Author Topic: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel  (Read 1238 times)

Offline Tanselman

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General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« on: November 25, 2023, 07:07:43 AM »
Most powder horn collectors are familiar with Tansel powder horns. One group of Tansel horns that appeal to a rather selective group of collectors is the campaign horn made for presidential elections. A couple horns have Andrew Jackson on them, but they are more a memorial to Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans that ended the War of 1812 and the large number of Kentucky troops there, rather than campaign horns. The better-known election year horns began appearing in 1840 when General William H. Harrison was a candidate. Francis Tansel had served under Harrison at Ft. Meigs in late 1813, and Harrison seemed to remain a hero to the Tansel family almost to the end of their carving days. Election year horns were also popular in the 1844 and 1848 election years. Both Whig and Democrat candidates appear on Tansel horns. An interesting point when attributing unsigned horns is that Timothy and oldest brother John were strong Whigs, while middle brother Stark was a "staunch Democrat" according to family lore. While the Tansel carvers at times crossed party lines to carve a horn [yes, they bent a little to make a buck even back then] for a neighbor supporting the opposite party, it appears a majority of Whig-related horns were the work of Timothy, and most Democrat-related horns were the work of Stark. But there were exceptions. It should be noted that oldest brother John, perhaps the best of the 2nd generation carvers, apparently stopped carving horns about 1840, based on the lack of signed horns [or unsigned horns distinctively in his hand] from that time forward.

This Tansel horn may prove educational for those interested in election year horns. It supports Zachary Taylor... BUT the horn was not carved until 1849, after he was elected president, so is it really an election year campaign horn... or just a horn a customer ordered to honor a man he admired? To muddy the waters even more, Taylor was an independent individual, being a southerner who owned over 100 slaves on his plantation in Mississippi, did not fight to abolish slavery in the south, but was a strong advocate for the union and against southern secession. He also took a strong stance against the further spread of slavery into new states joining the Union, particularly those later formed within the territory gained by the United States in the Mexican War. He won the 1848 election on his sacrifices and victories in the Mexican War, rather than any strong party affiliation, although he was drafted and ran on the Whig ticket... winning by a narrow margin.

While unsigned, this horn can be attributed to Stark Tansel, the only Democrat among the brothers who carved horns. Comments below each picture provide the reasoning for Stark being the most probable carver of the horn. Horn dimensions: outside curve is 13-3/4" and inside curve is 11-1/2". 

   

The perimeter shading of the eagle's wing feathers, the large, well-defined horse, and the odd "flowers" in the eagle's claw all suggest Stark Tansel carved the horn.


The large horse figure, seen here in more detail, is relatively well proportioned. Timothy's horses often had a more cartoonish look, especially in the head/face and hooves.


Note the wide line, or "ground," below the horse's hooves. Stark was more prone than his brothers to add these strips of grass or earth under large figures, both horses and men. Note the "fish mouth" on the throat and how cleanly the two cuts meet to form the "V," common in Stark's work. Many of Timothy's later horns had sloppier, over-run cuts in the "V" corners.



This view highlights the name of the military figure on the horse and the date the horn was carved. Both Timothy and Stark made their letters virtually the same, but the less literate Timothy at times reversed letters or spelled words phonetically.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: November 29, 2023, 04:52:07 AM by Tanselman »

Offline Majorjoel

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2023, 01:42:33 PM »
What a wonderful piece of history!!  I learned a lot from this post and thank you Shelby for sharing this magnificent powder horn!
Joel Hall

Online Tim Crosby

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2023, 05:19:42 PM »
 What a horn! I enjoyed the the write-up as well.

   Tim

Offline Rado

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2023, 09:12:09 PM »
Very informative.
Thank you.
Born in Poland, living in Germany. Just a guy who loves history, ideas of freedom and handicrafts.

Offline jdm

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2023, 08:39:45 PM »
Shelby,  Thanks for sharing this horn. It's always nice to see some of the Tansel family's work.  The information along with it is an educational bonus.  Jim
JIM

Offline Jeff Murray

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2023, 12:32:42 AM »
Thanks for sharing the horn.  I recently discovered that Tansel's made horns well into the 1800's, past the peak of engraved horn production.

Offline Tanselman

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Re: General Zachary Taylor Powder Horn by Stark Tansel
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2023, 05:33:06 AM »
Jeff,

It's difficult to know if there was a "peak" in carved powder horns, or if so, when it might have occurred. We read about the fine F&I horns and the Rev War horns, and at times it seems there were a good number of them. But that number may be inflated. Bill Guthman, now deceased, was a major powder horn collector, researcher, and dealer for many years back in Connecticut, in the heartland of those early horns. In his later years, he believed a good number of them may have been made significantly later, to support claims for military pensions... some claims real, and some bogus.

But carved horns continued to be made, changing from mostly military-related to more a civilian statement piece. We talk about the major "schools" or periods of carved powder horns, and those periods continued to occur. And to make matters more difficult, we tend to discount many of the more primitive carved horns made by the owner, or unknown "pocket carvers" who carved a few horns for friends and neighbors in local areas, and focus only on the very finest ones... but there were MANY more carved horns made than just the great ones we think about.

I break down the finest carved horns into four major groups: F&I, Rev War, Tansels, and Mercer Co. [Ohio] carved horns. Those great carved horns created a spectrum, or continuum, from the 1750s to the 1850s... with no one really knowing how many were made each year or decade... and no one really studying all the other lesser carved horns out there that we tend to ignore at times... some of which are significant horns in their own right... and a few of them really beautiful horns.

So long story short, as collectors we've been blessed with a long period of fine American carved horns to collect, discuss, and cherish in our collections. But I'm not aware of any real peaks, lulls, etc., just a somewhat steady stream of interesting powder horns, changing with time and location, but always items that tweaked their owners' pride, just as they do today.

Shelby Gallien   
« Last Edit: November 27, 2023, 05:42:59 AM by Tanselman »