New Online Exhibition, “Fans: A Link Between Cultures”

The whaling industry brought together cultures from around the globe, and New Bedford as the whaling capital was no exception to such diverse international influences. The most unsuspected of objects tell the story of these travels – the handheld fan.

Advertising Fan featuring Bissell's Carpet Sweeper

“Fans: A Link Between Cultures” is the latest online exhibition of the New Bedford Whaling Museum that features the museum’s highlighted collection of these interesting objects. With a unique assortment of fans, dolls, a nineteenth century Valentine and more, this exhibit conveys the symbol of the fan’s importance to the history of trading influence from the Pacific Islands to Western Europe.

Ranging from public advertisement to a secret language of love and involving scores of materials and textiles, this exhibit appeals to historians and textile aficionados alike. These artifacts relay the small but captivating story of 19th and early 20th century American culture.

ECHO interns Rose Horton (history) and Jodi Stevens (MA-fibers) researched the fascinating history of fans and compiled this exhibit to portray this small yet significant aspect of New Bedford’s economic, cultural, and trading history.

Fans were used to "speak" a secret language of flirtation.

To view this exhibition, please visit

One response to “New Online Exhibition, “Fans: A Link Between Cultures”

  1. Cool site, love the info.

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