Ron Vail was born and raised in Connersville, Indiana, part of the country known in prior years as the Northwest Territory. This small town developed around an early 1800’s fur trading post. This contributed to Vail’s interest at an early age in America’s original inhabitants and its white settlers. In the early 1970’s he became involved in historical re-enacting.
Over the years Vail’s interest in early American history grew even more and he developed a strong interest in powder horns. He made his first powder horn in the early 1980’s. Vail has an extensive library covering the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the mountain men era and the Civil War. He also has many books pertaining to powder horns and other horn items. He has studied powder horns in museums and private collections and has his own collection of original “common man, working” powder horns and other horn items.
In good weather Vail does virtually all of his horn work under a tree in the yard next to his log cabin. The tools most often used are an assortment of files and knives. He occasionally uses a shaving horse and a draw knife. His goal is to make a historically accurate powder horn, salt horn, horn cup or other horn item that is representative of those made and carried by soldiers, long hunters, Native Americans and the common man living between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. His items do not represent those made professionally in horn making shops. Powder horns and other items are typically made to appear old and well used. Vail’s trademark is his initials, RV, with the V being part of the R.
A few years ago Vail was commissioned by the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Public Museum to make all the powder horns for their French voyageur and Potawatomi Indian dioramas. He has also made a powder horn for the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s Gunmakers Hall raffle. His work has been purchased by historical re-enactors, collectors and interior designers.
Ron and his wife, Shelly, live in a log cabin in a woods in Morgan County, Indiana. Sharing the cabin is a collection of dogs, birds, fish, and at times various other animals. Roaming outside the cabin is the usual assortment of rabbits, squirrels, possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer and many wild birds. Vail provides food and shelter for all of these critters and lets the natural enemies sort out their differences on their own.
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