The post horn (also posthorn, post-horn, or coach horn) is a valveless cylindrical brass or copper instrument with cupped mouthpiece, used to signal the arrival or departure of a post rider or mail coach. It was used especially by postilions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Mail coaches had tight schedules and travelled at high speed, given priority of way in most countries. Other road users were required to clear completely out of the way. The post horn also acted as a modern day siren, the sound travelling some distance ahead and giving warning of a fast approaching mail coach before it could be seen.
The instrument commonly had a circular or coiled shape with three turns of the tubing, though sometimes it was straight. It is therefore an example of a natural horn. The cornet was developed from the post horn by adding valves.
Mozart, Mahler, and others incorporated the instrument into their orchestras for certain pieces. On such occasions, the orchestra's horn player usually plays the instrument. One example of post horn use in modern classical music is the famous off-stage solo in Mahler's Third Symphony. Due to the scarcity of this instrument, however, music written for it is usually played on a trumpet or flugelhorn.
In 1844, the German cornet player Hermann Koenig wrote Post Horn Galop (Post Horn Gallop) as a solo for post horn with orchestral accompaniment. In the 20th century it became a popular piece for brass bands. During World War I wooden post horns were used as a means of collecting war donations via a method called the Nail Men. People would donate and in exchange be allowed to hammer a nail into the horn, until the horn was completely covered.
The instrument is still used as the logo of national post services in many countries.
The post horn is included in Unicode as U+1F4EF 📯 postal horn.
List of postal services that include the post horn in their logos
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- Česká pošta (Czech Republic)
- Correos (Spain)
- CTT (Portugal) - features a rider on horseback carrying a straight horn
- Cyprus Postal Services (Cyprus)
- Deutsche Post (Germany)
- Eesti Post (Estonia)
- Hrvatska pošta (Croatia)
- Íslandspóstur (Iceland)
- Jersey Post (Jersey)
- Lietuvos paštas (Lithuania)
- Magyar Posta (Hungary)
- Makedonska Pošta (Macedonia)
- MaltaPost (Malta) - features a horn with a Maltese cross in the middle
- Österreichische Post (Austria)
- Pakistan Post (Pakistan)
- P&TLuxembourg (Luxembourg)
- Poczta Polska (Poland)
- Poşta Moldovei (Moldova)
- Poşta Română (Romania)
- Posta Shqiptare (Albania)
- Pošta Slovenije (Slovenia)
- Post Danmark (Denmark)
- Posten AB (Sweden)
- PTT (Turkey) (Turkey)
- Slovenská pošta (Slovakia)
- Ukrposhta (Ukraine)
Examples of post horns as graphics
German sign and postbox with post horn logos
Post horn logo from Sweden
Muted post horn from The Crying of Lot 49
- Horn (instrument)
- Little Post Horn Squid
- The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon
- Postage stamps and postal history of Germany
- Postage stamps and postal history of Norway
- Serenade No. 9 (Mozart), the "Posthorn" serenade
- Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1940), 428.
- The Posthorn Gallop, Entry in "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music", 4th edn., Kennedy (ed.), Oxford University Press.
- Taylor, Arthur (1983). Labour and love: an oral history of the brass band movement. Elm Tree Books.
- "Top 10 Australian Logos – 9th". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- Video of Koenig's Post Horn Gallop performed by Steve Fletcher and Jerry Clack of The London Banqueting Ensemble.
- Post horn calls. Hungarian Post Co. Links to sound files.
- The Sound of Post Horns - Strains from a Past Era - Museumsposten - © Post & Tele Museum, Denmark.