M127.0-1 | Powder horn

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Powder horn
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Anishinaabe?
1820-1830, 19th century
Buffalo horn, wood, porcupine quills, hide, glass beads, sinew?
87 x 8.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Powder horn (9)
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Keys to History

Shot pouches and powder horns, used to hold gunpowder, were required for muzzle-loading guns and were an important part of the gear carried by Aboriginal and European men in the 18th century. Powder horns were often embellished with beautifully decorated straps made by Aboriginal women. This powder horn is made from a hollowed out bison horn. The strap is made of very fine porcupine quills, loom woven in colourful geometric designs. Woven quillwork was formed on a bow-loom by inserting flattened quills between warp threads and folding the quills over and under the weft thread. This quillwork strap is backed with hide and terminates at each end with two rows of tiny glass beads. Only a very experienced quillwork artist could have created this finely woven example. Powder horns went out of style after about the 1860, following the introduction of cartridge rifles.

  • What

    This is a container for gunpowder used in muzzle-loading guns. It is made from a bison horn to which a long strap, decorated with loom woven quillwork, is attached. The powder horn was carried slung across the body and could be accessed rapidly when required.

  • Where

    The fine loom-woven geometric quillwork design on this strap suggests that the powder horn comes from somewhere west of the Great Lakes.

  • When

    This powder horn probably dates from the early 19th century. Powder horns were in wide use during the British, French and Indian War period, 1754-1763, and went out of style after about 1860, with the introduction of cartridge rifles.

  • Who

    The style of quillwork evident on the strap suggests that this powder horn was made by a northern Anishinaabe, Métis or Cree artist. The horn was collected by Sir Hugh Graham (1848-1938), later Lord Atholstan, who founded the Montreal Star newspaper in 1908.