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As long as humans have farmed the land, sailed the seas, and contemplated their place in nature, the wind has played a key role in their speculations. By interpreting the wind’s changing direction our ancestors predicted the coming weather to survive.

The earliest documented weather vane is a huge figure of the Greek sea god, Triton, mounted atop the Tower of Winds in Athens, Greece, first century BC. In the 9th century Vikings were carrying weathervanes on their dangerous seafaring voyages, permitting them to explore beyond sight of land.

Renaissance nobility used the weathervane to display their heraldic coats of arms. After the American and French Revolutions commoners began to use weathervanes to showcase their occupations.

Early American settlers altered traditional designs by featuring local elements, wild and domesticated animals, and sailing ships. A banner shaped vane, crafted by Shem Drowne, the first documented weathervane maker in the Americas, has been revolving in the wind atop Boston’s Old North Church since 1740. The famous grasshopper vane he made for Faneuil Hall in 1742 was witness to the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.

Before 1850 weather vanes were individually hand made, making them quite valuable for collectors today. Popularity peaked in the Victorian era, and small weathervane factories were established to meet the increased demand. Many of the vanes made by these companies are considered prime collectibles, drawing astonishing sums in auction. Interest in weathervanes, and the craft of making weathervanes, has been accelerating since the 1970’s, and continues to grow.