The History of Weather Vanes
The earliest recorded weather vane, built by the astronomer Andronicus in 48 B.C., was of the Greek god Triton for the Tower of the Winds in
In Rome, in the ninth century A.D., the Pope decreed that all church domes or steeples in Europe should be topped by a cock, as a reminder of Jesus' words to Peter (Luke 22:34), that the morning following the Last Supper, the cock would crow once Peter had denounced Him three times. Since then, “weather cocks” have adorned many European and American church steeples.
The predecessors of weather vanes were likely the banners that flew from medieval towers in
Deacon Shem Drowne—America’s first documented maker of weather vanes—created vanes for several well-known sites: his famous grasshopper vane tops Faneuil Hall in Boston (1742); the banner atop Boston’s Old North Church (1740); the rooster vane (1721) now on top of First Church in Cambridge; and a copper Indian figure on the Province House in Boston (1716). Patriots like George Washington marked the end of the Revolutionary War by commissioning a weather vane in 1787 called the “Dove of Peace” from Joseph Rakestraw, for
Americans favored weather vanes in patriotic designs in the early 1800s, including the Goddess of Liberty, and the Federal Eagle. By mid-century, weather vanes of famous racing horses were modeled to look like Currier and Ives prints. Throughout the nineteenth century, many weather vane manufacturers mass-produced vanes in a myriad of designs. Some of the more famous makers were Harris & Co., A. L. Jewell & Co., L. W. Cushing, J. W. Fiske, and E. G. Washburne & Co.
As the nineteen century closed, Victorian buildings boasted fancier weather vanes with elaborate metalwork embellishing large portions of roof space. After 1900, weather vane manufacturers turned to a simpler style, often depicting hunting scenes.
Today, weather vane artists recreate many of the antique weather vanes of Europe and