Artifact of the Month

Brisé Folding Fan
Donated by Ann Sims Ingrum


Brisé Folding Fan

In the late 1800s and early 1900s folding fans were popular accessories for women. Retail ads called them "a warm-weather necessity." This brisé fan is made of celluloid plastic. Brisé is French for "broken," which in this case, refers to the fan design: individual blades or sticks that overlap and are held together with a ribbon attached to each blade tip and a rivet at the base.

In the early 1900s the price of a celluloid fan ran anywhere from twenty-five cents to five dollars, depending on fan's quality and decorative elements. While many fans at that time were imported to the U. S. from Japan, China, and Europe, there was also a stateside celluloid fan industry which centered in Massachusetts. The 1914 Statistics of Labor report for Massachusetts shows that of the 96 people who worked at home in the manufacture of celluloid novelties, 25% were children under the age of 14. The publication points out that children between the ages of 5 and 14 have "nimble fingers [which] make quick work of running ribbon in fans. . ."

The fan-making process and rates of pay are also included in the 1914 report:

1914 Massachusetts Labor Statistics Report for Celluloid Novelties


Artifact of the Month Archive


Photo of the MonthArtifact of the Month