09 March 2009

The Honourable Company of Horners

Treasured reader, grant me a boon if you will and allow a gentle detour from the affairs of Stratheden Farm to another topic which occupies the mind and library of your humble author: powder horns and horn work more generally. Unbeknown to perhaps the majority of our faithful browsers, your correspondent was the first Guild Master of The Honourable Company of Horners and has possessed a life-long interest (alright you sticklers out there - since I was perhaps seven or eight years of age...) in powder horns, the necessary accouterment of muzzle loading firearms of the era before cartridge guns were invented (arbitrarily, let us agree on a date of circa 1866).

As the interest in powderhorns grew and matured, an more general interest in horn work flowered, concerned with items as diverse as Viking drinking horns and medieval lice combs. Eventually my inclination towards issues of technology and invention was directed to how horn objects were created and utilized. At the prompting of Pennsylvania horner Roland Cadle, a conference was held which brought together interested parties from around the country to discuss hornwork; at the conclusion of this conference, about a dozen dedicated practitioners and scholars wrote the charter creating The Honourable Company of Horners - which now is composed of nearly 300 members.

The Guild holds an annual conference in the eastern or midwestern region of the United States during March. The location for 2009 was The Museum of Appalachia near Norris, Tennessee. It was a perfect location, surrounded by 18th and 19th century log cabins and other pioneer structures, and they proved marvelous Southern hosts. Founded and led by the vision of one man, John Rice Irwin, the museum is sited in a lovely small valley and simulates a small pioneer settlement.

One would be hard pressed to find a more congenial group than the Horners and the atmosphere is always warm and open. Collectors share their knowledge and objects, master horners teach/demonstrate their skills, members display their wares, and intense conversations abound. There is no place on earth where there is more knowledge of hornwork than at these meetings. Collector and scholar Dr. Jay Hopkins gave a illuminating lecture on Southern powder horns, historical painter David Wright presented a light-hearted condensation of his journey through the centuries and well known Kentucky frontier artist Frank House was the key note speaker. A most enjoyable and educational conference, if I say so myself.

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