"I should like to have a bird (in place of the Vain) with an olive branch in its Mouth…" - George Washington to Joseph Rakestraw, Philadelphia, July 20, 1787

While presiding over the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787, George Washington took advantage of being in Philadelphia to commission master builder Joseph Rakestraw to construct a weathervane for his cupola. Washington determined the ornament's dove-of-peace design. He also instructed his nephew George Augustine Washington, who oversaw the weathervane's installation that August, to paint "the bill of the bird…black, and the Olive branch in its mouth…green." Drawing on classical iconography, Washington's weathervane symbolized domestic peace for the new nation that would endure no matter which way or how hard the winds of time might blow.
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Date

1787


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Copper, iron, lead, gilt, paint (ornament), wrought iron (rod and directionals), gilded copper (ball)


Dimensions

Overall (Dove of Peace): 34 3/4 in. × 42 1/2 in. (88.27 cm × 107.95 cm)


Credit

Transferred to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through the generosity of John Augustine Washington III, 1860


Marks

On top of ball (in impresed sans serif letters): "10/74 D. ORFFMAN" (this refers to Don Orffman who regilded the ball in 1974). Incised near bottom of ball (directly below Orffman's mark): "SDM" and "5/18/87(?)".

On bottom of ball (THIS NEEDS TO BE VERIFIED AND IMAGE TAKEN): "PA(M?)Co/ Philadelphia Copper/ J. Raikstraw"*
*Mark was recored in 1946 when weathervane was removed for repairs and refinishing. Carol Cadou and Laura Simo looked at the ball on 4/9/07 but saw no evidence of this mark.


Object Number

W-2492


Colors


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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