Question About Paint in French Canada

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Notchy Bob

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I was researching powder horns, and found an interesting article in the Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4, pages 7-11, "Notes on Canadian Powder Horns." The text is very informative, but the illustrations are all black and white, with one photo and several pen-and-ink drawings. Figure 2 in the article shows a horn collected from "a rural French home in Quebec." The article states "...the bottom [of the horn] has been carved in a simple design and still carries an ancient coat of the blue-green paint used on antique French checkerboards and utensils."

I also ran across this, described as a "Maritime Powder Horn," on the River Junction website:

Maritime Horn .1.jpgMaritime Horn .2.jpg
(for more pictures and a description, see Maritime Powder Horn)

I think this is likely a Newfoundland seal-hunter's horn, as it shows some similarities to other horns which were identified as such. Note the painted base. I'm finding that painted horns were not that uncommon.

Do you think the paint on this "Maritime Powderhorn" might be the same "blue-green paint used on antique French checkerboards...," as referenced in the other article? What kind of paint is it? Milk paint? Oil paint? How common is this color on old French Canadian artifacts? Any information on the topic would be appreciated.

Merci beaucoup!

Notchy Bob
 

DBrevit

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The blue/green could also be Copper Acetate, it was used way, way back on many things in conjunction with bee's wax, pine resin etc as a seal, the copper stopped bugs/mites from eating horn and wood, also helped stop rot and fungi.
Fletchers used it on arrows to stop mites from eating the feather fletching of stored arrows.
 

Stophel

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The blue-green color seems to have been universally popular, though I cannot say how popular it was with French Canadians.

I would say it is oil paint, depending upon the date of the horn. As I understand it, milk paint was developed in the 19th century. I don't know what the gray goop is on the River Junction maritime horn. It's kinda weird lookin'...
 

Loyalist Dave

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Actually milk paint goes way back. Pretty much when you have domesticated animals that give milk, you find the folks using it with pigment and making paint.
King Tut had some items with milk paint on them, for example.

The problem with milk paint is it's an indoor use paint, not outdoor. Even just too much humidity can cause it to mold.
So..., you might try some actual milk paint powder pigment with some boiled linseed oil and see if it works as a pigment for BLO and thus becomes an outdoor paint.

Perhaps milk paint followed by a covering of plain BLO or several coats would protect the pigment layer of paint from the elements?


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Notchy Bob

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Thank you, to those who replied so quickly. Dave, I did not know all of that about milk paint. The information is appreciated. From the rather haphazard research I've done so far, I'm getting the impression that painted powder horn base plugs may have been more common in Canada than the USA, and the practice of painting base plugs in this way was probably most common on horns used in maritime environments. This makes me think the paint was as much practical as it was decorative, for weatherproofing and sealing the base of the horn. Some horns used by commercial seal hunters apparently had their bases covered with tar, rather than paint. Interestingly, the base plugs on many of these horns were made of cork.

Getting back to the paint... The wording in the MOFTQ article implied that particular blue-green paint was used on many things in French Canada, as if it was a standard item of trade. I was reminded of the enamel "porch paint" that was everywhere in the American south in years past. Everybody's porch flooring was painted the same pale, bland, blue-gray-greenish color. The paint was waterproof and weather resistant, and as far as I know was only available in the one color. I was thinking the French-Canadian paint referenced in the powder horn article might be something similar. If they needed just a little bit of paint for a powder horn or a checkerboard, the leftovers from the porch painting project would be a logical choice for intelligent, practical people with a waste-not, want-not mentality.

If any of you folks with some knowledge of French-Canadian culture can provide any further insight, and possibly some pictures of cultural artifacts with this type of paint, I would be interested.

Thanks!

Notchy Bob
 
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