Posts Tagged 'Texas'

Carved Horn Bugle from the American West

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Figure 1. Horn Bugle from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum Natural History, Ethnology Collection. E/1951/01/036 Photo Taken 2017 by Christina Naruszewicz

E/1951/01/036

Cow Horn Bugle

Texas, United States

1890

Cow Horn, Fabric Strap

 

This bugle from the collection of the Sam Noble Museum is an intriguing artifact. It has several etched details on its surface. Towards the lip of the bugle is a cross-hatching design which continues for roughly four inches. This is hardly the most exciting aspect of the bugle, however. There are also several drawings of animals, including what appears to be two dogs, an eagle, and a horse with saddle and bridle. A detailed drawing of a rifle or shot gun is also meticulously carved. The most puzzling engraving on the surface of the bugle is a set of initials and a date reading: “FBC January 3, 1890.” Who was FBC and what is the significance of the date? Sadly, it is likely this detail about the horn bugle will remain a mystery. Despite this, we can wonder about the person or persons that handled this object through history and we can play detective about its role in their lives.

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Horn of this type can be used to create a variety of objects, including gun powder containers, combs, and cups. (1) Through a process of boiling or soaking the horn, it can also be softened, and cut into sheets for later use. (2) Bugles or signals made from animal horn are some of the earliest and most commonly created musical instruments. This quick video shows the process of creating a traditional Viking horn bugle that is very similar to the one in the collection.  .

The uses for horn bugles vary from the scared and ceremonial, to the mundane and functional. One example of a ceremonial significant bugle is the Jewish shofar. The shofar is an instrument traditionally made from ram horn. (2) The shofar is blown on special occasions, such as the beginning of the month, and at sacrificial or peace offerings. In the Bible, the shofar is said to have brought down the walls of Jericho.

In medieval Persia, animal horns were also used to create simple trumpets. These often had holes bored into the side, which could produce several musical tones. (3) Examples of similar bugles called the si, can be seen in Sumeria, one the earliest civilizations. Likewise, similar horn instruments were created in India, Greece, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.

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Figure 4. An example of a traditional Jewish Shofar, made from ram horn.

In the American colonies, the horn bugle has a history of being used as a long distance signal for battle or hunting. When a bugle or trumpet of this type is used during a hunt, it acts as a signal to the entire hunting party. It signals when a hunt has ended, or a target (such as a deer) has been located. By 1765 military or musical trumpets made from brass became popular, with many imported from Europe. (4) Due to the popular importation of brass instruments for concerts and military purposes, we can assume that this bugle was not imported. It is likely the Sam Noble’s animal horn bugle was made in Texas, Oklahoma, or another nearby state. Without holes to change it’s pitch, we can also assume this horn was not meant to be an musical instrument. Could the time, location, and the rifle etched on the side of the bugle indicate it was used as a hunting signal? Some of the clues seem to say so! However, this horn could have been made by a pair of idle hands as a toy, or other simple amusement.

Who do you think made the horn trumpet and why?

 

 

Sources:

 

  1. “On the Employment and Working of Animal Horn”, Scientific American, Jan 26, (1850), 142.
  2. Eugene Walter Nash, “The Euphonium: Its History, Literature and Use in American Schools” (Masters, University of Southern California, 1962), 16.
  3. Nash, “The Euphonium”, 21.
  4. Katheryn Eileen Bridwell-Briner, “The Horn in America from Colonial Society to 1842” (Phd diss., University of North Carolina, 2014), 83.

((Christina Naruszewicz))


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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