M12679 | Fan

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Huron-Wendat
1840-1900, 19th century
Feathers, birds (barn swallow and sparrows?), birchbark, moosehair, facing?, cotton thread, dyes
46 x 56 cm
Purchased by the McCord Museum of Canadian History
© Musée McCord
Keywords:  Fan (17)
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Keys to History

In the second half of the 19th century, fans were very much in demand, and all the Northeastern Aboriginal groups made them as souvenir items. Their popularity became so widespread that the Tupinamba of Brazil even started making them. However, the most famous ones were made by Huron-Wendat women artisans in Wendake.

The women cut the handles out of birchbark, before carefully embroidering them with attractive motifs in moosehair. The actual fan was made of feathers that had been imported from South Africa and were very fashionable at the time. The feathers of one or more entire birds would be set in the middle.

  • What

    Very fashionable during the Victorian era, fans were made by several Aboriginal nations, who sold them to wealthy tourists as artisanal objects.

  • Where

    In the 19th century the living room was the centre of family life, the place where family members shared their interests, talents and travel tales with guests. On small shelves and in quiet corners, women displayed their favourite objects - photographs, books, gifts, personal handwork and travel souvenirs. Aboriginal objects like this one were particularly prized.

  • When

    Luxury objects like this were in fashion in the 19th century.

  • Who

    During the Victorian era, finely crafted objects like this fan were worn as accessories by women of privilege who wanted to appear "well turned out." The Huron-Wendat artisans who made the fans had succeeded in filling an existing market niche.