Car Horns - The next generation.

Car Horns - A History

Car horns pictured on an early automobile

Old Bulb Horn

Car horns have become a part of everyday life. Horns and automobiles are practically synonymous. One can hardly find an automobile without a horn. Car horns date back to the earliest of horseless carriages. In the early 1800's, steam carriages were becoming popular in Britain. For the safety of pedestrians and animals, a law was passed stating that "…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 did not take long to realize that a horn in the automobile itself, operated by the driver, was much more efficient.
In the late 1800's motorists actually had their choice of several signaling devices including bulb horns, whistles, and bells. In America, most chose bells. Despite the noise made by these devices, they were considered a quieter alternative to the clatter of horses' hooves and the bouncing of metal carriage wheels on cobblestone. In the early 1900's the bulb horn, first introduced in France, became popular in America. Its sound was considered more novel and penetrating than the bell. By 1910 some people were calling for a more effective warning device, one that could be heard at least an eighth of a mile ahead. Manufacturers responded with a variety of whistles, chimes, sirens, and horns, some of which ran off exhaust gases. The Sireno, named after Greek mythological creatures who lured mariners to destruction with the irresistible charm of their song, was advertised as a "one-mile signal". Another device, called the Godin, was publicized with the slogan "You press as you steer and your pathway is clear.".

1907 car horn advertisement
1907 Auto Horn ad

Picture of 1933 Klaxon service manual
1933 Klaxon Horn Service Manual

One of the more popular car horns of the 1910's and 1920's was the Gabriel, named after the horn-tooting angel. The Gabriel was a multi-toned exhaust horn whose sound was touted as being both powerful and pleasing to the ear. Another popular horn was the Klaxon, whose name was derived from the Greek word klaxo, meaning "to shriek". The Klaxon produced its sound with an electrically powered vibrating metal diaphragm. The Klaxon was the first horn to need "just a touch" rather than be sounded continuously, to clear the path for the automobile. The Klaxon-type diaphragm horn has evolved over the years and is the basis for today's modern diaphragm horns. Manufacturers have experimented with the diaphragm and sound chamber to produce a variety of sounds. Arguably the most memorable is the "Aoogha" sound of the horns on the Model T and Model A Fords of the 1920's and early 1930's. Over the years, there have been many studies and designs in an attempt to produce horns that are pleasing to the ear but still able to penetrate the low frequency rumble of traffic noise. Up until the mid 1960's most American car horns were tuned to the musical notes of E flat or C. Since then, many manufacturers have moved up on the scale to notes F sharp and A sharp.

Background traffic noise has continued to increase and at the same time, auto manufacturers have prided themselves on designing cars to reduce interior noise to near zero. They have been so successful in fact, that even the sirens of emergency vehicles, which are much louder than conventional horns, cannot be heard in an auto with windows rolled up and the air conditioning on. Even with the windows rolled down, at high speeds the background interior noise increases dramatically, detracting the user's ability to hear signaling devices. Pedestrians and residents along city streets however, have no problem hearing automobile horns, and have prompted numerous laws over the years dealing with their use. By 1912, a number of cities had laws on the books requiring motorized vehicles to have audible warning devices, yet at the same time limiting their use within city limits. Throughout the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, several states experimented with legislation attempting to regulate the operation of automobile horns, while still allowing their legitimate use. As a result, there are still many local and regional laws in effect today.

With the introduction of the electronic COGApa, car horns have finally reached the next generation and have entered the digital age.

COGApa is a novelty device and is not intended, nor should it be used, as a replacement for your standard automobile horn or as a signaling device. COGApa is not intended for operation in a moving vehicle. Check your local ordinances governing use of this product. Please use COGApa in a respectable and responsible manner at all times. And have fun!


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