Title: Antique Powder Horn, John Howerd’s Hot Air Balloon
Possibly Brooksville, Maine
Date/Period: Circa 1793
Measurement: Length: 7.5"
Material: Cow horn, Northeastern white pine plug
Condition: Excellent, very good overall. Horn has a smooth hand worn patina with
easily discerned decoration.
Additional Information: Possibly the only powder horn extant displaying an image of a
hot air balloon. This exact horn is shown on page 12,13, and 14 of “A Collection of
Powder Horns” by Wayne McNeese. A copy of this book accompanies the lot. The
description reads as follows: 1. This horn belonged to John Howerd and is signed “John
Howerd, Brooksville”. John is signed two other places on the horn. All letting is very well
executed in script and is underlined either two or three times. For a medium size horn
this horn is absolutely covered with interesting features. While not dated, I can put the
date of this horn as early as 1793, because of one feature. There is a hot air balloon
carved on the horn. From research, I have learned that the hot air balloon was first
developed in France in 1790. In this new country of America, it first made its
appearance on January 9, 1793, in Philadelphia. The downtown was shut down, and
President George Washington, V.P. John Adams, and Secretary of State Thomas
Jefferson, were all on hand for the occasion. A Frenchman named Blanchard piloted the
balloon, charging $5.00 per person to watch. Half of the town’s population was on hand.
To sell tickets, he set the balloon up inside the walls of Washington Prison so no one
else could see. All the dignitaries were also inside the prison which sounds kind of
bizarre. I surmise that John Howerd, was in town on that day. He observed the hot air
balloon, and later depicts what he saw on this powder horn. For the rest of the features
on the horn, I can offer no possible idea as to where he got them. As you can see from
his carving shown here, the balloon is very detailed right down to the two flags. Below
the engrailed edge is an Indian riding a horse bareback. Beside this figure is a mystical
figure with wings spread, and with a wolf-like head. It has a mouth full of sharp teeth.
There is an arrow extending from his mouth. He is perched on a tall, multi-triangle base.
These details along with the others can be viewed in the book. The carver of this horn
whether it is John Howerd or someone else, executed beautiful script. Because the
name was carved around the horn and not along its length, the whole name cannot be
seen well when photographed. It seems the carver was practicing because he carved
“John” twice before he carved the complete name. He did not tell us his state, but we
believe his town of Brooksville is in Maine. He used his compass to decorate his first
name. Above “Howerd” in the view to the right, you can see the partial figure of the
horse and Indian’s leg hanging down. Beneath Brooksville, is a plant with two branches,
and blooms ending in triangles. This horn is Ex-Jim Dresslar Collection.
1. A Collection of Powder Horns” by Wayne McNeese