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Buffalo Horn Chair

Curated Submission
United States
1890 - 1900
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
56 x 50 x 110
Materials & techniques
Wood, buffalo horns, leather; Industrially manufactured
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM-1973-S-1833
Massive herds of bison once roamed the vast expanse of North American prairie, before incoming settlers hunted them nearly to extinction. First Nations people relied on the bison, and a use was found for every scrap and morsel of the bison carcass. The once-proud coronet of horns worn by Plains bison, however, was also of interest to furniture makers in the late 1800s. A new trend emerged in the 1870s that promoted the incorporation of antler, bone, and horn into furniture design, and bison horns were shipped east to furniture makers for parlour chairs, footstools, hat racks, and bookshelves. In 1876 examples of horn furniture were shown at the Chicago Industrial Exhibition, and by the 1880s the furniture was all the rage.
One such piece found its way back to Saskatchewan. At one time the chair graced the home of Canon Edward and Eleanor Matheson of Battleford. Canon Matheson came to present-day Saskatchewan in 1877 from Red River, Manitoba. He was Superintendent of Anglican Missions and also taught school on reserves in the Fort Carlton area. In 1895 he became principal of the Indian Industrial School at Battleford, continuing in that post until 1914. Matheson was reportedly an avid collector of First Nations artifacts and trade goods. While the early story of this chair is lost, it was likely manufactured in the eastern United States and shipped west. 
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