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Pennsylvania Map Powder Horn


One adornment that contributed both beauty and functionality to powder horns originated in the French and Indian War when armies traversed the American wilderness, most of which was previously uncharted.  "Fighting throughout this campaign took place in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, the interior of these states being a comparative wilderness and the various routes being unknown except to fur traders.  This fact caused a new feature to appear on the horn of  the soldier - a map of the route. At that time few printed maps existed and it was a unique way to keep track of one's location in relation to forts, lakes and rivers.  This style of carved horn became so popular that, while still practical, the maps were fancily decorated.

By the late 1700's, the new United States was rapidly becoming more industrial, with Philadelphia becoming the center of manufacturing. Powder horns were still a necessity for the growing population of frontiersmen, hunters, and farmers, which made them eligible for new forms of mass production but a goodly number of men chose to carve their own horns and were limited only by their talent and imagination.  While professionally engraved powder horns could be objects of considerable beauty, amateur versions created by soldiers and hunters more often reflected the quaint charm of folk art.  Many who needed horns made them at home, but there was a trade in fancier specimens.  Professionally made horns were often dipped in a yellow dye to give surface the appearance of amber or scraped thin and then stained with butternut bark to bring out their translucence. Engravings could be punched up by using various locally available dyes, and the whole thing could be preserved with shellac. It seems possible that this horn may have benefited from one or more of these processes since it is so beautifully legible.

American Powder Horns were usually made using horns from cows, bullocks, or oxen selected for their beauty and size. If well made and cared for, caulked around the wooden bottom plug with hemp or tallow and fitted with a precisely- carved wooden stopper, a horn was capable of keeping powder dry even under the wettest of field conditions.  Men wore them on a strap over their shoulders so they dangled at their sides.  (Did you know that the horn on the left side of the animal is different from the horn on the right?  So, if you were right handed you would need the horn on the right side and visa versa.  It all has to do with the curve.)



This 18th Century Powder Horn with scrimmed map of Philadelphia and North, a Frontiersman,  3 Indian Figures showing tribal dress, and the inscription "United We Stand - Divided We Fall" and the number "13" scratched into the bottom cap of the Horn is exceptional in concept as well as in execution.  Note the patination on the 4 brass tacks at the bottom of the horn, one of which has been cleaned down to the shiny brass. Horns such as this are rarely seen outside of a museum environment. Size is 16 inches from stopper to bottom.

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