Teddy Roosevelt whirligig circa 1901 auctions for nearly $900
Whirligigs were invented centuries ago. They are both toys and tools, indicators of wind direction and the weather. Sources disagree on where the first were made; it was probably in China about 400 B.C. or by Native Americans about 550 B.C. The whirligig must have a spinning part and a base and many were made in fanciful shapes. The oldest known pictures of a whirligig were in tapestries made in medieval times.
There are many names and many shapes of whirligigs. Old sources call them pinwheels, gee-haws, whirlyjigs or whirlys. Vintage examples have waving arms, flags, angels’ wings, a man chopping wood, horses running and much more. They are also popular children’s toys or garden ornaments.
A political whirligig was sold by Garth’s Auctions in Ohio a few years ago. It is a figure of President Theodore Roosevelt with a top hat and monocle riding on a penny farthing cycle. Roosevelt served from 1901 to 1909, so it must have been made after 1901. He is holding a red counterbalance vane that turns the bike with the wind. The handmade whirligig sold at Garth’s for $865.