Popular American Folk Art
Antique weathervanes are one of the most popular examples of American folk art available. Collectors appreciate the variety of forms, as well as the weathered appearance created by a century of wind and harsh weather. Popular subjects were animals of all kinds, birds, and patriotic themes like flags. Probably one of the most common designs is the rooster weathervane which can still be seen atop many country barns.
Why a Rooster?
The tradition of rooster weathervanes goes back to a ninth century law put into place by the pope that each church in Europe would have a cock attached to the steeple. This was to remind believes of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper that the cock would not crow until Peter had denounced Him three times.
Patriotic Antique Weathervanes
Early American weathervanes tended to be patriotic in nature. Themes included:
- Eagle with Serpent
Racehorses Became Popular
During the mid 1800s racehorses were the favored theme for antique weathervanes. This may have had to do with the popularity of an illustration of a racehorse by Currier and Ives.
Common Materials Used
Antique weathervanes were made out of a variety of materials including:
Three Dimensional Designs
After the mid 1800s copper sheets hammered or molded into the shape of the design were much more common due to industrialization. These antique weathervane designs are more likely to be 3-D than flat.Each half was molded separately and then soldered together.
Antique or Replica?
The materials in antique weathervanes will weather. You should not attempt to clean them; the patina of years of exposure is what makes these antiques interesting and valuable. Generally, the weathervane will show uneven wear. If it is wooden there may be chips of the original paint clinging to it in protected areas. A copper weathervane will have developed a verdigris finish while a metal one will be coated with rust and pockmarked. It may even have holes.Like the well pump, the antique weathervane is a reminder of a simpler time.