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Horn Furniture and Hazy Dreams of a Life Lived Closer to the Land

At the end of a long, hot, hazy August, I love that first time I wake up in the morning and feel a fresh, cool snap to the air. I might be a little sorry to say goodbye to another summer, but the change tells me the wheel keeps turning and fall is coming down the road. And I’m ready for it. Ready to breathe in the unmistakable smell of autumn—a combination of rippling leaves enjoying their last glory of the year, fresh flannel shirts and most of all, wood smoke.

Sit in front of a log fire and dream

It doesn’t matter if you actually HAVE a cabin in the mountains. I sure don’t. But this is the season when all the images from movies and descriptions from books pour out of your imagination and come together to make you feel like that’s where you belong. Put on your worn leather hiking boots, wrap yourself in a plaid blanket, sit in front of a log fire and dream. I do it every year, and it gets me pretty close.

That’s what I was thinking when I found this horn chair years ago. “If I had a mountain cabin, or a ranch at the foot of the Rockies, this is where I’d sit.”

Connection to the natural world

Horn furniture was made from about 1875 until about 1920; mostly in, or near the great slaughterhouse and meat-packing cities like Chicago, St. Louis and Winnipeg. Most of them were made from steer horns, and mostly into chairs—though there were some tables and the occasional bed. Can’t say for sure, but it was about this time that the population was shifting from mostly rural to mostly urban and I think people were feeling the loss of their connection to the natural world.

Men especially had traded daily hunting, fishing and ranching for delivery routes and assembly lines. Horn chairs, whether in the library of a Park Avenue mansion or the place of honor in a third floor walk-up, took them back, just for a moment or two, to cabins by pristine mountain streams or on endless acres of ranch land.

At least that’s where I go when I sit in this chair. If you happen to see one in your travels, have a seat . . . we’ll throw another log on the fire.

Party sleuth, part preservationist and part cultural historian, Mike Wolfe is the star and creator of American Pickers on HISTORY. Find him online at antiquearchaeology.com


-by Mike Wolfe