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Home > Special Services > Weather Wise > Weathervane History

Home > Weather Wise > Weathervane History

The Weathervane - the enduring symbol of our dependence upon the wind and weather. Mankind has been testing the wind changes in weather and fortune for centuries. From raising a moistened finger to tossing blades of grass into the air, we have employed various methods for checking wind direction before embarking upon work or play.

By definition the weathervane, or weathercock as it is also called, is a figure that turns freely on a vertical rod and by virtue of its design, always points into the wind. Stated another way, the wind always comes from the direction in which the weathervane points.

Wherever people have settled, their reliance upon the weathervane has been as basic to them as grinding wheat for bread. The weathervane has always represented a simpler way of life, a life that is tied closely to nature. At the end of each day and with the dawning of the next, people have looked to the sky and studied the direction of their weathervane. They have plowed and sown, reaped and stored, worked and played, trusting the good directions of the wind that drove their fate.

Derived from the Old English word fane, meaning flag or banner, the weathervane was part of ancient cultures as early as 48 B.C. when a life-sized replica of the Greek god Triton was hoisted atop the Tower of Winds in Athens. Even then mankind realized that wind direction was the near certain indicator of weather patterns.

With the discovery of the New World and the colonization of what is now New England, weathervanes were proudly displayed from the high steeples of newly populated towns and cities as our ancestors blended cultures and traditions to become America.

At first, colonists merely copied the sculptured figures from their European roots. But with the passage of time, the subjects for their weathervanes changed and evolved to reflect the environment and character of the New World. New Englanders used symbols of their new frontier such as fish, seagulls and ships, since these were prevalent icons of coast-dwellers. As American pioneers moved westward and an agrarian populace developed, farmers designed and crafted their own figureheads including pigs and other farm animals, Indian figureheads and arrows, and especially horses.

As years passed, the creative art form became as important as the functionality. For this reason weathervane sculptures have been sought out as art, and it is a matter of record that some have sold for as much as five figures.

And now, as we've headed into a new millennium, people are forging a hole in cyberspace for things traditional: for reminders of a simpler time and a gentler pace, for a return to the garden and the deliberate timetable of nature, which won't be rushed or dictated to.

Whatever your personal reason for purchasing a weathervane, you are now a part of a great American tradition. Congratulations and may favorable winds blow your way!

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