Etiquette & superstition: fans of death

I had to double-check that I hadn’t covered fans before. Actually it’s two topics, at the very least, so today I’m going to narrow it down to fans near the dead.

ETIQUETTE: At one point in time, folding hand fans were a necessity for a lady, not just for making subtle/not-so-subtle non-verbal signals to another party, but for keeping one’s self from fainting in times of distress and exertion (see: corsets). During mourning, initially one was to keep the fan black, white or gray, and free from feathers and mirrors and such, but of course the “sexy widow” thing took over as it always seems to do and before you know it, mourning fans had lace and fancy designs just like any other fashionable fan. Fan it, lady. Find a new husband with that fancy fan. Per Purdue University, a mourning fan from 1751 featured this quote:

“Here lies Fred, who was alive and is dead; Had it been his father, I had much rather; Had it been his brother, still better than another; Had it been his sister, no one would have missed her; Had it been the whole generation, Still better for the nation; But since ‘tis only Fred, who was alive and is dead, There’s no more to be said.”

You can find some other charming fans collected by the Tippecanoe County Historical Association at the Purdue University website.

SUPERSTITION: Fan death. FAN DEATH. If you’re in Korea, you will kill everybody inside a room if you run an electric fan in there without cracking open a window. At the very least it will cause nausea or facial paralysis. But then you wouldn’t call it FAN DEATH.

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