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Today we look online to determine the weather. When I was little, I remember people had big thermometers hanging outside, or suctioned to the outside of, for example, the kitchen window. But when did people start doing that? Was there something they did before that to learn about the weather? (Did cities have thermometers in public places before homes had their own? anything like that?)

I discovered that oral thermometers were being promoted for self-diagnosis at home in the 1870s, but nothing about weather thermometers...

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Well, the Native Americans did have their weather rocks ;-) –  T.E.D. Jan 9 at 15:23
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Perhaps around when soda-pop companies began giving them away for free: pinterest.com/pin/574420127443803286 –  Pieter Geerkens Jan 9 at 23:02
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also (from RC Cola and Coca Cola respectively) ebay.com/itm/… and ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Style-Outdoor-Coca-Cola-Thermometer-00739-/… –  Pieter Geerkens Jan 9 at 23:07
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@T.E.D.: Pray tell, where can I get me one of them weather rocks? –  Pieter Geerkens Jan 9 at 23:22
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@PieterGeerkens - Well, my parents bought me a genuine one from Dogpatch USA when I was a kid. Ironically, it would probably be worth something now. –  T.E.D. Jan 9 at 23:41
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1 Answer

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According to Vintage and Antique Thermometers:

Advertising thermometers first appeared in the 1900s and were widespread in the United States by the 1920s. Intended to be hung outside, the earliest were made of metals like tin, plus wood.
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Traveling salesmen would often come bearing gifts, like beautiful tin or porcelain signs shilling their products, for the owner of the café, gas station, or the five-and-dime to hang at their establishment. Companies like Coca-Cola figured out that if an advertisement were also a utilitarian object, such as a chalkboard, a light fixture, or a clock, it would stay up at the store longer than an ordinary sign.

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awesome; wonderful; thanks! :) –  Ben H Jan 9 at 23:20
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