Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Horn (part 2) My Latest Hornware Find

I go to car boot sales a lot - there are plenty in Cornwall in both the summer and the winter. I do see a lot of 'tat', but I try not to be too distracted or disheartened by it. 
Sometimes, however, I find something that is interesting. This I got for £1…

It’s a paperknife, made out of horn in the shape of a sword and hot stamped TENTH WORLD POULTRY CONGRESS.

And on the back it is hot stamped EDINBURGH 1954.

So here is a particularly rare item, a horn artefact which can be (mostly) provenanced. We have a location (Scotland) and a date (1954).
The paperknife itself is 6.5 inches long (160mm) and slightly asymmetric, evidently made by hand. It is polished and the inscription has been branded upon it with a custom made stamp which begs the questions;
- Just how many of these artefacts were made to justify the making of not just one but two metal stamps?
- Did they also do a range of Tenth World Poultry Congress beakers? Combs? Heaven forbid, keyrings? Or other horn artefacts?
- Were the paperknives made for the conference or did some later worker buy up a load and turn them into conference merchandise?

The handmade concept brings to mind the Scottish Tinkers who often worked in horn, as well as metal. Was it their work? Or that of a more settled horn workshop? The conference aimed to take delegates outside, not just to places of poultry keeping interest, but to local cultural attractions. Perhaps an item of Horncraft was of Scottish interest.

Looking online it seemed the Tenth World Poultry Congress ran from the 13th to the 21st August 1954. There were 100 papers delivered in both English and French. This was just before mass air travel took off (unlike the poultry) and though some delegates may have arrived by air, I imagine most, including the New World and Australian visitors, (there were a lot from the US and Canada), would have come by sea. It must have been an exciting event.

I think my pound was well spent and this artefact will grace my collection.
I’m just wondering what breed of Chicken they got the horn from…

Rebecca Davies, Guest Blogger.

And here is a link to MoDiP's online Worshipful Company of Horners collection


  1. I liked this, quirky but not insignificant. Why not bury it locally and confuse / entertain the archaeologists of the future?
    + "took off" - very witty!

    1. Nice idea but wouldnt work; Horn is a material that is an Archaeologists nightmare; only under very unusual conditions does it preserve.