Sending a message via cell phone is a relatively recently developed communication method. But women and men both have always used flirtation as a way to transmit feelings and tryst locations, even by way of fashion accessories carried in the ancient courts of Europe.

Texting replaces the art of the ladies fan
From earliest 16th century artworks, artists' paintings depicted aristocratic ladies and flirtatious young girls all dressed up like 'Astor's pet horse' and holding a fan. Fans were actually invented in the 8th century by the Japanese, with ribs made of bone, ivory, mother of pearl, or bamboo, and were then covered with leaves: paper or fabric, and later, the French used lace. The paper and silk fabric of highly collected antique fans is usually handpainted. Fans can also be made of leather and punched to look like lace. The Chinese learned about fans from the Japanese in the 9th century. Both Chinese and Japanese cultures are immersed in the use and manufacture of the folding ladies fan.

Japanese fans used by royals

Beginning in the 15th century, fans were brought to Europe from China by Portuguese traders and the ladies fan became a method of silent communication, "a highly regarded feminine art," in the royal courts of Spain, England, and France, and most notably in Far Eastern culture. Fans became a fashion accessory and were crafted with painted designs and for special occasions. There were daytime fans, mourning fans, and fancy fans for elaborate parties embellished with feathers and jewels.

French ladies fan

In recent 20th century American history and before the invention of central air conditioning, paper fans with stapled wooden handles were used for cooling as was the original intention of invention and placed in every pew for Sunday morning church services in Southern churches.

In this age of tech mobility and cell phone use, a modern analogy of fan management can be seen in "speed dating" and texting message language utilized on mobile cell phones and the Internet today. Texting in many instances is just another form of flirting via fan in earlier centuries, albeit, phone text messages can also be ten times more graphic and leave little room for the imagination.

Here are some examples of fan flirting via text messaging:

Don't tell anyone... BM&Y...between you and me; with a fan, you would have covered your left ear with a closed fan.

Take a hike...BIH or BOB...burn in hell or back off buddy; with a fan, you would have lowered an open fan and pointed it toward the ground

- and a favorite example of how human nature remains the same, only the methods of communication change...BTYCL? (shag or Bootycall) your fan over your heart and flutter it to signal the time.

French fan, Durin, F., lithographer. Published in 1873, wiki commons
"Ready for the Ball," Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823–1903)
Nikki and Paris Hilton texts at Tracey Reese Fashion Show, bing