Weather Vanes and Trade Signs from a Distinguished New England Collection
July 9, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Fanciful weather vanes and trade signs made by skilled artisans once added notes of whimsy to otherwise mundane streets and farms. By the end of the nineteenth century, most weather vanes were serially produced in small factories and sold through mail order catalogues. To adorn his house or barn, a purchaser might choose a vane that reflected his business, profession, or favorite hobby through variations of conventional forms. Hoping to grab the attention of potential customers on busy, crowded thoroughfares, the makers of trade signs also followed conventions, but in more idiosyncratic ways. Their brightly colored and (to modern eyes) uncanny signs, which typically hung above the doors of shops, advertised products and services using visual tropes readable even by illiterate viewers. This exhibition of selections from a distinguished private collection places outstanding American weather vanes and trade signs in dialogue with one another and gives viewers a glimpse of the rich visual complexity of ordinary public spaces in the United States during the long nineteenth century.
Banner Image: Photo of Waterville Downtown, Main Street