This barometer hung in my parents’ garage for years. Its origins are sketchy, but I can’t remember a time it wasn’t sitting on a shelf in the garage of my childhood home. When my parents moved to a house without stairs to navigate in their twilight years, the barometer went with them and took up residence on top of their freezer. I recently claimed it as my own and brought it home to Yoder.
I remember asking my father about it’s purpose one day. He smiled and said it was a barometer, which was a tool for measuring atmospheric pressure. When the man came out, the weather was changing for the worse. When the woman came out, the weather was changing for the better.
After my illicit appropriation of the little house, I did some Internet research. I’ve discovered that it’s a hygrometer, not a barometer. It is what’s known as a German Weather House, made by the Toggili company. They’ve been around for more than 200 years, with this one being made sometime in the mid-20th century, probably shortly after World War II. They have become something of a collector’s item, selling on eBay an other auction sites for as much as $300, depending on craftsmanship and condition.
The engineering behind these ingenious and charming weather forecasters is a twisted stand of natural material, usually string or cat gut. This strand absorbs water molecules from moist, humid air. It then relaxes causing the man to come out. He represents change and rainy weather. When the surrounding atmosphere is dry, the strand shrinks and tightens up, causing the girl to come out. As in the fairer sex, she represents dry and fair weather.
But I think mine is broken. I distinctly remember my dad telling me if the conditions were just right, the woman would come out her side and yodel. Now, 32 years later, and nary a Yodel-oh-ee-dee from the Frau. 🙂