Powder Horns in Early America Seminar

Saturday, October 20, 2018 • 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Fort Pitt Museum

Add to Calendar10/20/2018 10:00 AM10/20/2018 04:00 PMAmerica/New_YorkPowder Horns in Early America SeminarJThe Fort Pitt Museum invites guests to learn about the material culture of early American powder horns in a full day seminar.Fort Pitt MuseumFort Pitt MuseumfalseMM/DD/YYYY

The Fort Pitt Museum invites guests to learn about the material culture of early American powder horns in a full day seminar that will feature the exhibits’ curators, Alan Gutchess, Fort Pitt Museum Director, and Michael Burke, Fort Pitt Museum Exhibit Specialist, as well as master horner and author Art DeCamp, and powder horn collector Jay Hopkins, whose recent book “Bone Tipped & Banded Horns: Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns, Volume I” details his research into this early American craft.

The seminar will also feature the Fort Pitt Museum’s exhibit From Maps to Mermaids: Carved Powder Horns in Early America, which will be updated to include 12 new powder horns from Mr. Hopkins’ collection and available for viewing the day of the seminar.


10 – 11 a.m.
Mike Burke – “Made at Philadelphia, & sent from thence…:” Powder Horns of the Forbes Road and Fort Pitt

11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Art DeCamp – Lancaster Powder Horns: The First Horn Brand

12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
Lunch Break (off-site)

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.
Alan Gutchess – “Brass Tacks & Curious Figures:” 18th Century American Indian Powder horns

2:30 – 4 p.m.
Jay Hopkins – Bone Tipped & Banded Horns: A Fifty Year Journey

4 – 4:45 p.m.
Optional guided tour of From Maps to Mermaids: Carved Powder Horns in Early America exhibit


Adults: $10
Members and Students: $5

Registration includes Fort Pitt Museum admission and access to the museum’s powder horn exhibit From Maps to Mermaids: Carved Powder Horns in Early America. Online registration will close at the end of business on Friday, Oct. 19. Remaining tickets may be purchased at the door the day of the event. You can register online.

Register Now

For more information, please contact Kathleen Lugarich at kmlugarich@heinzhistorycenter.org or 412-454-6418.

Bone Tipped & Banded Horns: A Fifty Year Journey

Over the course of 50 years, Dr. Hopkins has studied professionally made powder horns, particularly in the south between 1750 and 1850. Similar to gunsmiths, furniture makers, and other artisans of the time period, professional powder horn makers, called horners, developed regional characteristics in their decorative style. Join Dr. Hopkins to learn about his research into the early American art of powder horn making.

Dr. Jay Hopkins

Dr. Hopkins has been a longtime collector, having bought his first old gun at age four. He is a fifty-year member of the Kentucky Rifle Association, and a longtime member of numerous related organizations including the Honourable Company of Horners. His study of rifles led to powder horns, in particular, those recognized as professionally made by a turner or horner. His book “Bone Tipped & Banded Horns: Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns Volume 1,” is the result of his fifty year study and is available in the Fort Pitt Museum shop for purchase. Dr. Hopkins is a retired orthopaedic surgeon whose focus was sports medicine. He continues to volunteer at a local free clinic and serves on a number of local boards in his hometown of Lynchburg, Va.

“Brass Tacks & Curious Figures”: 18th Century American Indian Powder horns

Just as with their Euro-American counterparts, Native American hunters and warriors made extensive use of cow and bison horn containers to store and transport their gunpowder. At times merely utilitarian, examples could also be highly decorated. Some of these were created by Native craftsmen, while others were acquired through the Indian trade, as gifts, or even as war prizes. Alan Gutchess will present an overview of these once common tools, drawing from archaeology, historic accounts, period artwork, and surviving horns with Indian provenience.

Alan Gutchess

Alan Gutchess is the Director of the Fort Pitt Museum. For over twenty five years he has studied and documented the life of the Mingo Indian leader known as Logan, and particularly the controversy over the authenticity of “Logan’s Lament.” Prior to coming to Fort Pitt, Alan had worked at the Museum of the American Revolution, Sauder Village, and Colonial Williamsburg, as well as acting as a consultant to numerous historical documentaries and other museums. Mr. Gutchess is also widely recognized for his knowledge of the weapons of the 18th American backcountry and other aspects of frontier and colonial material culture.

“Made at Philadelphia, & sent from thence…”: Powder Horns of the Forbes Road and Fort Pitt

For years, powder horns depicting the various stations along the Forbes Road, including Fort Pitt, presented an interesting challenge to collectors and students. While their decoratively filed spouts and carving were reminiscent of horns made elsewhere in colonial America, the lathe-turned wooden plugs, often found at the opposite end, were a bit of a mystery. Searching for meaning in this seemingly incongruous marriage of the “handmade” and “industrial,” there was even speculation that the turned plugs were all 19th-century replacements.

In reality, these powder horns, made in the buzzing workshops of Philadelphia craftsmen and decorated in the shadow of far-western outposts, represent the convergence of early American ingenuity and the demands of the great British war machine determined to control the continent. Looking closely at examples from public and private collections, this presentation will attempt to unravel some of the secrets of how, when, why, and by whom these fascinating artifacts were made.

Mike Burke

Beginning with a childhood visit to Fort Ticonderoga in the early 1990s, Mike was hopelessly hooked on 18th-century powder horns. Since then, he has handled and studied some of the finest horns in both public and private collections, focusing on the those made and/or used on the Pennsylvania/ Virginia frontier. He currently serves as the Exhibit Specialist for the Fort Pitt Museum, where he oversees the museum’s permanent exhibits and works with director Alan Gutchess to develop new, temporary exhibitions, including their latest, From Maps to Mermaids: Carved Powder Horns in Early America.

“Lancaster Powder Horns: The First Horn Brand”

As a major center of powder horn production in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Lancaster became known for a particularly slender and graceful style of screw-tip powder horn. From the last quarter of the 18th century, skilled craftsmen produced these distinctive horns, which were sold far and wide for over a hundred years.

Examining period examples, this lecture will show stylistic variations among Lancaster horns, describe manufacturing techniques, and show insight into how a Lancaster horn shop may have operated.

Art DeCamp

A longtime collector and researcher of professionally-made powder horns, Art DeCamp is also a skilled craftsman, a fact that lends particular insight to his meticulous study of original horns. A master horner in the Honourable Company of Horners, his book Pennsylvania “Horns of the Trade: Screw-tip Powder Horns and Their Architecture” was a ground breaking study of the many variations of screw-tip horns found in Pennsylvania, most of which had not previously been documented.