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Weathervanes - American Folk Art

Aug 27, 2008
Weathercock, weathercock, up in the sky, What can you see from your perch so high?

To farmers or to anyone working outside, the weather has always been a very important element. It taught our forefathers to sense impending storms, to hunt from down wind, and to make fires safely.

Before the days of "weather reports" the weather vane was more important then the clock is to workers today. Weather vanes and the wind was a true indicator of weather patterns. Because of this weathervanes became indispensable to the pioneers.

The first weathervanes were made of wood, with an arrow or pointing hand that had north-south directions indicated on them. The wood would rot, so the pioneers got creative and covered the wood with copper sheeting to give the weathervane a longer life. This made the weathervane too heavy, and it did not swing properly.

By definition, a weathervane is a figure that turns freely on a vertical rod and always points into the wind. Weathervane is derived from the word "fane," which means flag or banner in Anglo-Saxon.

The Greeks erected the first recorded weathervane about 48BC. It honored the Greek god Triton, as they believed the winds had divine powers. It had 8 sides that were carved representing the winds. Even then, they knew wind was a true indicator of weather patterns.

In the ninth century a pope supposedly decreed that every church have a cock on its steeple, a reminder of when Peter denied Christ three times; a reminder that each person would deny Jesus in some way.

The Quakers and Puritans thought weathercocks were graven images, so it wasn't until the eighteenth century that weathervanes became popular in the United States. At this time many churches adopted either rooster or swallow-tailed vanes.

In 1742, the most famous weathervane in the United States was made in Boston. Shaped like a grasshopper, complete with glass eyes. Just think, if that grasshopper could speak---what a historian it would be. It has survived earthquakes, fires, and the Boston Massacre.

Thomas Jefferson with his creative spirit attached the weathervane on Monticello to a pointer in the ceiling of the room directly below. While sitting inside he could till the direction of the wind.

"The Dove of Peace," a dove weathervane, was commissioned by George Washington for his estate at Mount Vernon. He commissioned the weathervane commemorating the end of the Revolutionary War.

Weathervane usually feature the interest of the owner; from chicken, horses, pigs, and other livestock for farmers, to deer or water foul for the hunter to sporting scenes or figures of a humorous nature. Weathervanes show off ones personality.

Weathervanes are both plain and fancy, some highly artistic and some humorous, or just an arrow pointing into the wind.

Weathervanes are making a come back, the fanciful designs that reflect the personality of the owners. Placed on top cupolas, weathervanes are giving homes a look to make them stand out from the crowd. http://prairierosecountry.com
About the Author
Cupolas bring a bit of country to your estate by providing exterior building ornamentation with traditional early American architectural accents. Cupolas decorate exterior roof tops of houses, garages, commercial buildings,and gazebos.Distinguish your home and business. http://prairierosecountry.com
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