Postal horns have been associated traditionally with bucolic topics in music. From Mozart to Mahler, the instrument appears in orchestral textures and songs to signify nostalgia for preindustrial rural life. The history of the coach horn, originally the standard postal instrument used on the British Royal Mail fleets, branched unexpectedly away from this paradigm when it was adopted for recreational use by socialites in urban areas in England, France, and other metropolitan hubs during the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition to performing the traditional road signals, driving enthusiasts expanded the musical vocabulary of the coach horn to include elaborate fanfares and stylized ensemble music. Tracing the undocumented recreational history of the coach horn, this article interrogates coach horn manuals, compositions, and essays on coaching that overturn traditional assumptions about the instrument. These sources illustrate how coach horn signals helped reframe driving from a service activity to a healthful sport. Examining the rhetoric surrounding the coach horn during the period of its revival, this study shows how the new signals reflected promenade and salon culture by mimicking polite dialogue. The ensemble repertory written for coach horns also catered to urban popular taste and was cultivated to enhance metropolitan social events. Analysis further illustrates how revivalist fanfares aurally articulated social status in the outdoor urban arena. This case study ultimately traces the cultural evolution of an instrument, a complex process through which old and new musical expectations were negotiated through composition and practice.

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