One of the oldest known weather instruments, weathervanes have been used to forecast the weather
for over two thousand years. Mariners and farmers depended on them for accurate predictions.
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