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The Art of the Winds: Weather Vanes

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Folk Art is fascinating and addictive, with a history of simplicity.

Indian Weather Vane

Indian Weather Vane

Golden Grasshopper Weather Vane

Golden Grasshopper Weather Vane

The Indian and The Golden Grasshopper Weather Vanes

The Indian weather vane stood atop the Gross Point, Michigan home of Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford's home for years. Josephine was the granddaughter of the Ford automotive giants. The weather vane was purchased for a record $5.8 million by Jerry and Susan Lauren, of the Lauren Company.

the Golden Grasshopper weather vane is four feet long, weighs 80 pounds, made of copper with 23-carat gold. It sits atop Faneuil Hall, Boston

Tower of the Winds, Athens 48 B.C.

It was the Greek astronomer, Andronicus who invented the weather vane in 48 B.C. It is an octagonal marble clock tower with a combination of eight sundials, a water clock, and a weather vane on top. It measures 42 feet high and 26 feet in diameter. Sett on top was a weather vane of a Triton god, a man with the tail of a fish.

Tower of the Winds, Athens

Tower of the Winds, Athens

Triton Weather Vane Tower of the Winds

Triton Weather Vane Tower of the Winds

Weather Vanes Predict Weather and Wind

Used for hundreds of years as important, especially for farmers for their planting and harvesting. The vane rotates freely on a fixed vertical rod designed to point to the wind. Many of the earlier and collectible weather vanes were crafted by hand, varied in size, sometimes painted, or covered in gold leaf. Different subjects were used, from roosters, animals, birds, and trains.

Considered Folk Art, weather vanes are just a small part of Folk Art. Included are duck decoys, samplers, quilts, wooden toys, old store signs, painted game boards, and whimsical figurines. When collecting, it is crucial to consider the age, condition, composition, and rarity of the piece.

Folk Art is crafted of the people, for the people, and by the people for the eye of the beholder. The artist creates it with little or no formal training but simply with their heart, mind, and soul.

In Colonial America, vanes were brought from Holland in 1656 and placed atop their church in Albany, New York. In the 1740s, a giant grasshopper was crafted by Shem Drowne and gifted to Peter Faneuil, and it was molded after the grasshopper vane on top of the Royal Exchange in London. It toppled after a 1775 earthquake but was repaired and erected back in place. The 1800s favored patriotic themes of eagles, flags, or Goddess of Liberty weather vanes.

Here are a few records of prices paid for weather vanes:

  • 1990 $770,000 paid for a molded copper Horse and Rider, circa 1860
  • 1995 $225,000 paid for a horse-drawn fire wagon with two fireman
  • 2006 $1.08 million Liberty weather vane
  • 2006 $1.2 million for weathervane of a train
  • 2006 $5.84 for a weather vane of an Indian, purchased by Jerry Lauren

There are museums dedicated to Folk Art showcasing weather vanes and other collectible Folk Art. Some of those museums are:

  • Museum of International Folk Art, Sante Fe, New Mexico
  • The High Museum in Beaumont, Texas
  • Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.
  • Abby Aldrich Folk Art, Williamsburg
  • Shelburne Museum, Vermont


Rooster Weather Vane

Rooster Weather Vane

Ship Weather Vane

Ship Weather Vane

Fire Pump Weather Vane

Fire Pump Weather Vane

Weather Vane Collecting

It is still possible to find antique weather vanes but they are rare. Most vanes were on top of barns, city halls, churches, race tracks, etc. Usually, when a barn was torn down, the weather vane would be misplaced or thrown away because they were rather large and storage was a problem.

Suggested for further reading:

Antique Weather Vanes by A.B. and W. T. Westervelt

American Weathervanes


Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 24, 2020:

Thank you so much for your visit.

Rosina S Khan on November 24, 2020:

I find all the weather vanes in your article very fascinating. Thank you for sharing, Fran.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 23, 2020:

The weather vanes that you've shown are very interesting. My favorite is the grasshopper one. I know of one weather vane near my home. I'm going to look for more now that I've read your article.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 23, 2020:

Thanks for your visit. I would love to visit England with all its history.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 23, 2020:

This is an interesting topic. There are still many weather vanes around to be spotted in the UK.