Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Folding Fan, Circa 1876

This is a patriotic Centennial fan, designed for and used during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.  The Centennial Exhibition was the first World's Fair held in the United States. The celebratory paper fan is printed with crossed American flags, surmounted by a glorious spreadwing American eagle. The eagle grips fasces as well as an American shield in its talon. The celebratory words "100 Years" are emblazoned on the shield. 

From May 10 to November 10, nearly 10 million visitors came to Philadelphia for the extravagant event. The event was held in Fairmount Park and along the Schuylkill River; Herman J. Schwarzmann designed the master plan for 27 acres of fair grounds. Some 200 buildings were built on the grounds, though there were five main buildings, including the incredibly grand Horticultural Hall. This fan’s verso is printed with an image of Horticultural Hall, a massive glass and iron greenhouse that housed a collection of exotic plants and was surrounded by elaborate formal gardens. 

The central theme of the fair was industry and technology, with exhibits ranging from displays of the first commercial typewriters, Alexander Graham Bell’s newly patented telephone, and Singer’s sewing machine, to Thomas Edison dispatching his automatic telegraph, and the mighty Double Corliss Steam Engine, which powered the printing press that created copies of the Exhibition’s daily newspaper. 

The Centennial Exhibition brought about a spike in displayed patriotism across the nation. The Centennial was commemorated with all sorts of American flags and banners. Ladies’ fans, just like this one, were in great demand during the fair’s hot summer weather, and many were printed with flags and images of the fairground. The fair’s ephemera were designed to be used and displayed during events, and then easily discarded afterwards, which has made it increasingly difficult to find original examples in good condition.


Fine condition. Paper is toned with some loss, disrupting design. The fan features a bamboo guard, printed with copyright information that further dates the fan and design: "Patented -May 4th 1875" and "Registered June 8th 1875."

Framed Dimensions: 15.25" H x 24" W x 2.5" D 

Related Items