enjoy themselves. This is just a small sampling of what is currently on view. The fan exhibit will remain at the Read House and Gardens through July 31, 2013 so, as the weather starts to heat up, come and check out some cool historic accessories!