Historically, weathervanes have held symbolic implications that went beyond their mere function as wind indicators. Some early weathervanes in the form of a cock were placed on church steeples because of their association with the life of Christ. Later in the nineteenth century, weathervane imagery became diversified and referred to occupations, personal interests, and local and national trends. This weathervane is in the form of a 1909 Hupmobile, forecasting the rising popularity of the automobile. Robert and Louis Hupp founded the Hupp Motor Company Corporation in 1908 in Detroit and moved it some time later to Cleveland. Hupmobiles, as their cars were known, were made in all the popular models of the day, such as sedans, roadsters, and coupes. The company continued in business through the Great Depression, but its financial health was irreparably damaged, and it closed its doors in 1940, shortly after the release of the 1941 model.
Automobiles were originally the playthings of the rich, partly because of the initial purchase price but primarily because of the exorbitant cost of upkeep—including the requisite motoring clothing that made the experience complete. In 1907 Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, noted with alarm the growing schism between the elite and the masses: “Nothing has spread socialistic feeling in this country more than the use of the automobile,” which presented a “picture of the arrogance of wealth, with all its independence and carelessness,” At the same time, early automobiles regularly broke down on the road, and the vast amount of time spent tinkering gave rise to popular jokes at the expense of automobile owners. After 1911, when the privately held patent on the internal combustion engine was declared invalid, the automobile industry truly flourished, and the cost of buying and keeping a car came within the grasp of most Americans. The automobile became tied inextricably with the rise of the tourist industry, the improvement of roads, and the ability to travel greater distances within a reasonable amount of time. It is not known who made this copper weathervane, though at least one author has speculated it might be the J.L. Mott Iron Works or E.G. Washburne & Company, which included other touring cars in its inventory and is thought to have acquired the J.L. Mott wood patterns and molds.
Stacy C. Hollander, "1909 Hupmobile Weathervane," in American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 370.