From the November 8, 1974 edition of the Vineyard Gazette by Polly Woollcott Murphy:

There was a time in West Tisbury when weather vanes were as ubiquitous as the television antennae that now adorn the roofs of the town. Perhaps that was because the town had its own maker of weather vanes in Frank Adams, whose miniature ships graced many a barn and shed on the Island, and for that matter, a number off-Island as well. His obituary in the May 5, 1944 Gazette observed that they “swung in the breezes all over the world.”

Today, there are only a few of these left in town. Many have disappeared, but others are treasured as the museum pieces they are. Recently there seems to be a sort of resurgence in the interest in weather vanes and the making of them, and a number of new ones have gone up in West Tisbury.

Max Kahn, a painter and sculptor from Chicago who now spends half the year in West Tisbury, has made many weather vanes — all of them of a fanciful nature — and he has recently raised a new one on the roof of his house at the corner of Scotchman’s Bridge Lane. It is a small man — a leprechaun perhaps? — in a top hat exuberantly riding a fish. It is three and a half feet long by two and a half feet high and is made of copper. The cardinal points are copper as well and the base is wood and copper.

Another recently-completed weather vane of Mr. Kahn’s shown at the Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown at the end of the summer, is of a mermaid embracing a large fish, in the enigmatic way of mermaids. Her hair is streaming backwards, and her tail is curved, high above her head. The whole is made of wood, silver leafed, and the fish’s eyes are marbles, one blue and one yellow.

Another new and highly conspicuous weather vane in West Tisbury is one made by Mrs. Stanton Leggett for her barn. She made it under the tutelage of Travis Tuck in his metal-working class at the high school summer before last, but it was mounted on her barn roof only recently. It depicts Jonah and a spouting whale. Jonah is kneeling in a large circle surrounded by the body of the whale. The vane is made of copper and bronze. Mrs. Leggett had never worked in metal before she fashioned the weather vane.

“Tom Maley advised me to make it big, because the barn roof is so high” she said, “so I made it really big.” It is five feet long and three feet tall, and it required Tom Maley, Travis Tuck and George Manter to get it into position on the barn roof. So successful was the weather vane that Mrs. Leggett has gone on to further metal work under Mr. Tuck’s supervision — a piece of sculpture for her garden a shoulder-high harpy made of copper with bronze hair.

It was Mr. Tuck who made the much-admired weather vane for the fisherman’s shack put up at Menemsha for the filming of Jaws. The weather vane was appropriately a three-dimensional great white shark, made of copper, and just like the rest of the building, it was skillfully and prematurely aged. It was treated with chemical acids that turned it the beautiful green that salt air would have brought on in time. The weather vane was sketched by the art director of the film, Joseph Alves, and executed from the sketch by Mr. Tuck. When the building was demolished after the filming, Mr. Alves kept the weather vane as a memento of Jaws, but so popular had it become that Mr. Tuck was commissioned to make several more this winter for other members of the film’s crew.

All of these recent weather vanes have been of more or less marine nature, as befits an Island and the spiritual descendants of Frank Adams. But Mr. Adams stuck strictly to ships, ships with all kinds of rigging. They were made of wood and their sails were of copper or tin.

One of his remaining weather vanes, a schooner, is on the roof of his former shop on Music street, now owned by the William Blocks. Another is a barque on the barn roof of the Leventritt place on the South Road in Chilmark, and it was commissioned from Mr. Adams for that place when it was a restaurant and gift shop called the Blue Barque. Mr. Adams sold his works of art for what seems an extremely-low price today. A weather vane of a four-masted schooner went for $16. His patterns were bought by Lawrence Winterbottom of Vineyard Haven who today makes ship weather vanes modeled after the master’s. One of his, a three-masted schooner, is owned by Mrs. Brooke Anderson at the former Priester place in North Tisbury.

West Tisbury, as an agricultural town, also had its share of animal weather vanes. Examples of these can be seen at Barnard’s Inn Farm where one barn is adorned with a large sheep and another a cow. Thomas Waldron followed this tradition a few years ago when he made a horse and buggy weather vane of wood for his barn. Weather vane don’t just show the direction of the wind. They have a thing or two to say about their owners as well, which is more than any television antenna can boast.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox