Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Wrought in 1699 by an unknown blacksmith work­ing in either Pennsylvania or England, an iron weath­ervane that once adorned a mill in present-day Delaware County is a prized acquisition of Philadelphia’s venerable Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The seventeenth century weathervane suggests the trades of craftsmen of vital importance to frontier settlements: millwrights, who built mills, and millers, who operated them to grind com and grain or saw lumber. The blacksmith who crafted this particu­lar piece based its design on traditional banner – or pennant-shaped weathervanes, joining the forged and cut elements to form the date and initials of the mill’s prominent owners, William Penn (1644-1718), Samuel Carpenter (1649-1714), and Caleb Pusey (1651-1727).

The partners’ role in developing Pennsylvania is well documented. William Penn, of course, founded the Commonwealth in 1681 (see “Explaining William Penn on the 350th Anniversary of His Birth: An Interview with Richard S. Dunn” by William C. Kashatus III in the fall 1994 edition). Samuel Carpenter was a prosperous miller and businessman. Caleb Pusey, a builder and manager of several mills in south­eastern Pennsylvania, served for many years as a justice of the peace, two years as sher­iff, several terms as a mem­ber of the Provincial Assembly, and as Chester County treasurer in 1704.

According to early accounts, the weathervane graced Chester Mills, at one time known as Pusey Mills, erected on Chester Creek, near Upland. Both the mill’s building materials and equipment were reportedly imported from England, but it remains unclear in which country the weathervane was actually crafted. The site of the mill is included in the Pusey-Crozer Mill Historic District, named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The weathervane was given by Reese Wall Flower to the his­torical society in 1975.

Established in 1824 to “collect and preserve evidences of the past of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is recognized as one of the nation’s leading repositories of historical materials. Its varied holdings include a library of more than five hundred thousand books and pamphlets, eight thousand volumes of newspapers, an archives of more than fifteen million documents and manu­scripts, and a collection of fine and decorative arts numbering more than seven thousand objects.

For additional information about the institution’s public pro­grams, changing exhibits, and publications, write: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; or telephone (215) 732-6200.