The National Texas Longhorn Museum


The Horn Palace and the Buckhorn
Billie Keilman (The Horn Palace)
Wenzel Friedrich & Albert Friedrich (The Buckhorn)

by Alan W. Rogers

According to recent statistics, there are approximately 16,000 museums in America, which are visited yearly by more than 850 million people. The subject matter of these varies greatly and many seem to be of a general nature, having displays relating to all aspects of life. Over the years, San Antonio has been privileged to have two museums devoted to horns -- the Horn Palace (founded by Billie Keilman) and the Buckhorn (founded by Albert Friedrich).

The Horn Palace and the Buckhorn
Saloonkeeper Billie Keilman had a strong interest in horns and antlers, and he amassed what would be come a magnificent collection of such items. Originally called the Horn Palace Bar and Cafe, it opened in 1912 and, a few years later, was commonly referred to as The Horn Palace. Toward the end, it was located at 312 East Houston in San Antonio. Housed in a rather large building, Billie's collection of steer horns, deer antlers and mounted specimens from the world over was gigantic and became widely known. Painted in a large letters across the front of the building, the Horn Palace declared to have the largest collection of horns in the world. Often referred to as a roadhouse, Billie's establishment featured live bands and dancing, and it became a point of attraction for up-and-coming musicians. Chicken dinners were a specialty and customers could dine while sitting in horn chairs made from Texas cattle and, if they chose, could buy a horn chair or horn rocker and take it home. Large numbers of tourists and patrons came in early-day open-sided buses to have a part in the excitement.

Elsewhere at this time in San Antonio, another horn collector, Albert Friedrich (son of famed horn furniture maker Wenzel Friedrich), was busy gathering his own collection of horns and antlers. He, too, was a saloon keeper, having begun in 1881 when he opened the Buckhorn Saloon on Dolorosa Street. The Buckhorn would continue as a saloon until the Prohibition era, at which time it became a curio store, selling steer horns, chair and clocks made of horns, mounted armadillos, pottery and a dozen other varieties of items relating to the Southwest.

It seems reasonable to assume Billie and Albert would have a competition of sorts for the steer horns and antlers available in south Texas, as it was widely known that both were collectors and buyers. But, in the end, tragedy would favor the Buckhorn.

One night in 1921, a gangland-style shooting occurred at the Horn Palace. Band members were rolling under the piano and diving out windows for cover.Billie Keilman was shot and nearly killed. The event was later brought up for trial. But another twist was yet to come. Just before the trial, the Great Flood of 1921 left 15 feet of water in downtown San Antonio. For reasons not fully understood but related to the flood, the shooting case was dismissed. This would mark the end of the Billie Keilman collection. He decided to sell the Horn Palace to the Buckhorn and, by 1922, the Buckhorn became the undisputed Horn King of San Antonio.

The Buckhorn has undergone several changes over the years, and it may be still seen today. The collection is smaller now than in the past, as much of it has been sold off. Other displays of old cattle horns are scattered around the country, some of which have a number of African imports displayed, although they are advertised as Texas Longhorns. Some museum curators don't know the difference.

With the current widespread hunting pressures and restrictions on wildlife that may be taken, along with the cost of taxidermy and labor, we may never again see another horn collection the size and variety of the Horn Palace. Neither Billie Keilman nor his Horn Palace had a very long life. He died in November 1925 at age 50. He lived to see his collection combined with the Buckhorn to form a Texas landmark that, in its heyday, had no equal. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy horns and history, many photos of the Horn Palace were taken and sold as postcards and, because of these, we are able to look back in time and revisit this once grand old horn collection.

Billie Keilman
Billie Keilman was born in Bexar County, Texas about 1875, and what he and his family did in his early years isn't known to me. In the Texas Census of 1910, he is listed as a saloon keeper. In addition to his obvious business ventures, it appears Billie had another strong interest -- horns and antlers -- and he amassed what would be come a magnificent collection of such items, housed in his Texas roadhouse -- the Horn Palace. Billie died November 1925 at age 50. (Click on link at end of page for photo of Horn Palace chair and photos of the Horn Palace.)

Wenzel Friedrich
Wenzel Friedrich was born in Gruenthal, Bohemia July 2, 1827 and came to America at age 26. He arrived at Indianola, TX in 1853 and from there made his journey to San Antonio, which at the time was just a small village and a trading post. After being employed for a short time in the grocery business, he became a skilled cabinet maker. A trade he was familiar with in his homeland. He married his childhood sweetheart, Agnes Urbaneck, from his native country December 8, 1854 and had seven children. In 1880, Wenzel began making horn furniture at 12 Crockett Street and is listed in city directories as a manufacturer of horn furniture as late as 1897. He made some of the most beautiful chairs, tables and hatracks in the United States and is one of only six known makers of horn veneered furniture. He received gold medals as awards in competition at the New Orleans Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884-85, the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1883, and the Southern Exposition of Louisville, KY in 1886. His furniture was sold as far way as Siberia, to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Bismarck, Queen Victoria of England and the President of France. Wenzel Friedrich died November 7, 1902 in San Antonio. (Click on link below for photos of Friedrich furniture.)

FriedrichWenzel.jpg (75113 bytes)

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Albert Friedrich
In 1881, 26 year old Albert was working behind the bar at the Southern Hotel in SA, a headquarters for cattlemen of the day. Soon he opened his own small saloon across the street from the hotel where he had been working, and it is here that his collection began. Albert was fond of deer antlers and cattle horns and began to decorate his saloon with such items. Cowboys, trappers and traders  and the public in general became aware of this. Soon Albert offered to trade a drink of whiskey or beer for horn specimens. The collection began to grow. As his dad Wenzel was a maker of horn furniture, horn chairs were made for, and added to, the Buckhorn. Over the years, the collection grew and grew. and expanded beyond deer and cattle and added to the collection were specimens of horns and mounted heads from American big game animals as well as those from foreign countries. In 1921 with the closing of Billie Keilman's Horn Palace, San Antonio's other massive horn collection, and its purchase by Albert Friedrich, the Buckhorn became the undisputed Horn King of San Antonio. Albert died in 1928. (Click on link below for photos of Buckhorn furniture.)

Copyright Alan Rogers   1991

View Buckhorn, Friedrich and Horn Palace Photos

IMPORTANT: There is much confusion about chairs made by Wenzel Friedrich. Read this link (CLICK HERE) before you buy or sell to compare his work with that of William Mittmann, Charles Puppe and the Appel Bros., all of whom are Texas makers.


 National Texas Longhorn Museum
Click on the following links to learn about old steer horns, horn furniture & related items!
** Home ** Alan Rogers ** Contact ** Horn Gallery 1 ** Horn Gallery 2 **
 ** Horn Chairs -- Compare the Chairs of Puppe, Friedrich, Mittmann and the Appel Bros. **   
** Horn Chairs ** Horn Hatracks ** Horn Tables ** Learn About Horn Furniture **
** Buckhorn & Horn Palace Photos ** Wenzel & Albert Friedrich -- and Billie Keilman's Horn Palace Information **
** Herman Metz Horn Furniture Photos ** Metz Information **
** Bobcat Twister ** Champion (The Famous Steer) ** Old Photos of Steers, Cows & Bulls ** Cattlemen's Banner **
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