You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 12, 2009.

First, unrelated . . . thanks to Norman Brouwer for his corrections/additions to my “Circum …2” post;  once I get any other comments, I’ll make corrections and re-post.  Norman, maritime historian, thank you.

Horns , , , well, actually, more than one.  But can you identify this one below, which awed me?   Joel–over 6 feet tall– gave permission to use this foto, in which he serves a “scale model.”  Considering the size of this horn, what is its origin?  Answer follows.  For the record, I asked Joel to show how “awed” he was;  he may have heard my garbled request in a very noisy powerhouse as “odd” instead.


The person behind the horns in Brooklyn (you can hear them below) is Conrad Milster, engineer at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.  Conrad–posing here with a few of his horns– says horns have fascinated him since the days he worked on the Hudson River Day Line.  See a vintage Day Line TV commercial here.


And here’s more.  Notice the ruler projecting downward from upper left side of foto.  Conrad has manufactured the “brassier” of these horns, as


he did this calliope.


Notice the white marble base outside the window beyond the calliope on the left side of the foto above.  Here’s an apt figure carved there and


some others, intriguing although slightly marred by ancient–no doubt– vandals . .  or bowdlerists


Back to the horns, the one in the middle–note the size–dates from just post-Civil War era, when it was safety equipment on the ferry Landsdowne, running between Detroit and Windsor.   Yes, you will hear it at the end of this post.


Conrad also collects gauges from the era of steam.  Here  are some previously of the the steamer Orange, running between Newburgh and Beacon, New York.  Many thanks to Steve Turi for passing along the following two links:  live steam voices on New York harbor the sixth boro from 1987 here and here.  If you read the first  paragraph of the first brochure, you’ll see Conrad listed as “special consultant.”   If you look at the second foto in the second link, you’ll see this traveling steam horn exhibit got towed through the Canal by none other than the 1929 tug Governor Cleveland, recently part of the River Day trip.


By the way . . . horns or whistles ? . . .  I can’t quite sort it out.  Steam horn/whistles have largely disappeared from our lives.  As a kid in an agricultural town way upstate, I recall the whistle atop the cannery, announcing shift changes.

OK, give a listen to Conrad’s whistles here.  Conrad is the man in the one-piece wearing the green/yellow ski hat.  Blowing the horns is an annual New Year’s Eve ritual at the Pratt campus.  Other videos can be found in the links on the YouTube page.

The mystery horn from foto 1 blows at between 2:20 and 2:30 of the clip above.  Guess its provenance?

SS Normandie!!!  The horn was saved from the scrap pile and lives on to sing another day and another . . . .  Thanks to Allen’s suggestion, I went looking for a Normandie video:  here it is including the ecstasy, a horn, and the agony.

Hear’s my call to action:  let’s get all the horns we can available on YouTube.  And I’m directly appealing to someone from Kristin Poling–whose horn I recently heard–to help me set up a time/place for me to film/record the horn. I’ll sit on the appointed riverbank and record the sound, the song.    And here’s another, anyone looking for a harbor culture project . . .  organize a reprise of the 1987 “live steam voices in NYC harbor” event?  Here’s current info on Arden Scott, of that event.

Many thanks to Conrad Milster.

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August 2009