J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

A Close Look at Ephraim Moors’s Powder Horn

The photo above shows part of a powder horn that’s among the remarkable Revolutionary items in the exhibit “The Object of History: Colonial Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society,” now at the Concord Museum.

This view includes a crude drawing of the Continental Army encampment on Winter Hill, five grenadiers, a mansion house, the head of a beast, some decorative foliage, and (upside-down at the top) the name “Ephraim Moors,” claiming the horn. Aside from what the carving itself says and the name of the sea captain who donated it to the society, almost nothing else is known about this object.

On Thursday, 14 June, at 7:00, I’ll speak about this powder horn at the Concord Museum. I’ve been investigating its details, forming hypotheses, and putting together a presentation on three questions:
  • How can we tell this horn is an authentic relic of the Revolutionary War?
  • What does the carving on this horn express about the siege of Boston?
  • Who was Ephraim Moors, and what was he doing in Cambridge at the end of 1775?
This talk is free, but the museum asks folks to call 978-369-9763 to reserve seats. The “Object of History” exhibit is on view only a few more days, until 17 June.


Anonymous said...

That's really cool. If I didn't live in AZ but maybe a bit closer, I'd attend your talk.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE post the lecture on-line! PLEEEZE!

Unknown said...

Peace. I find it deceptive that the person who did this article tried to make it seem as if "Ephraim Moors" was some man's name as opposed to it being the Moorish tribe, descendants of Ephraim. Moors from Ephraim were part of a contingent of those who were over here from the ancient land of Canaan long before the Europeans got to this land along with the Moabites whose dominion was held here.

J. L. Bell said...

Ephraim Moors was a man's name. Actually, three men's name, three men from southern New Hampshire during the Revolution. That doesn't render your beliefs false, but it does provide a simpler explanation for this particular powder horn.

Anonymous said...

J. L. Bell, you're right!

Steele Hill said...

The style of this horn's artwork is very similar to one I own from 1776 that belonged to a Capt. Ebenezer Frye who was was New Hampshire. The initials of the creator were J.G., who apparently was a well-known artisan of that era, but whose name I cannot recall right now. Are those initials on this horn as well?

J. L. Bell said...

Jacob Gay was a powderhorn carver active during the French & Indian War and then again during the siege of Boston. He appears to have lived in New Hampshire but may have been from French Canada originally. As I recall, we know nothing about him except that he signed or initialed some horns and had a distinct style.

The Moors horn doesn't have Gay's initials, but it does show other aspects of his style, such as whimsical animals and faces inside the Os of "Moors." My own theory is that Gay started it and Moors himself did the less expert carving on the rear that indicated where he was stationed.

The Concord Museum owns a couple of Gay-carved horns from different decades. Guides to powderhorns show some more examples. It would be great if he showed up in some local records.

Jocko said...

Who do i contact to look at a very rare powderhorn

J. L. Bell said...

Try Joel Bohy at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers.