Powder flasks have been in use since the early 15th century to carry the black powder necessary in the use of firearms. Whether made from ox or cow horns (appropriately called a “powder horn”) or from wood and iron, powder flasks had to not only hold the black powder, but also keep the powder dry.
Every powder flask’s design and style was unique. Some were ornately decorated while others were plain without markings. Metal flasks were successors to the powder containers made of cattle horns, which accompanied the earlier flintlock guns. The Napoleonic Army was the first using these metal powder flasks between 1800 and 1810. Soon afterward, English firms began to produce them and there is no doubt that the earliest ones used in America were imported from England. Even in 1830, when various American firms began producing them, it is more than probable that English workmen were employed for making the first ones. One of the firms, Capswell Horseshoe Nail Company of Woodbury, Connecticut, definitely employed English workmen.
Above powder flasks, left to right:
- 16th century European triangular powder flask with a wood body covered in rust-colored velvet and hammered iron strapping
- 18th century Scottish powder flask, with un-hallmarked white metal fittings and a cow horn flask body
- circa 1800 powder flask of green horn
- late 18th – early 19th c English powder flask by, J.W Hawksley with an embossed decorative pattern
- nautical, maritime, late 18th c George III period, British sailor’s carved coconut “Bugbear” gun powder flask, carved in relief, with two oval medallions