The photograph in Style confirmed a hunch by Keith Egloff, an assistant curator and archaeologist with the state Department of Historic Resources, that it was part of an old lightning rod.
Typically, wishbones like these were placed against a chimney with the two prongs buried deep in the ground, Egloff explains. When lightning struck the top of the chimney, the electrical charge was conducted down a series of linked iron bars to the base deep in the ground, where it could disperse harmlessly. So the weird wishbone may once have prevented Mr. Jefferson's Capitol from burning down. Melissa Scott Sinclair
Letters to the editor may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org