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Weathervane: Trotting Horse and Sulky

1872-1880
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Waltham (probably)
Overall: 17 3/8 x 36 3/4 x 5 1/4in. (44.1 x 93.3 x 13.3cm)
Copper, copper alloy, iron, zinc alloy, lead, and gilding
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1931.800.3
Weathervane of a trotting horse drawing a sulky. Reins and whip held by driver wearing close fitting suit and peaked driving cap. Remains of yellow paint. Whip bent. Horse has iron head - small for body, jagged mane blowing, eyes bright, mouth a little open. Neck long for body giving impression of energy and slight turn of head suggest swaying motion of fast trotting horse. Hindquarters lower than front as if from pull of cart. Straight thin jockey with iron head and stamped metal body. Holds reins and whip.
Label: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.
Many manufacturers offered vanes of generic horses and specific racers with optional jockeys, with drivers and two-wheeled sulkies, or with drivers and four-wheeled wagons at increasingly higher prices. In 1883, for instance, A. B. & W. T. Westervelt offered a vane of "Dexter" alone for $40. Adding a jockey jacked the price to $50, a sulky and driver drove it to $55, and a wagon and driver raised it to $75.


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