This is Katie Graham and Rachel Hudson, SUNY New Paltz students interning at the curatorial department at Historic Huguenot Street. We are excited to present the Object of the Week blog, where we choose an interesting item from our collections and present it with a little bit of information and fun facts. Here at the curatorial department, we’re always stumbling upon intriguing and curious objects that may not necessarily be on display, but we just can’t help but show off.
During our first month as summer interns at HHS, we began contemplating the idea of this blog and considering which object we wanted to present first. We must have walked by and admired this ear trumpet on numerous occasions, but it wasn’t until we had to present our first object that it came to mind.
In the 1300s, people used animal horns as a means to amplify sound, and the earliest metal ear trumpets date back to the late 1600s. Our acoustic ear horn is a far cry from the almost invisible hearing devices we have today, but throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, acoustic ear trumpets were the go-to for individuals with moderate hearing loss.
While we don’t know the company or person who made the ear horn in our collections, the first to mass produce acoustic ear trumpets was Frederick C. Rein in 1800. His business F.C. Rein and Son remained a commercial business in London until 1963 and was the pioneer in making the functional item into something more concealed by way of fashion. Rein drew competition in 1869 from T. Hawksley, Ltd, who also provided acoustical instruments to the people of London seeking clever and discrete aids to their hearing deficiencies.
Stay tuned for more from the Historic Huguenot Street collections! Try and guess next week’s object from the picture below.