Engraved Powder Horns: Not Your Average Accessories

In the 18th and 19th centuries, soldiers on the battlefield carried cow, ox or buffalo horns hollowed out to store gunpowder. Soldiers slung the horns over their shoulders to carry them.

Powder horns were important safety devices. They kept the powder separated from the gun; if any spark sitting in the barrel after a shot reached a cache of gunpowder, an explosion would be likely, so powder horns kept the gun powder safe and secure.

But a special, personal touch was what made these powder horns so special. This was how soldiers carried little pieces of home with them. During spare time between battles, soldiers carved into the horns to make them personalized pieces of art. They were like the ultimate battlefield accessories.

Greater artistic skill, of course, meant more ornate and aesthetically pleasing powder horns; but a soldier didn’t need huge talent to engrave the horn with personal images and letters. Some would simply carve in their initials or the place and date of battles they participated in.


A royal navy powder horn, CC 3.0 via user geni

When people carved maps into the horns, the horns gained a whole new level of practicality. As soldiers traveled through American wilderness, much of it previously uncharted, they carved out their walking paths of the areas, creating firsthand records of their routes.

Soldiers’ carving abilities were also limited by their carving tools. Pocket knives could only do so much, and made rather crude engravings. The best engravings came from actual engravers’ tools.

Some horns were soaked in yellow or orange dye to give them a pleasant amber color. Then brown paint was rubbed into the carvings to make them stand out more.

For collectors and history enthusiasts, powder horns make amazing items to own. Even the less detailed horns are slices of history.

Just beware when purchasing a powder horn: there are fakes out there. Check with an expert to make sure the horn is legitimate.

If you know your stuff and purchase with care, powder horns are valuable collectors’ items. Some are worth thousands of dollars! One bidding war elevated the price of a map horn to $57,500, much higher than the estimated worth of the horn.

Just bid carefully and keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll have a good quality powder horn in your possession.

You can buy the horn in the top featured picture for significantly less than thousands of dollars — just click here.

What would you carve on a powder horn? Let us know in the comments!

The Literature of G. A. Henty

G. A. Henty (1832-1902) wrote a LOT of books: over 100 novels and stories. He exclusively wrote in the historical adventure genre.

Henty’s interest in writing started at an early age. He often got sick as a child and spent his days in bed. With not much else to do, he read constantly and developed a wide number of interests.George_Alfred_Henty

Henty left his university without finishing his degree to volunteer for an army hospital; he was soon sent to Crimea, where he saw the horrible conditions of war. He regularly wrote home with detailed scenes of war. These letters impressed his father, who sent them to The Morning Advertiser newspaper for publishing.

With the war behind him and his letters published, Henty started a steady writing career by becoming a war correspondent.

This was helped along by his strong sense of patriotism toward his home country of Britain that he held for all of his life.


This stunning copy of Through the Sikh War is available here.

Henty’s first published book was titled Out on the Pampas. The main characters in the story were named after Henty’s children. The book was written in 1868.

Almost all of his stories involved young men (occasionally women) living in hard times, especially during war. His protagonists all contained sparks of courage with strong moral compasses. Through all of his stories, Henty draws on his real-life experiences with war.


This beautiful copy of Jack Archer is available here.

Despite the kind protagonists of his stories, some of Henty’s views sparked controversy, even in Victorian times, for xenophobia and racism. Perhaps this is why his books have not stood the test of time.

Henty had a brief stint of popularity with readers in the late 19th century, inspiring other writers to write in “the Henty tradition”. However, the period of popularity was brief, and people lost interest in his stories less than 30 years after his death.

Henty’s detailed war stories with spunky heroes sparked the imaginations of Victorian readers, and with the amount of stories he wrote, he certainly guaranteed himself a good stint of popularity. His books can now be looked upon as relics of the times they come from. 

That’s All She Wrote


“That’s all she wrote” is an American phrase used to say that there is nothing else to say about a subject.

And where did it come from? Well, some say it’s the product of some unfortunate soldier in WWII. The tale goes like this: A soldier eagerly opens a letter from his sweetheart. He starts reading to his buddies: “Dear John.” They tell him to go on. “That’s it; that’s all she wrote.” The poor serviceman knows he just got dumped.

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It’s an entertaining tale, and plausible enough. The “Dear John” phrase started being used around WWII, and a number of newspapers reference the letters. Some people credit Franklin Roosevelt with originating the phrase, though that’s probably only because he wrote a lot of letters to people named John.

Concrete written records of “that’s all she wrote” start appearing in 1942; one of the first references from the St. Petersburg Times said: “The things that brought tears to their eyes included…the downcast GI about whom another told them ‘He just got a Dear John letter.’”

The source might also have come from a song by the popular singers Aubry Gass and Tex Ritter which had the line “And that’s all she wrote, Dear John”. And the musician Ernest Tubb sang the country song “That’s All She Wrote” with the lyrics: “I got a letter from my mama, just a line or two / She said listen daddy your good girl’s leavin’ you / That’s all she wrote – didn’t write no more / She’d left the gloom a hanging round my front door.”

It’s perhaps not the most cheerful of phrase origins; but the original WWII tale made the phrase stick around to this day.