IWalked Boston’s Faneuil Hall (Grasshopper Weathervane)
Perhaps the most recognizable element to Faneuil Hall is the grasshopper weather vane perched atop the roof. This copper addition which is gilded with gold leaf, was 1st created by a silversmith by the name of Shem Drowne who constructed it in 1742. Mr. Drowne also created another popular weather vane in Boston which you may admire if you happen to visit the Old North Church in the North End.
After being damaged in the 1761 fire, Shem’s son, Thomas, actually repaired the weathervane and when he did, began a tradition called “Food for the Grasshopper” when he inserted a time capsule inside. Now periodically mayors of the city of Boston will each leave their own piece of history by inserting additions to capsule.
As to the origin or significance of a grasshopper, the most common theory to this is that the weathervane was reportedly modeled after a similar structure atop the London Royal Exchange. It is assumed that this long standing association with the Royal Exchange is what spurred Mr. Drowne’s similar creation.
When this weathervane was originally shipped to Faneuil Hall to be placed atop its perch, it almost did not arrive. Due to a mail mix-up (which apparently happened even back in the 1700s) the weathervane was supposedly shipped to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA where it sat atop their Wren Building for 3 months before the mix-up was noted and the individuals at the college noted that they had actually ordered a butterfly.
During the American Revolution the grasshopper played a great significance for colonists trying to identify British spies. When an individual was suspected of being disloyal to the revolutionary cause they were asked to identify what was atop Faneuil Hall. If they were unable to answer they were convicted of being a British spy.
In January of 1974 (the middle of winter mind you), the 80 pound grasshopper was actually stolen. It took police only 2 days to find the missing piece and luckily it had not gone far as its thief (whom was a steeplejack working on Faneuil Hall) had only made it as far as the attic.
Address: 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Boston’s North Downtown; Boston’s Top 10 Attractions. (Purchase the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all Boston tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREE Boston Lite application, which includes a free 1 hour tour of a portion of Downtown.)