In the early 20th century fans became an inexpensive way to advertise and promote restaurants, hotels, shops, ships, politicians and even funeral parlors. Many of these fans were made with cheap printed paper that could be stripped off and replaced from the ribs. According to Purdue University, this is where the saying “off with the old, on with the new” originated. 

In the South these fans were a common item found on a church pew along with the hymnal and Bible. Many churches did not have air conditioning as late as the early years of the second half of the 20th century, especially rural churches. Usually the building was only used two or three times each week, on special occasions and for yearly “revival” services. Funeral homes saw the value in providing cardboard fans stapled to a flat wooden stick to the churches at no charge. After all, everyone was going to need a funeral home at some point, right? 

In the early days of Honest Abe, the company’s first president, Rick Denton, recognized that any captive, sweltering audience could use a good fan. Honest Abe’s first customers were Buster and Mary Brown, and when Rick visited their finished chinked, square log cabin, he snapped a photo with his Kodak Instamatic camera.

Rick said that Honest Abe had been producing marketing brochures and buying advertising since its founding in 1979, but around 1983 Rick capitalized on the popularity of fans and produced one for Honest Abe to give away. Recently, Jeff Clements, Vice President of Sales for Honest Abe, was given one of the old fans that had been nicely preserved in the home of his brother-in-law’s parents. 

“I just wanted to share a little history… before the Internet and Google advertising,” Jeff said.

Advertising fans can still be purchased today and are often includes as free giveaways at sporting events, conferences and outdoor events.




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