Just about every automobile out there comes with a horn. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any motoring vehicle that doesn’t have one. In most cities you hear them blaring all the time. And, as you may already know, the relationship between cars and their horns goes back many decades. In fact, it goes back to the very beginning of self-propelled vehicles. Let’s discuss:
With some help from the sales staff at Holden Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram located in Dover, DE, we got the whole story on automobiles and their horns. Believe it or not, the United States is not where it began. Car horns go back to the mid-1800s in Britain where steam powered carriages were just beginning to be used. For pedestrians’ and animals’ safety, a law was passed that said “…self-propelled vehicles on public roads must be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn.” Of course, it didn’t take much time to realize that a horn mounted on the vehicle was a bit more efficient than someone walking in front of the vehicle blowing a horn, which lasted for about a decade. Later, people responded with a variety of whistles, sirens, chimes and horns.
In the early 1900s, when cars started to appear in America, the car-mounted horn became the attention-getting device on the road. A squeeze on the bulb and everybody around knew you and your car were near. By 1910, however, some people were calling for a more powerful warning device, one that they could hear at least an eighth of a mile ahead. For example, the Sireno, named after mythological creatures who got mariners to destruct, was advertised as a genuine “one-mile signal”.
The Klaxon horn came about by the 1920s. A Klaxon horn, with its name taken from from the Greek word klaxo, meaning “to shriek,” produced its sound through an electrically-powered vibrating diaphragm. Arguably the most memorable Klaxon horn is the “Aoogha” horns on the Model T and Model A Fords of the 1920’s and early 1930’s. These horns were loud and very effective at getting pedestrians and animals out of the way. Miller Rees Hutchinson, a young inventor, was responsible for the Klaxon horn coming about.
Since the 1930s, manufacturers have experimented with the sound chamber and basic Klaxon-type diaphragm to make many sounds. The goal generally is to produce horns that are kind to the ear but still able to be heard over the low frequency rumble of traffic’s noise. For example, up until the middle of the 1960’s most American car horns were tuned to the musical notes of E-flat or C.
Today, due to cars’ better soundproofing, they are more frequently tuned to notes F-sharp and A-sharp that are a bit more penetrating. The design of car horns has also entered the digital era with a few car horns being really just powerful speakers driven by electronic circuitry. But, along with such high-tech designs, the old fashioned vibrating diaphragm horn still thrives, as it simply works well and is a good example of staying with a technology that simply performs the job and does it well at the 110 decibels of sound it puts out.