Powder horns

Horns were ideal containers for gunpowder, not only for soldiers, but also for miners and quarrymen, being inflammable, waterproof, and easy to fill at the wide end and empty at the tip. They are also light to carry and their curve fits comfortably against the body. But a powder horn was more than a tool: it evolved into a vehicle for expression. Those shown exemplify three types of powder horn: plain, engraved, and decorated with silver mounts. They also demonstrate a range in size and colour. The large simple one (1) is a regimental example made from highland cattle horn. It has an oak bung set in leather secured with metal studs at the wide end and a simple peg at the tip. The engraved one (2) tells a story with its figures from the South Sea Islands and includes a kilted boy. It is thought to be the work of a Scot in the Southern Hemisphere. The third example (3) made of bison horn is a luxury item. Decorated with engraved silver mounts, it has a silver filial in the shape of an acorn set with a topaz.