Time Capsule

Initial Design

Initial Design

The weathervane that adorns the Washburn Shops cupola remains a distinguishing characteristic on campus today. Since 1868, the arm and hammer has symbolized the "practice" in the WPI motto, Theory and Practice. It was originally designed by Charles H. Morgan, a WPI trustee and a leader in the American wire industry, whose original sketch was given to WPI in 1911 by his son, Paul B. Morgan, upon his father’s death.

In October 1975, near tragedy befell the campus when the arm and hammer went missing. "No one thought it was funny," then President George Hazzard remarked in the student newspaper, Newspeak, on the one-year anniversary of the prank. "There was just downright indignation all over campus." While the original weathervane was never found, the university received, two months after the prank, a ransom note with a color photograph of the copper gilded vane lying in the woods. (A mailing snafu prevented any opportunity to recover the familiar sight. WPI received the letter on a Monday, but it was postmarked on the previous Friday afternoon, the same date the ransom amount was to be received.)

In 1977, WPI received a replica of the arm and hammer as a gift from Richard Johns, a contractor who had done considerable work on campus and who, at the time, had been restoring the Washburn Shops. Today, that replica remains firmly mounted atop Washburn Shops, the oldest building in the nation used continuously for engineering education.

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Last modified: October 08, 2009 13:36:36