Grasshopper Weathervane, Maker Unknown, Copper and Glass, 1987.49.3.1. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Legum.

MdHS, 1987.49.3.1, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Legum

Weathervanes have been in existence for over 3500 years and are mentioned in early writings from Mesopotamia. Their name comes from the Old English word fane which means flag or banner. They are one of the earliest forms of weather prediction and though they certainly weren’t as accurate as today’s technology they helped societies to better predict weather trends and strengthen their agricultural production.

In the United States, weathervanes began to gain popularity with the help of our first President, George Washington who commissioned a weathervane for Mount Vernon in the shape of a dove to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson also had one at Monticello and even Paul Revere had one on top of his blacksmith’s shop.

In more rural settings it became more common for farmers to have their own weathervanes since they were too far out to be able to rely on the ones usually on the tops of the town hall or local church. As their popularity spread their designs became more artistic and unusual. Eventually they became their own form of folk art and appeared not just on farms but on houses, schools, flagpoles and other buildings. They came in all shapes and sizes and were usually made from wood, copper or wrought iron. Though their popularity peaked in the late 19th century they are making a comeback. Many people today collect antique weathervanes to use as decoration inside their homes or in their gardens and modern craftsmen still make fun and whimsical weathervanes as well.

This weathervane is a great example of the fun and more unusual style that were used.