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Author Topic: "St. Louis" horns  (Read 5372 times)
Habu
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« on: May 14, 2012, 02:59:55 AM »

You know the ones I mean--buffalo horns with bone and horn/ebony inlays?  I'm trying to gather more (OK, "any") information on them, including photos/locations/provenance of any existing specimens. 

I know about the Clark horn, can anyone share the locations of others?  I've been able to gather photos of only a few so far. 

No firm dating yet (I've been unable to positively date the existence of any of them prior to the War of 1812, but don't know yet if that means anything). 

I did manage to locate one maker, but I'm pretty sure he was not the primary producer.  The samples I've seen of his work are not up to the workmanship of Clark's horn. 

Thanks,
Jim
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T.C.Albert
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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2012, 07:52:27 AM »

Can you share that maker and his location?
tc
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bigbat
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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2012, 09:20:05 AM »

I had a very nice one that I bought from Roy "Pa" Keeler at Friendship back in the 70,s.  I have heard from reliable sources that Catlin decorated some of them for gifts.
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T.C.Albert
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2012, 11:44:44 AM »

Wyoming Historical Society...1930s..
"Indian Loving Catlin and his Buffalo Powder Horn"
its an obscure work, but documents a St Louis style Catlin horn fairly well..
as described it looks much like ...if not exactly like this one.
http://alisonandtheprofessor.blogspot.com/2011/07/powder-horn-bucks-fawns-and-snake.html
tc
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mr. no gold
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2012, 01:12:12 PM »

At one of the last Great Western Gun and Knife Shows held at the Los Angeles Fair Grounds, a dealer had a fine buffalo powder horn. Condition was good and it had inlays of red pipestone, bone, and maybe pewter, although I am hazy on the latter. Possibly some other material inlaid as well. It was artistic and very well done. An attractive piece, for sure.
Fellow wanted a lot for it back then, $750, which I had, but didn't want to spend it. Lost track of the horn very quickly as the politicos put an end to the show, and now am doing the familiar 'self butt kicking' for not picking it up. A plate on the horn was inscribed "C. C."; could have stood for Christopher Carson. It was a fine enough horn for someone like him to own.
Dick
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T*O*F
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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2012, 01:19:19 PM »

Quote
A plate on the horn was inscribed "C. C."; could have stood for Christopher Carson.
Dick,
Being in CA, it more likely stood for Charlie Chaplin.  Wink
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D. Taylor Sapergia
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2012, 01:35:33 PM »

Christopher Columbus?
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mr. no gold
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 02:16:53 PM »

Funny, funny!!! Today, everyone is a comedian. What will you all be tomorrow? Still wish I had bought the darn thing.
Dick
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Habu
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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2012, 02:29:14 PM »

Thanks guys.  I'd not heard any suggestion that Catlin had decorated some of them.  My first impression of the scrimshaw on the horn TC linked to--thanks TC!--is that it doesn't look like Catlin's hand (but then again, I've never seen any of his scrimshaw).  As the blogger suggested, it could have come from the same shop as Clark's horn.  I've had that paper from the Wyoming Historical Society on my watch list for some time, I'll have to work harder to get a copy now that I know what it covers.  

After about ten years of semi-serious looking, I'm not ready to consider these horns as a "school"--there are some common characteristics, but the architecture is all over the map.  Not all of them seem to have been made by professionals.  Since they do share some common characteristics, I've been thinking of them as a "group."  

Several years ago, I visited a small museum in MO.  I asked the bluehair about horns, and she said while the museum had none, there were a couple in her family "but they had white dots  so probably weren't what I was looking for!"  Turns out her family had 2 horns that fit with the "group."  

Both horns were made by a slave named Thomas (that was the only name she had for him).  He worked in Missouri; she thought at least one of the horns was made in the St. Louis area but as the family also had business interests in St. Joe it might have been made there.  That horn was associated with a shot pouch she was sure was also made by Thomas, and a St. Louis-made boy's rifle.  If Thomas also made the shot pouch, he may have had some training as a leather worker.  

The family also had another shot pouch and powder horn he made; the powder horn was made from a cow horn.  It shared similar architecture, but without the inlays etc.  She thought Thomas died in a cholera epidemic about 1850.  

Edited to add: it looks like I can examine the Wyoming Historical Society paper on my next trip to town; don't waste time trying to get a copy of Sarton's 1934 paper of a similar name, it adds nothing to the subject. 

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jdm
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2012, 04:55:55 PM »

Was there one in that last Cowans auction?  JIM
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JIM
Habu
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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2012, 05:19:38 PM »

There was, but a really strange one even for the St. Louis group--mother of pearl inlays, very high polish (though I guess the possibility exists that it was coated with something), scrimshawed with some unusual scenes, snake carved around the neck instead of the usual rings, flat/flush plug with 12 inlays and no pins in the plug, and a brass button instead of a bone button.  It was from the Dressler collection, but didn't sell.   

It struck me as very unusual, and I wasn't sure if it was modern or what.
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louieparker
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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 05:48:51 PM »


I know of another horn very much like the Cowan horn but with a bigger snake and red tented Indian scenes...VERRRRY high polish...LP
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Tim Crosby
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2012, 05:53:08 PM »

 From Art's blog:

  http://contemporarymakers.blogspot.com/2012/04/early-american-buffalo-powder-horn.html

 I think this is the one from the auction, (?)



   Tim C.
 
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Habu
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2012, 06:02:23 PM »

Tim-yeah, that's the same horn as at Cowan's.  Louie, do you know any of the history on the other horn?
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louieparker
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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2012, 07:59:47 PM »

Very little .   It sold on eBay about five years {maybe more} ago ..The winner sold it to a collector in Ohio .. He kept it until about two years ago and traded it off..It too was similar to the Clark horn, yet very different.. In my view very over done ....Who was selling the Cowen horn Huh............LP
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Habu
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« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2012, 08:38:17 PM »

Thanks Louie.  No history or ownership information on the horn at Cowan's beyond that it was out of the Dressler collection.

I just zoomed in on those pictures some more.  It looks like the center button on the butt plug is horn, not brass.  Cowan's dates the piece as "Early 19th century"--I'd like to know how you polish a buffalo horn in such a way that the polish lasts for 200 years . . . .
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JoeG
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« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2012, 09:24:07 PM »

This is one I photographed in the St. Louis Historical Society Museum about 25 years ago so please excuse the quality







it was the only one I saw there

The St. Louis historical society Museum is not the Arch it was at the Worlds Fair Park site
They also had the original Missouri River Boatmans shirt on display,several nice iron mounted southern rifles and a Gemmer cartridge conversion

Don't know if it still there

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Habu
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2012, 09:42:31 PM »

That's a great horn Joe, thanks for posting it. There's a lot of information in those pics!
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T.C.Albert
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2012, 12:35:51 PM »

Any theories on who made these unique horns? Or known details about the where and when etc?
tc
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JoeG
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2012, 01:00:14 PM »

 photos of the horn that belonged to William Clark





and that is all the information I have on this style
I would sure like to learn more about them and how common they were.

  I had not heard about the Catlin connection before this post.
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James Rogers
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« Reply #20 on: May 15, 2012, 01:06:58 PM »

Dang if they don't look classic art nouveau to me.
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Habu
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« Reply #21 on: May 15, 2012, 01:27:59 PM »

Thanks for the pics Joe!  There is an enlargable pic of Clark's horn at http://collections.mohistory.org/object/OBJ:1923+050+0030, but it only shows one view.  Another photo at that site shows the Clark horn and a bunch of Clark's other souvenirs in a typical Victorian display at jefferson Kearney Clark's residence http://collections.mohistory.org/photo/PHO:21406.

From what I've seen and the little available information on original owners, I suspect they were made as presentation horns or "for fancy" rather than for actual use--none of the ones I've seen seem to have been heavily used, and I suspect the glues used on the inlays wouldn't have held up with repeated exposure to the weather.  The horns don't seem to show the degree of weathering we get when we actually use powder horns made from buffalo horns.   

Construction details, and the tools and knowledge involved, suggest to me that they were all made by the same person, and that he may have been a gunsmith.  Some of the details and materials used argue against it having been someone from one of the other trades who had the necessary knowledge and tools.  But at this point, that is just a SWAG.
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JoeG
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« Reply #22 on: May 15, 2012, 03:44:27 PM »

We may not know much about who made them or why,but since they made more than one there must have been a market.
All I know is that they sure catch your eye and make you wish you had one to wear around camp

Its interesting that I took those Photos over 25 years ago and have shown them to many people but its only in the last couple of years  that I have ever seen any real  interest in this style of  horn.

Must be the power on the internet.
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Loudy
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« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2012, 07:11:56 PM »

Being from the St. Louis area,  these buffalo powderhorns have been of great interest to me for quite awhile.  Hopefully someone will come across definitive documentation regarding where and by whom these fascinating horns were made.  Till then we'll have to settle for speculation and educated hunches.   

In the Missouri History Museum's digital image collection there is an copy of a letter dated January 8, 1841 from Robert E. Lee to a Mr. Henry Kayser in St. Louis.  In the letter R. E. Lee asks Mr. Kayser to purchase a "very handsome" buffalo powder horn similar to one sent to "Col. Hook". 

http://contentdm.mohistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/archives&CISOPTR=1051&CISOBOX=1&REC=2

I have to wonder what exactly this "handsome" horn might have looked like?  A local collector here in the St. Louis area told me that he once heard that these boldly decorated buffalo horns were made in a Mandan Village on the upper Missouri River in what is now South Dakota.  An interesting mystery.

Mark Loudenslager   
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Habu
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« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2012, 01:23:57 AM »

Loudy, you're a wonderful human being!  I'd not seen that letter before, but I have run across Kayser's name--just have to remember where, I'm thinking it was one of the archives in St. Louis.  I'll have to see what I can run down next trip. 

Joe, I've seen Clark's horn a few times over the years but until relatively recently I was unaware of others like it in design and decoration.  Once I learned of the others, I realized it was something I could study and try to put into context.  That's my kind of puzzle!  The 'net sure helps, otherwise I'd not have an opportunity to do so. 
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