Author Topic: Original Buffalo Powder Horn  (Read 8501 times)

Offline JTR

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Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« on: April 20, 2009, 07:39:20 PM »
Here's a buffalo powder horn that a friend sent pictures of, and asked that I post them here for you guys to enjoy or comment on.

This is what he has to say about it;

This is the biggest, buffalo horn that I have seen. There is a skull with horns in a ranger station in Yellowstone that is this big or bigger, and it was found in the back country dead.
This horn measures twenty and one half inches on the outside of the curve including the bone tip. The butt is four and three eights. The butt plug is covered with buffalo horn with bone dot decoration.
There was a group of these decorated buffalo horns made somewhere, I like to think in the St. Louis area, but no proof. Some of them had the butt plug covered with long triangle shaped pieces of black and white material, alternating the color, and the dot bone decoration around the butt plug and spout. One of these horns is in the Jefferson Memorial Museum in St. Louis, which belonged to William Clark.
This horn is about too big for a normal hunting trip, so I think it was made for one of the big western expeditions. But again, only speculation.
Anyway this is a good example of the yellow color in a stressed buffalo horn.









Looks like a big fine horn to me!
John

« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 08:39:58 PM by rich pierce »
John Robbins

Offline Cory Joe Stewart

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2009, 08:46:59 PM »
That is very cool, thanks for sharing.

Coryjoe

Offline Randy Hedden

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2009, 09:02:08 PM »
I have seen a few of what I call the St. Louis school powder horns, but none of them looked like this one.  However, if I had to guess I might think that this horn is an eastern made horn that was carried west.  It is awfully large to be a primary horn to carry, but one never knows.

Randy Hedden
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timM

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2009, 03:37:30 AM »
Grande horn!   John, thank you for posting it. 

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2009, 07:30:45 AM »
Very nice western horn! Thank you showing it off, John. There seems to have been a western tradition of using bison horns for powder containers and ornamenting them in unusual ways not often seen in the East.
I am reminded of a similar horn at the now defunct Great Western Gun and Knife show that was held in Pomona, CA many years ago. One dealer who specialized in western items had it and wanted $750 for it, at the time (a lot of money 20 years ago). It was polished bison, a nice black color and was inlaid with bone (like this one), and catlinite. One large bone inlay in the horn body bore the initials, 'CC' (Christopher Carson?). It was a finely made and extremely beautiful horn. Seems now that it was one of an entire class of horns; darn, wish I had bought it.   
Dick

Offline G-Man

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2009, 04:45:19 PM »
In addition to the west, there are a few examples of buffalo powderhorns from the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.  The two that come to mind look to be high grade, presentation pieces (maybe why they survived) and both possibly have ties to the Wabash region.   Perhaps by the time they were made buffalo were getting scarce in the area and use of the horns was reserved for rare pieces.  Anyway, one is attributed to John Small, Vincennes Indiana, ca: 1780s-1820 and has an engraved silver cap on the butt; the other is the one shown in Ted Belue's books that is, or used to be, thought to have belonged to Tecumseh.

That is a really nice, unusual horn.  Thanks for posting it.

Guy 

Offline Randy Hedden

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2009, 08:06:32 PM »
Very nice western horn! Thank you showing it off, John. There seems to have been a western tradition of using bison horns for powder containers and ornamenting them in unusual ways not often seen in the East.
  
Dick

Dick,

What unusual ornamental features do you see in this horn that would be not often seen in the East?

Randy Hedden
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Offline Belleville

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2020, 05:31:35 AM »
In addition to the west, there are a few examples of buffalo powderhorns from the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.  The two that come to mind look to be high grade, presentation pieces (maybe why they survived) and both possibly have ties to the Wabash region.   Perhaps by the time they were made buffalo were getting scarce in the area and use of the horns was reserved for rare pieces.  Anyway, one is attributed to John Small, Vincennes Indiana, ca: 1780s-1820 and has an engraved silver cap on the butt; the other is the one shown in Ted Belue's books that is, or used to be, thought to have belonged to Tecumseh.

That is a really nice, unusual horn.  Thanks for posting it.

Guy

I have Belue's book The Long Hunt - Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi. Can not seem to find an illustration of horn reportedly belonging to Tecumseh? Help. Doc S.

Offline Tanselman

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2020, 11:49:34 PM »
The small white bone inlays, round in shape, are not seen on Eastern horns, and I have never seen an "attributed" eastern buffalo horn of this size. It looks very much like a St. Louis or points west buffalo horn. In addition, you do not see much of the chimed-in horn plugs, or covers for plugs, on Eastern horns, and in particular with the small, round bone inlays.

We need to be careful in discussing "Eastern" buffalo horns, because attributions are not always fact. The "attributed" John Small horn is a good example. John Small's estate inventory listed buffalo horns, and that and a lot of wishful thinking made the silver mounted buffalo horn into a John Small horn in some people's minds...with virtually no other connection to Small. You can say the engraving on the silver butt cap looks like Small's work, but no definitive study has been done to verify this possibility, and in truth the engraving looks like most good English engraving of the period found on British gorgets, etc.

I have seen a few buffalo horns probably from the Midwest, but all have been rather small, and rather plainly made. We need Louis Parker to get involved in this thread, since he is one of the more knowledgeable people in this area.

Shelby Gallien

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2020, 11:18:41 PM »
In addition to the west, there are a few examples of buffalo powderhorns from the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.  The two that come to mind look to be high grade, presentation pieces (maybe why they survived) and both possibly have ties to the Wabash region.   Perhaps by the time they were made buffalo were getting scarce in the area and use of the horns was reserved for rare pieces.  Anyway, one is attributed to John Small, Vincennes Indiana, ca: 1780s-1820 and has an engraved silver cap on the butt; the other is the one shown in Ted Belue's books that is, or used to be, thought to have belonged to Tecumseh.

That is a really nice, unusual horn.  Thanks for posting it.

Guy

I have Belue's book The Long Hunt - Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi. Can not seem to find an illustration of horn reportedly belonging to Tecumseh? Help. Doc S.

I have two of Dr. Belue's books, The Long Hunt, and The Hunters of Kentucky.  I looked through both of them and did not find a horn attributed to Tecumseh, although there is one engraved horn and a pouch and horn en suite pictured in The Hunters of Kentucky, and what is obviously a buffalo powder horn pictured with a number of other accoutrements on page 161 of the same book.  Dr. Belue has written extensively... maybe the Tecumseh horn is shown in one of his other publications.

However, I did a Google search using "tecumseh powder horn" as a search term, and was astonished to find an entire website devoted to "The Material Legacy of the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh."  Here is a link:  Traces of "Shooting Star"

The online "collection" has two horns with association to Tecumseh.  This one is in the Chatham-Kent Museum:



The caption states "Powder horn originally belonged to the great Indian chief, Tecumseh; given in exchange to Christopher Arnold, son of Frederick Arnold, on the morning of October 5, 1813, at the dam of Arnold's Mill, River Road, Howard Township; Tecumseh then crossed the River Thames, joined his Indians, and fell in the subsequent Battle of the Thames, Moraviantown."

The second horn is "Courtesy of Fort Malden," but I did not see any additional information:



This second horn looks like some sort of  presentation piece.  It looks to me as if it has never been used, and I'm a little suspicious of its provenance.  I've been wrong before.  Anyway, there it is.

I'm not convinced either of these is made from buffalo horn.  The first one has the right shape for a buffalo bull's horn, and I know some old buffalo powder horns are brownish in color, but this one looks just a little too light, with even paler patches.  The second horn is unusually long and twisted for a bison horn.  However, in Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains, James Carnegie, Earl of Southesk, described and pictured the skull of a wild "buffalo ox," which had unusually long and twisted horns:



Maybe that silver-mounted "Tecumseh" horn came from such a beast.

Anyway, I didn't mean to hijack the thread and apologize if we have deviated too far from the original topic. 

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Tanselman

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2020, 11:57:23 PM »
The first smaller, tan horn looks like a cow horn to me, too light and too little "hook" in it to be buffalo. The larger presentation horn also appears to be cow horn. It does not show the usual striations and texture of a buffalo horn, nor does it have the strong, almost 90 degree curve or hook in it. I do not think either are buffalo from what is shown here. Shelby Gallien

Offline Craig Wilcox

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2020, 09:38:51 PM »
Tecumseh was an interesting character,, kind of ahead of his time.  Suffered an early death in battle, 1813.

Statue of him at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD - revered as "The God of 2.5" - the passing grade at the Academy.  Midshipmen toss pennies at the base of the statue, in hopes of getting that passing grade on their tests.
Craig Wilcox
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Offline Keith Zimmerman

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2020, 11:36:33 PM »
Maybe a storage horn carried on wagon with extra powder in it.  Beautiful horn.

Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2020, 03:17:46 PM »
Notchy Bob,

The engraving you show doesn't look quite right to me.
Not getting at you!...just it looks odd for a buffalo . skull shape off, and horns too small in the bases.

Some of the 19th C engravers were a bit off when it came to details...

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2020, 04:48:58 PM »
Pukka Bundook,

No offense taken!  I think, though, the reason the Earl of Southesk chose to illustrate that particular skull is because it was atypical.  It is not from a common bison, but from a "buffalo ox."  I've run across this term one or two other times in reading the literature of that time.  Bear in mind, this was during the Victorian era, and "delicate" topics had to be worded in least offensive terms.  The impression I formed was that "ox" was a euphemism for a castrated bull, what I would call a "steer."  So, a "buffalo ox" was a castrated male bison, although I could not rule out the possibility of a domestic bull/buffalo cow crossbreed, bearing in mind that the trading posts often kept a few cattle, and I believe it may have been John Palliser who related the story of a particularly randy domestic bull.  One traveler speculated the Indians may have occasionally caught bull buffalo calves alive, and castrated and released them, or wolves may have attacked and bitten off the body part under consideration. Anyway, putting it all together, it appears these animals, when compared to ordinary bison, had exceptionally fine robes, larger overall size, and differently shaped horns, which the Earl wanted to illustrate.  I can say I once saw, in the Fred Bear Museum,  the mounted head of a moose that had grotesquely formed antlers.  The docent, a gentleman named Frank Scott and personal friend of Fred Bear, stated that the animal had been castrated early in life.  Frank speculated this may have occurred accidentally, when the bull was trying to jump over something and "got 'em caught."

Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains is a wonderful book, describing the Earl's extended hunting trip in the mid-19th century, all with muzzle-loaders.  I think you can probably search for it and find the entire text online, to read for free.  As you live in a part of the world near or through which he traveled, I'm sure it would be of particular interest to you.

Thank you for your comments!

Notchy Bob
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 09:58:21 PM by Notchy Bob »
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: Original Buffalo Powder Horn
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2020, 04:16:33 PM »
Thanks for the information N-Bob.
I'd not thought about that!...Was thinking that the term, (Buffalo -ox) was  just a quaint Victorian term for a buffalo!
That Would make a difference either way.

Thank you again, and all best,
Richard.