Which way does the wind blow? A look back at antique weathervanes

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Notes about weathervanes (1892 & 1887)

Carved wooden vanes went out with the figureheads in ships

When a Phoenician sailor stuck a needle through the stem of a feather and held it out in the wind. he invented the first weathervane, or feather vane. He was nearly equaled by the Indian boy who was taught to moisten his finger in his mouth, and to hold that finger aloft in the air. When that finger grew cold on a certain side, the Indian child knew that the wind came from that particular direction. The Phoenicians, however, were probably the first of all civilized peoples to put the vane of feather into practical use.

Since those early days, weathervanes have been used in every form and by all races, says the N.Y. Recorder. Modern vanes in their resent shapes were first made in wood, by traveling carvers and later in copper by tinkers and smiths. They were used on poles. churches. public buildings, ships and were placed on rocky points of land along the seashore. They are now made in every conceivable design and pattern. Horses, cows, deer, eagles, ships. roosters and even pigs are hammered out in copper and used to register the direction of the wind.

The newer vanes have rain-cups, attached for catching water during a storm. The amount of water that falls is measured by the square inch in a tube under the vane. Wind gauges also are attached. These indicate the speed of the wind. The gauges are small cups hung sideways to the vane. The wind blows them around in a circle and the revolutions are registered by electricity. Nearly all the large weathervanes in town are connected with dials in the buildings below.

The dial is round like the face of a clock. lettered like a compass and a revolving hand shows the action of the wind on the vane overhead. Vanes are no longer set in sockets, as it is nearly impossible to keep them properly oiled. They are hung loosely, like a cap on a pivot, and the hollow stem of the vane hangs over the head of the pivot, covering it from rain and rust.

One of the largest vanes ever seen in New York was placed on the post office about fifteen years ago. It was so large that it was considered unsafe and was taken down. A good drawing of it is still in existence.

The arrow, scroll and banneret seem to be favorite shapes in vanes at present. The fence-jumping horse and the plow are yet found on the grounds where country fairs are held. but they are not in great demand. The tobacco leaf vane is found largely in the South and in Connecticut. The spread eagle and running deer are wind signs in the western states, the deer more particularly in Canada. Malt barrels in copper are placed on breweries throughout the country. – From the Arkansas City Daily Traveler (Arkansas City, Kansas) – January 30, 1892

On one farm in Kansas: “The weathervanes on the roof indicate the particular breed of stock; thus, one vane is a rooster, another is a horse, while a third represents a cow.” – Nemaha County Republican (Sabetha, Kansas) from December 24, 1887

Antique weathervanes and finials from the 1910s & 1920s

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