The original purpose of hand fans was to create a breeze, but they have had many other uses. Hand fans were used for protection against rain, a tray for offering or receiving refreshments, for salutations, signals, to punctuate sentences, and to hide bad teeth. Fans have also played a role in the Christian Church for many years. European women would use fans to hide their faces during mass, and from about 300 A.D. until about 1300, fans were used to brush flies from sacred vessels in churches.
Other popular uses of hand fans were as menus, theater programs, and dance programs: serving a double purpose as a fan and a dance card. These dance fans had a large hook that fastened over the ladies’ sashes and a pencil attached to the handle.
Throughout history the fan has often played more than one role at a time like this. Paper fans proved to be a unique way to combine the functionality of a device made to keep you cool with a material that lent itself to being written on for notes and reminders.