Object photography

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Object description

  • Penobscot artist
  • Powder horn, before 1815
  • Cow horn, brass, cordage
  • Maine, United States
  • L: 14 1/4 in, dia.: 3 1/4 in (L: 36.2 cm, dia.: 8.3 cm)
  • Museum Purchase, 1947
  • E27326
  • Used in war, to transport gunpowder and keep it dry
  • Double-curve motif suggests balance

By 1670, the English had begun trading guns, ammunition and tools with the Penobscot in Maine-even though the Penobscot sometimes turned these weapons against English militias. The double-curve design, used by many Northeastern Native peoples, may have expressed the artist's desire for balance and alliance in his community during times of war and uncertainty.


This powder horn is decoratively engraved with double-curve motifs and other curvilinear and geometric designs, embellished with crosshatching and dot motifs. The large end is capped with a piece of wood secured with metal tacks. There is a metal ring at each end, most likely used to attach to a strap and wear on the shoulder. Right above the metal ring, on the smaller end of the horn, there is section of tightly wrapped cordage. The outer layer of horn has been removed from the smaller side of the horn, leaving a distinctly opaque dark color. The end of the small section appears to be on a hinge but does not easily open.

Exhibition History

  • Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, Washington State Historical Society; October 11, 2005 through February 09, 2006
  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997
  • Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; January 14, 2012 through April 29, 2012