Seymour Ainsworth And Saratoga’s Feathered History

The must-have accessory of 1880s Saratoga Springs? Fancy feather fans. Back then, feathers were all the rage in women’s fashion, especially when used in elaborate hairpieces and headdresses.

Before feather fans really started to soar globally, Saratoga inventor Seymour Ainsworth noticed the trend among the fluttering elite that gathered in Saratoga—then a wellness destination for the rich and famous—and invested early in what would become one of his most profitable ventures. Ainsworth first fashioned fans out of turkey feathers, then switched to imported ostrich feathers, eventually patenting his feather fan in 1868.

Soon after, there was a fan demand from featherweight socialites across the nation, and Ainsworth had a virtual monopoly, acting as the sole feather fan supplier of A.T. Stewart & Company and Lord & Taylor—perhaps the last time “fluffy” was fashionable.                            

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