Sold: Cop Radiator Cap
Figural radiator cap policeman whirligig / cast white metal / c. 1920s
Poking fun at the beleaguered traffic cop, this rare novelty automobile mascot functioned as a radiator cap. The policeman’s arms are canted blades, which were designed to catch and turn in the wind, while his torso is mounted to spin vertically on ball bearings. Driving with the figure screwed to the prow of your hood, the arms of the frenzied little policeman would slice at the air in a blur, his movements determined by the pressure of your own foot on the gas pedal.
When the radiator topper was designed, the relationships between the miniature whirligig cop, automobile, and driver reflected the relationships between the government, technology, and citizenry colliding on city streets. Automobiles, still a relatively new technology, remained unsafe and the existing infrastructure and traffic rules inadequate. The futility of the officer’s reeling arms captured the government’s failure to curb disorder.
Bare metal and patina from many years mounted to a car radiator.
7 inches tall
5 inches wide wide
2.25 inches deep
6 inch arm wingspan
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