Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 128: Historic, Highly Figural-Decorated 18th Century American Powder

Auction Date: December 4, 2015

Historic, Highly Figural-Decorated 18th Century American Powder Horn Connected to Pennsylvania Riflemaker Peter Neihart and Documented to a Veteran of the American Revolutionary War and Frontier Ranger

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $4,000 - $6,000

Historic, Highly Figural-Decorated 18th Century American Powder Horn Connected to Pennsylvania Riflemaker Peter Neihart and Documented to a Veteran of the American Revolutionary War and Frontier Ranger

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 1329
Catalog Page: 56
Class: Other

Measuring 11 1/4 inches overall, the general profile of the horn consists of a half-round half-octagonal spout with three raised accent bands, a scalloped edge along the top of the main body, and a carved hardwood plug. The main body is chiefly cream colored with extensive carving, including two scenes of hunters with long guns among many game animals, as well as the words "HIR SCH/ IAGER" (deer hunter). The most prominent element is a customized version of the Arms of the Electorate of Bavaria, integrating a garter inscribed "PHILIPP FRIDERICH KNAPPENBERGER", and the date "1793" is present on the back. According to available information, Knappenberger (spelled both Philip and Philipp) was born in Wuerttemberg in 1738, and would migrate with his family to Philadelphia around 1749, when the family established a farm in the heart of the Lehigh Valley in Whitehall Township, Northampton County (now Lehigh County). During the Revolutionary War, Knappenberger would answer the call of the newly established nation, eventually serving as a Lieutenant under Captain John Moritz with the 4th Company, Second Battalion, Northampton County Militia. It should be noted that when the Northampton militia was formed, it was to replace a Northampton Associates unit that had already been virtually obliterated in combat with the British, suffering heavy casualties at the Battle of Long Island and then fighting to the point of destruction at the Battle of Fort Washington, the American last stand on Manhattan Island. The incarnation of the Northampton Militia saw combat at the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton. Trenton would become especially famous for George Washington's crossing of the Delaware river, which produced one of the most iconic images of the Revolutionary War, while Washington's actions at Princeton served as the base for an equestrian statue that stands in Washington, D.C. to this day. One document accompanying the horn states that Knappenberger also served as a Frontier Ranger as part of the Northampton Militia. These Frontier Rangers helped protect the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania from Indian raids which were common while many of the colonists were away serving tours of duty with the Continental Army. Following the war Knappenberger returned home, marrying in 1784 and passing on in 1829, though the exact details are muddied by the existence of his brother, Philipp Adam Knappenberger. Documentation also suggests that Knappenberger lost his family land in 1792 and moved to the home of Peter Neihart, a well-known Pennsylvania riflemaker, just a year prior to the date on the horn. This horn has been pictured in two books, "The Engraved Powder Horn" by Dresslar (pages 206 and 207) and "The Kentucky Rifle: A True American Heritage" by the Kentucky Rifle Association (page 107).

Rating Definition:

Fine. A thin crack is visible in the spout, with a small repair to one of the accent bands in the affected area and few light handling marks overall. Some mild dings are visible on the base plug, and the spout plug is absent. The decoration is all finely executed, retaining a sharp, deep black color that contracts well with the cream/brown base color of the horn. While the pseudo-heraldic design does not represent a proper line of nobility, it is in many ways a representation of the American Dream, circa 1790, the notion that a man with the right stuff, regardless of background, could come to the frontier and carve out a place for himself. A very attractive American powder horn, of interest for its physical construction, its relation to the heart of Pennsylvania rifle country, and provenance to an American Patriot with connection to some of the great moments of the American Revolution.

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