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“Keep your powder dry”


One in 8.5 Million

“Keep your powder dry”

To pass away long hours at sea aboard USS United States, midshipman John Randolph Bryan, carved intricate designs—ships, flowers, animals, and patriotic symbols—into these horns, which served as containers for gunpowder.

May 2014 marked the 217th anniversary of the launching USS United States—one of the United States’ first battleships. After being decommissioned in 1849, she rotted away for twelve years near Norfolk until the Confederate navy repaired her for service during the Civil War—after renaming her CSS Confederate States.

The Virginia Historical Society has been collecting since 1831. Included in our unique collection are 8-million processed manuscripts, 200,000 books, 290,000 prints and photographs, and 32,000 museum objects documenting the daily lives and times of all Virginians. The object featured here offers one opportunity to look into the past. Millions more treasures await you at our headquarters in Richmond, by appointment at Virginia House, and online at

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