"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.


Weathervane with ornament in the shape of a dove with outspread wings and an olive branch (painted green) in its beak (painted black). Mounted on a wrought iron rod with iron directional held in place with forged nails and a large gilded copper ball below. The dove is made in three parts: the body from copper bound with iron strips, the bill and olive branch from one piece of iron, and the head of lead (to balance the weight).

Alternate names for this form include: weather vane, wind vane.






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


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

Credit Line

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


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


Colors (Beta)

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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