collecting antique car horns

Collecting: Antique Car Horns

I have two antique car horns and I’m looking for a third, so I guess I’m collecting antique car horns now.

I’m pretty jazzed about it!

Every once in awhile when you visit this blog I want you to not only leave with inspiration, but some random trivia to impress your friends and family with too. It’s the least I can do for you, right? 

collecting antique car horns

Here goes…

Antique car horns were first used in Britain in the 1800s. It was a matter of safety when self-propelled vehicles started sharing the road with horses, wagons, and people.

By the late 1800s, motorists were using horns, bells, and whistles to alert others to their presence. In the U.S., bells were most popular. 

I’d rather enjoy a bell on my car, but I’d probably abuse the bell power. 

collecting antique car horns

A variety of different car horns were invented before the industry settled on one main type. The bulb car horn (what I’m collecting) was first introduced in France in the early 1900s and subsequently became popular in the U.S.

Arguably, the most iconic car horn to our modern listening ears is the one installed on the Model T. It made that “ahooga” sound. You know what I’m talking about now, don’t you? 

That horn had a name, the Klaxon, and it was patented in 1908 by Miller Reese Hutchison. Hutchison later became a chief engineer for Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. (As a side note, that lab is now a museum operated by the National Park Service and it is fascinating. Although, younger kids might not be enthralled because there aren’t a ton of hands-on activities.)

You knew I’d work a New Jersey reference into this post at some point, right? I’m a Jersey girl now, so I had to do it.

brass coffee table mashup collecting antique car horns

Did you know that car horns are tuned to musical notes? Modern horns are tuned to a F sharp or A sharp, but up until the 1960s car horns were tuned to E flat or C. I’m not sure why they changed, but I do know there are laws governing decibels and distance a car horn can be heard (usually 200-ft).

Also, did you know you can press your car horn continuously for 20 minutes before the sound starts to go wonky? No, I didn’t test that myself. I do a lot for this blog, but I have my limits. I accidentally learned that tidbit from Google.

Imagine being the neighbor of the person who tested that out. Hahahahaha!

collecting antique car horns

Let’s get back to the collecting part of this blog post. I’m not a car gal, so I’m not collecting antique car horns for that reason.

I’m collecting them, in part, because they have the coolest shape. I happen to have two that are very similar, but antique car horns come in a variety of shapes and sizes. That cool shape lends itself well to a statement-making decorating moment. I love to make a statement with something unique or a bit quirky in my home (remember my ruby glass chandelier?) and antique car horns fit that bill.

I’m also collecting antique car horns because I’m curious about history and how things were made. I definitely don’t want something to go to waste just because it has become outdated. 

Plus, these antique car horns bring me joy. I’m not sure if it is the shape, the brass material, or their relative uniqueness. Maybe it is the wonder of it all. What car did this car horn come off of? What roads has it driven? What places has it seen? How did it end up in a thrift store?

It’s probably a combination of everything and that’s perfectly okay. 

Do you collect anything? I’d love to know.

Happy collecting!

P.S. I know my car horns are not hung right side up. Since I’m hanging them via invisible picture wire and not screwing them into the wall, they just hang better with the heavier side down.

P.P.S. I found one of my antique car horns on Facebook Marketplace and I paid $20 for it. I found the other in a thrift store and paid $10. You can also find antique car horns on Etsy and eBay, but they seem much more expensive there when I looked into it.

Big thanks to the following sites for the historical information in today’s post: 

Car and Driver, DirWell, Wikipedia, COGApa

Thanks for being here today. Here are some other posts you might enjoy.

Collecting: Playing Cards

Travel Souvenirs: Pins and How to Display Them

Turn Souvenir Pennies into Magnets


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