Colonial: circa 1760. Length 10 inches. The surface is tinted yellow except for the spout, which is of dark-colored horn carved with one ring. In the base is a wood plug that has a U-shaped iron stud for the shoulder strap at center. Provenance: Kenneth Nebenzahl. Item #408914
A FINE COLONIAL POWDER HORN MAP
Almost the entire surface of the horn is engraved by a skilled artist with a map of the principal English forts scattered strategically through the region between New York City and Lake Ontario, with the towns in between. The carver used a style of uppercase block lettering often found on horns of the period, and his renderings are very well executed with a refined style, intricate detail, and great clarity of line.
The Hudson and Mohawk, the principal rivers of the region, are represented but not identified. It was customary on such map horns to include a view of New York featuring the churches and other prominent buildings, the windmill, and the harbor and its shipping – as here, and clearly inspired by contemporary printed views. The city is clearly labeled at the base of the horn, next to Livingston’s Manor and Albany. This scene, as well as a large complex of houses, may have been based on "A View of Fort George with the City of New York from the SW," engraved by I. Carwitham (1731-1736). A cartouche is present, but is only faintly engraved, possibly with the name J. V. Lansing.
North of Albany, and beyond along the Hudson and Mohawk, are: Schenectady; Fort Hunter; Half Moon; Fort Johnson; Little Falls; Carmon Flats; Newport; Fort Henry; Fort Harman; Fort Schuyler; Wood Creek; Fort Stanwix; and Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario. Among the decorations are anthropomorphized stars, leaves, and insects. At center is a large and elaborately engraved British coat of arms, and below it a panoply of flags.
The numerous forts shown on the horn served as a protection to English trade with the Indians. From Albany a wagon road led to Schenectady, which was founded by the Dutch as a trading post in 1662. From Schenectady boats could be moved, although with difficulty, up the Mohawk River as far as Fort Stanwix (on the present site of Rome), where there was a portage to Wood Creek, a small stream emptying into Oneida Lake. From Oneida Lake to Lake Ontario the route followed the Onondaga, or Oswego, River to Fort Ontario, a stronghold built by Governor Burnett of New York in 1722 on the present site of Oswego. Fort Niagara, which is especially noted on this horn, was built by the French in 1726 to prevent control of this "gateway to the West" by the English.
"Although some powder horns bear dates from before the 1740s, the artistic roots of the great, engraved American horns of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution lie in King George’s War (1744-1748)," noted Philip Zea ("Revealing the Culture of Conflict: Engraved Powder Horns from the French and Indian War," in: Historic Deerfield magazine, Summer 2008, pp. 2-27). "The artful animation is compelling because the carver’s ‘canvas’ is a tapered spiral that cannot be seen in its entirety at any one time. As a result, the best carvers had to design an overall composition comprised of essentially three parts that evolve into the next as the viewer rotates the horn." These horns that depict large tracts of land in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys are the most rare, and "were often made away from the front as souvenirs of service – to illustrate the relationships between place names that defined regional campaigns" (Zea). See: Stephen V. Grancsay, American Engraved Powder Horns. A Study Based on the J. H. Grenville Gilbert Collection, second edition, Philadelphia, 1965).