Author Topic: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?  (Read 1260 times)

Offline pt1093

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« on: March 28, 2021, 07:54:24 PM »
Hello all, I recently purchased this powderhorn from an estate in Marblehead MA.  I am looking to see if it can be determined to be authentic, and any other related information.  The horn is carved with the figure of a horse, a tree, 8 different plant types on the spout flutes, a crossed sword and flintlock, and the intials N.U..  The carvings had been filled in with a red and black paint, retaining approx. 40% of the filling.  The nail heads appear to be somewhat rectagular, but rust has disguised the original appearance.
Thanks, Paul T.









« Last Edit: March 28, 2021, 07:58:21 PM by pt1093 »

Offline Elnathan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1629
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2021, 09:22:54 PM »
I'm hesitant to offer an opinion, since there are a lot of folks here better qualified than I, but I'll kick off the discussion by noting that the engraving, particularly that of the tree and crossed arms, appears to have been cut with something other than a knife or scribe. I also note that the musket (rifle?) has a sling attached to the stock rather than to the triggerguard, and appears to go through the stock rather than a swivel or button.
A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition -  Rudyard Kipling

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2021, 11:10:03 PM »
This horn appears to be old, as presented in the photographs. The butt is old and the horn is old; typical NE horn with the scalloped panels on the front half. Without having it in hand it is difficult to tell if the carving matches the age of the horn. My basic guess is that the carving is old, probably done by an owner. The color filling or polychrome treatment is typical of the horns made it the 1700s, especially the map horns. In any case, it is a very nice horn with some unusual features. Nice find!!! Thanks for showing it here.
Dick

Offline jdm

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1069
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2021, 11:51:49 PM »
I would agree with Dick in that it is whats referred to as a New England style horn and from the photos it looks period ( late 18th-early 19th century). The carving could be old also hard to tell without handling it. I would look at it very close. Does your hand run smooth over the horn ? Can you feel any shap edges on the carving? Any worn places from  use? Just a couple things to look for.  Welcome to the  A.L.R.  Jim
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 01:30:21 AM by jdm »
JIM

Offline Brokennock

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 465
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2021, 12:44:14 AM »
Anyone have any thoughts on the ring attachment points?

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2021, 01:06:31 AM »
Old drawer pulls, right in period. The strap points are okay too. These things bounced all over the place, for no particularly discernible reason. Check earlier posts here for NE horns as there are some shown that are quite similar to yours. And they are all good.
Dick

Offline pt1093

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2021, 02:28:15 AM »
Thanks for the information.  I had purchased this because the artwork intrigued me, glad to here it is as described by the auction house, late 1700 to early 1800s.  There are wear marks, scratches, dings as if actually used in the field,  but after researching I found these were faked a lot, so I had some concerns.  I am guessing the braided string holding the plug is not old, but the cat gut hanger string has me wondering if it is also original.  Time to look at some NE horn posts!
Paul

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2021, 05:07:44 AM »
The horns most frequently faked are the Fort and Map horns. They bring the most money and are sometimes very hard to discern as to being spurious or correct. I have a few horns that are NE and close in appearance to what you have shown us here. I doubt that a horn of lesser value or importance than a map, or fort horn would be faked very often. Perhaps as a practice piece, but not for the big money. The best way to detect forgeries is to have handled many originals and then your 6th sense will kick in. Fewer mistakes then. But still...
Dick

Offline jdm

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1069
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2021, 05:27:21 AM »
When an original 18th century map horn might bring $50,000.00 more or less . I don't think faked would be to strong of a word.
JIM

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2021, 07:30:06 AM »
Dan, one's perspective over what is a fake and one that is "representative" is, as Jim pointed out, about fifty thousand dollars. If you had spent a bundle on a horn that later turned out to be spurious, I wonder what your thoughts would be? I have been there and done that and I do not look lightly upon a 'representative/faked horn' with much kindliness or enthusiasm.
Dick

Offline rich pierce

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 14947
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2021, 04:13:13 PM »
I wonder if “where I found it” and “what I paid for it” indicates some probability of whether a horn is original or faked. If I found a horn in an antique shop selling all sorts of do-dads I’d think it likely original especially if under $200. There’s a lot of work in faking a horn and the faker would likely want it to sell for at least a decent percentage of what a real original would go for.

One of my rules is, “what would I pay to buy a nice original horn then have a good artist embellish it and fake it up?” Or “what would it cost to have a good Horner make this from scratch and age it?”  If the horn being sold is well below that, I’m in. Obviously I only collect horns that at most have a little scratching on them so would not apply to this horn which is very nice.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2168
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2021, 09:11:53 PM »
Dan, a confession here; I actually bought two of them. Both were outstanding, but when Walter O'Connor looked at them he just shook his head before delivering the bad news. The dealer 'sort of' made good on one and stiffed me on the other. I eventually donated it to a museum where it became a 'representative' piece and for that it was just fine, perhaps as you observed your post. Not too many museums can afford the real McCoy, so...
Dick

Offline Tanselman

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1140
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2021, 11:45:27 PM »
When we see early horns with rather primitive decoration, at times not matching the quality of the original horn's construction and shaping, I usually think they were decorated later in life, perhaps by a family member. Especially during the Victorian Age, when a lot of older items and family momentoes were "spruced up" and used to decorate with. I think this horn is absolutely good, but the carving added quite a bit later. Such additions in this manner, I believe, have nothing to do with "fakes" but rather a later individual simply trying to enhance an older piece so it can be enjoyed more...and perhaps help remind the enhancer and later family members what the old horn "might have seen" back in the day. An old horn 100+ years ago didn't create nearly the interest that it might today, had almost no perceived value, and was a good candidate for having fun with.

An interesting, almost related, story concerns a highly valued Tansel horn, made about 1810, that when first found 50+ years ago was completely painted gold, but darkened and dirty. It had been a Victorian wall hanger for many years, "enhanced" by some well meaning soul with a coat of gold paint to beautify it. It took two subsequent owners to realize it might have carving under all the paint, and finally about 35 years ago it was cleaned off and, low and behold, a great, early Tansel horn emerged. Obviously the first "new" owner didn't have a clue what a Tansel horn was, or they would have probably recognized the "fish mouth" cut on the throat... but the second owner recognized it [or just got lucky] and got a great buy.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 12:15:42 AM by Tanselman »

Offline pt1093

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2021, 02:52:19 AM »
  I am definitely no horn expert, but I do work with various materials and methods of producing an item.  I had given the later carving some thought, but what puzzled me was the way the red and black filling paint or polychrome is raised above the surface in areas.  I would expect someone of the time would not be making a masterpiece artwork by hand painting each cut so it was raised, but making a functional item that looked good.  The method of just filling and then wiping or carding to remove the excess pigment would be the practical way to apply it.
   So with that in mind, I find that horn will be expanded by moisture to fit the plug, which it shrinks around to get a good seal.  Once it dried enough to seal the plug, I would have carved and filled  it at that point while still slightly moist.  Over time, the horn shrunk a certain percentage more, puckering the filling up. The shrinkage is also evident with the plug being force out from where it was originally lined up.  That is my theory, anyways!
   On a different topic, I came up with a list of what I thought would have been common first and last names.  At the top of the list was the name Nathan Underwood, who I found while searching NE history, was a soldier at Bunker Hill, and also crossed the Delaware with Gen. Washington.  What are the chances?

Paul T.

Offline Elnathan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1629
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2021, 03:17:41 PM »
Well, the last time I was very certain something was made recently I was wrong (kinda, mostly), but the I have to point out that the mode of sling suspension with the sling passing through the buttstock itself illustrated on that musket is not found on any 18th or 19th century examples (at least here in the US). It is, however, found on certain post-1900 carbines and became the standard mode of attachment in the 1930s on the rifles of certain European rifles....I also note that the lock is carved with more attention than the rest of the gun, as if to draw attention to the fact it is a flintlock, not something I'd expect to see emphasized if it was carved back when flintlocks were the standard form of ignition and thus not remarkable per se.

Also, that is a Mamaluke Sword, not a generic saber. I don't think that Mamaluke swords have been used in the US outside of the USMC officer corps, introduced in 1825 as homage to a sword presented to a particular officer back in 1805, though someone may be able to correct me on that. also, per wikipedia (which we know is always accurate  :P)  Mamluk sabers were also adopted a regulation swords in Europe post-Napoleonic Wars, after there was a bit of a fad for them as privately purchased weapons during the wars themselves following Napoleon's invasion of Egypt 1798-1801. I don't think this is a European horn, however....

Personally, I think this is an old horn that was dressed up an early buckskinner type, probably in the 1960s or 70s. The carver probably used didn't have a lot of pictorial references (harder to get those days) but was familiar with the USMC officers dress sword, had a mil-surp WWII rifle around, had a general idea of what a flintlock musket should look like, and combined them as best he knew. I'll make a wild guess that he was a former Marine who served after the introduction of the current black, plastic-stocked rifles and so wasn't as familiar with the older wooden-stock US weapons.

Probably all wrong, of course.... ::)
A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition -  Rudyard Kipling

Offline Pukka Bundook

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2479
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2021, 05:13:51 PM »
Quick to say here I know little about old powder horns, but the very definite incised lines of the musket bother me a bit.

Best,
Richard.

Offline pt1093

  • Starting Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2021, 12:20:00 AM »
See attached sunlit closeups to better show the carving and filling. There is some wear at the edge of the carving as indicated by the radius shine.  I do not see many bird or eagle headed mameluke swords in my reference books, but I do see many 1700's either European or American hangers with the general curve, except for the point.  The bird head to me is reminiscent of either an early attempt at an eagle head, or closer to the Polish-Lithuanian style bird head pommel.  What bothers me about the sword the most is 1) It has no hanger rings, 2) I see no examples of a chevron design scabbard with a tassle. 3) The scale and proportions are off as it is fatter past the scabbard mouth, and longer than the rifle.










Offline Elnathan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1629
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2021, 05:20:57 AM »
Most powderhorn engravings aren't exactly photo-realistic or usually very detailed, so the lack of hanger rings or the wobbly blade shape shouldn't be a concern. The chevron pattern on the scabbard is likely just a way of adding shading, as for that matter the crosshatching and dot pattern on the hilt or the crosshatching on the tree. If I squint real hard I can kinda see an eagle's head on the pommel, but the lack of a knuckleguard and the straight quillons are pretty atypical of 18th century swords, and overall I still think that it is representing a mameluke sword of some kind, eagle head or no.

In any case, the exact style of sword this is supposed to represent is kind of a secondary (and probably unproveable) question. The big issue is the way the musket (or carbine) sling is quite clearly shown passing through two holes in the butt. I can't recall anything even remotely similar in use during the muzzleloading period, 18th or 19th century. The closest parallels I can think of are Mauser carbines and short rifles from the First and Second World War periods. Unless a period model can be found, I think that detail alone indicates a date for the engraving post-1900 at the earliest.

Also, period engraving was typically done with a knife, needle, scribe, or other instrument that left fairly fine cut or scratch on the horn. From the pictures the lines on this one look larger than normal, with rounded bottoms, so I would guess it was cut with a fine gouge or parting tool (assuming a dremel isn't in evidence). That doesn't rule out an early date, but it is atypical and ought to be a caution sign, IMO.
A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition -  Rudyard Kipling

Offline Tim Crosby

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 13632
  • AKA TimBuckII
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2021, 10:44:05 AM »
 They almost look burnt in. TC

Offline Panzerschwein

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
Re: Powderhorn: Authentic antique?
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2021, 11:00:14 PM »
I’m half a bottle of Jameson’s Irish in but does that horn show s rifle with a sling on it or is that just me.