Material History of American Religion Project

Church fans

Church fans

In a time before air conditioning, particularly in the south but also in the midwest during the summer, churchgoers used fans to stay cool in church. Although made of simple cardboard with a plain wood handle, the fans are wonderful complexes of meanings and images. One side featured a religious image, either a well-known painting of a biblical scene-the work of Warner Sallman was particularly popular-or a generically religious contemporary scene, like rural church or a still life with Bible.

Back of church fans

The other side had the advertisement of the local company that supplied the fans. Funeral homes and insurance companies appear to have been common sponsors; these companies must have seen church-going women as particularly good potential customers.

These fans come from the collection of Lillian Fleming of Gainesville, Georgia.

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