An Interview With A Historic Cannoneer

If you’ve ever attended one of our annual cultural events like 1840 Rendezvous, you’ve likely witnessed the firing of the 19th century cannon on our grounds. As part of our mission to keep the American past alive, Tesoro Cultural Center partners with highly trained interpreters who specialize in historic trades and skills to demonstrate these activities at our various events as educational opportunities for our patrons. In the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, we asked local cannoneer Norman Hughes to share more about his unique hobby.

How did you become a cannoneer?

My involvement in artillery history actually stemmed from playing music at the Renaissance Faire! I play several historic instruments, and while playing at the Faire, I was approached by a fellow who liked the period music I played and wondered if I would be interested in playing for a historic ball. My interest was piqued. It was the custom at the time to print the name of the musical group on the dance card. I concocted the title “4th US Artillery Quadrille Ensemble” just for the card. History has a way of drawing one in, which led me to build cannon carriages, limbers, harnesses and all the equipment necessary to interpret that frontier army at schools, universities, movies and of course, National Park sites.

Tell us about your cannons.

By now, I have several cannons, two of which are the model of 1841, which saw service in the Civil War. I have found that visitors respond enthusiastically and thoughtfully when they hear that the guns are “real.” One gun I acquired from a collector who had it in his living room!

Why is it important to keep this tradition alive?

My take on the importance of history is this: If we consider ourselves only as individuals with only self-centered goals, only for the period of our lives, we can feel alone and directionless. Most people need to feel part of a group to have a fulfilling life. The larger group for most of us is family, including our ancestors, and the directions that our forebears took, from migrating to certain places, starting businesses, engaging in politics, etc. If we don’t know where we come from, we are unlikely to know where we are going.

If you’d like to learn more about Fur Trade-era skills, save the date for our 1840 Rendezvous & Spanish Colonial Art Market on September 10-11, 2022.

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