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Weathervane: Trotting Horse

1875-1900 (probably)
Origin: America, New England
Overall: 17 1/4 x 29 1/4 x 1 3/4in. (43.8 x 74.3 x 4.4cm)
Zinc alloy, copper, lead, and gilding
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1931.800.2
A full-bodied vane of a trotting horse with head low and legs fully extended. The body and tail are two separate halves soldered together, while the mane and single remaining ear were cut from sheet and soldered into place. A vertical pole is attached at the knee joint of the R front leg. Traces of original gilding are still visible. The horse's proper R ear was missing at the time of the object's 1931 acquisition and remains so (6/24/2009).
Label:This vane's basic design was originated at A. L. Jewell & Co., of Waltham, Massachusetts, but it continued to be offered by Leonard W. Cushing (?-1907) and Stillman White (?-?), who acquired the Jewell firm in 1867. The new owners ran their business as "Cushing & White" only briefly; Cushing bought out White in 1872. It appears that the firm then operated for a brief, undetermined span as "L. W. Cushing & Co." When Cushing's two sons, Harry and Charles, joined the business, it was renamed "L. W. Cushing & Sons," and it operated under this last name until its closure in 1933.
The number of specific trotters (and, to a lesser extent, pacers) immortalized as weather vanes testifies to the popularity of harness racing during the second half of the nineteenth century. Replicas of "Ethan Allen," "Mountain Boy," Black Hawk," "Goldsmith Maid," "Dexter," "St. Julien," "Smuggler," and other famous horses were best-sellers for a number of weather vane manufacturers. But because designs were often bought, sold, swapped, pirated, copied, and adapted, it is sometimes difficult to identify both the equines and their fabricators. This vane may represent "Ethan Allen," but similar examples were marketed by several firms, sometimes with other horses' names for titles. The form closely resembles that of the "Goldsmith Maid" offered by J. W. Fiske in 1875, for instance. The Museum's vane measures about 30 inches in length, so it would have cost somewhat less than the 42-inch version offered for $40 by L. W. Cushing & Sons in 1883. The vane was gilded using thin, rectangular sheets of gold leaf; this original surface has eroded over time, revealing the pattern of its application and creating an unintended but visually appealing patchwork effect.
Named for Ethan Allen (1738-1789), Revolutionary War hero and leader of the "Green Mountain Boys," the equine "Ethan Allen" was a bright bay Morgan, born in 1849 and bred by J. W. Holcomb of Ticonderoga, New York. Period sources describe him as "the fastest trotting stallion in his day."







Provenance:Found in Boston by Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from Halpert by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, CWF's donor.