Collection Feature: Funeral Fans


Promotional cardboard fans are a familiar sight to many people throughout America, but never quite made it to the UK. This is of course, predominantly attributed to Britain’s underwhelming weather, whereby our summer lasts for 48 hours and 90% of the population suffer heat stroke before noon due to the sheer excitement of not having to wear our fleeces. Similarly, I personally can’t recall ever being at a funeral (or hearing of a funeral) where it was simply too hot to bear. However, in other countries, fainting by the graveside was a very real threat.

Although cardboard fans have long been produced in warmer climes, it’s the American industry on which I often find myself focusing.

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contemporary fans

Cardboard fans, whether folding or attached to a handle, were a particularly popular means of advertisement from the 1920s-60s.

Fans for use at a funeral made sense and many would bring their own, but providing such a necessity could double up as an advertising opportunity.

The recipient would enjoy instant use and gratification from the fan, but also be exposed to two sides of print. Most commonly, one side was given over to a vaguely related image; for funeral fans, this was for religious, solemn or calming imagery.


In the two fans pictured, one bears far more overtly Christian imagery and the phrase ‘where there is love, there is peace.’ This quote in particular is popular in both Catholic worship and also in Islam.

The other features a painting titled ‘Boats in Anchor’ split over three leaves.

The choice of advertising on the back of such fans is arguably the most interesting and…curious. For context, these two fans came to me in a lot of funeral ephemera.

The more religious fan features a rather appropriate advertisement for the ‘Geer Funeral Home’:


‘Geer Funeral Home

“Completely Air Conditioned”



320 N. Washington St. Ypsilanti.

In times of Bereavement you will need capable Sympathetic Service to aid you in all arrangements, to take over the responsibility of obtaining the utmost beauty and reverence associated with a well conducted funeral.



Janowiak (Geer) Funeral Home (via

The Geer Funeral Home was established in 1939 by Worden E. Geer on the site of the First Baptist Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was operated by the Geer family until 1979 when Worden retired and sold the business to James A. Logan Jr. Logan died in 1983, but the funeral home continues to be owned and operated by his wife Sandra to this day. After remarrying in 1987, Sandra, her husband and their three children founded what is now the Janowiak Funeral Home and Geer-Logan Chapel.


Newton Manufacturing (via Newton Daily News)

As for Newton Manufacturing company – Founded in 1909 by George Newton, it ceased production of new products in 1943 following a factory fire. However, the name remained in use for brand recognition until 2005 when the company filed for bankruptcy.



The second fan, marked Folding Fan No. FF-189 Boats at Anchor, has a fantastic advertisement for Moore’s Dairy.

If this was indeed used at a funeral, I personally believe this to be one of the finest examples of finding your target audience.





“Ice Cream is America’s Favourite Dairy Food”


  1000 2500 5000 10,000 25,000
Per M. $45.00 $40.00 $36.50 $35.00 $31.50
Per Lot $45.00 $100.00 $182.50 $350.00 $787.50

Folding Fan No. FF-189 Boats at Anchor

This Line of Fans Manufactured and sold Only By U. O. Colson Co.’



I think (beliefs on the suitability of dairy for human consumption notwithstanding) we can universally agree that the advertisement of ENORMOUS WHOLESALE amounts of ice cream at a hot funeral is very appropriate.

You’re hot? Have some ice cream. You’re sad? Ice cream. It’s a simple marketing strategy that covers all bases.

Sadly, despite their bargain quantities of ice cream, Moore’s Dairy of Pennsylvania seems to have been out of business for some time. However, they appear to remain popular in advertising collectables, which offers a sense of immortality somewhat.


O. Colson Co was a printing company and manufacturer of lithography calendars, cardboard products and postcards, based in Paris Illinois. Founded in 1892 by Usher Orlando Colson and his wife Adalaide Gordon Colson, the business soon grew from a small printing outfit to a large company with a two-storey brick building to house their operation. By 1955, the Colson business had 18 district sales offices and 250 salespeople across the country. The family sold the business in 1967 and finally ceased production in the 1990s.[1]


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These sliding fans were patented in 1927 by Frank H Klie and were described as being

‘an efficient and practical fan structure at reduced cost of production…well adapted for receiving printed matter, and also one having a reinforced hand hold portion in which the means for interconnecting the sections of the fan are contained and protected, and to relate and shape the fan sections so that the fan, when closed, will be reduced to the size of one if its sections and will be of convenient pocket size.’


After the invention of battery operated fans for outdoor funerals (many indoor spaces have air conditioning), the need for cardboard alternatives became obsolete. Recycled or simply discarded after a funeral, funeral fans such as these are a relic of contemporary funeral history that deserves to be appreciated and preserved as much as its elaborate Victorian forebears.





Sources:– Folding fan patent.– Colson Co Factory Postcard. 27/8/1928

[1] 15/8/20)

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