So popular was the sport of horseracing by the mid 19th century that the animal was frequently illustrated in popular lithographic prints sold for cheap decoration of middle class homes. The images provided inspiration for makers of weather vanes increasingly displayed on public buildings and barns in rural areas, providing vital information to help farmers plan when to plant or harvest crops. The mold for this weather vane was created by Joseph Wiley Fiske some time after he opened his factories in New York City and Massachusetts between 1858 and 1861. The vane is of gilded copper. The pattern for it was modeled after a Nathaniel Currier print of a famed trotting horse named “Black Hawk.”
Though debate has centered on whether this was “Long Island Black Hawk” or “Vermont Black Hawk,” the popularity of harness racing, also known as horse trotting, at agricultural fairs can not be doubted. By the late 19th century, betting on horses at race tracks had become a popular American pastime as natives and new immigrants gambled their earnings to take a chance on earning a bonus or losing a bundle.
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.