Reflections on the Trade: Random Pipe and Tobacco Facts and Factoids of Yesterday

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by Ben Rapaport [1]

We read, we hear and we see stories and reports daily, lots of information that, sometimes, we don’t know if we should believe. That’s probably why the mantra “don’t believe everything you read” was coined. And it’s certainly true that some of what’s been written on the interrelated topics of tobacco, pipes and pipe smoking throughout time is pure bunk, or what I call, lispingly, myth-understanding: the story of Karl Kovacs, the Hungarian cobbler credited with having carved the first meerschaum pipe; raw meerschaum coming from the sea; and where and when briar was first used for pipes, are just three tall tales that come to mind. From my own research in this field, I frankly believe that, generally, the stuff written way back when is often more accurate and factual than some of what’s in print today. Why? Those who were recording and reporting years ago had firsthand, personal knowledge, and they most often penned eyewitness accounts. From some of the recent stuff I have been reading in books, feature articles in journals and on the Internet, it looks like a few of today’s pipe pundits, talking tobacco heads and briar bloviators are being blasted for exaggerating, embellishing, distorting and taking old information out of context to suit their own purposes. Much of it cannot stand close scrutiny! (If I had a dime for everything I have been reading on the Internet about pipe lore these past few years that’s nowhere near ground truth, I could probably buy my own space shuttle.) However harmless or unintentional this shameless reporting, the end result is that today’s “new kids on the (briar) block” could start off with all the wrong facts about the evolutionary history of pipes and tobaccos, although most everything in the production and consumption of both has changed—for the better, of course—since then.

So, what I offer herein is a mix of quotations, randomly selected statements found in print in an assortment of mostly obscure source material from the past and a few quotations from the near-distant past. They are organized topically, e.g., pipes, tobacco, etc. What follows is a collection of fragments lifted from the literature that, I believe, when collectively distilled, paints a rather exacting portrait of the times. My only objective in this compilation is to present some (intellectual tobacco) food for thought, grist for your mental mill, something to exercise and stimulate your gray matter, round out your education and, maybe, fill in a few blanks in your knowledge kit. After all, history is only history if it’s accurate, and it is usually best told through the first-person accounts of those who were there, the eyewitnesses, so to speak, who experienced firsthand the early days of the trade. You are what you know, and in the words of Virgil, “rerum cognoscere causas”; one needs to know the causes of things. So, here are quotations from some who knew or claimed that they knew. There’s something for everyone in the snippets that follow.

Briar pipes

Here’s one for starters: “Your briar pipe is, perhaps, the most popular on earth, because it will stand more abuse, give better service, is cheaper and more portable than all others, and still is a good-looker. A so-called briar pipe can be bought for twenty-five cents—but an expert won’t advise it. Pay more and get a better one. Eschew the carved ones—they are pitfalls.” (“Pointers on Pipe Smoking,” The Tobacco Worker, Vol. 17, No. 7, July 1913, 11)

“What most smokers probably do not know is that the bogus briars are made from the wood of trees so various as apple, pear, peach, plum, buttonwood, hazel, maple, coco bola, molave, and live oaks, so that it is obvious that care is necessary in the selection of a pipe, otherwise what is described and paid for as a real briar may be nothing but an unsatisfactory imitation.” (“About Briar Pipes,” The Tobacco Worker, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 1912, 7)

“About forty-five years ago, Mr. Charles Peterson, the inventor of the world-famous Peterson Patent Pipe, commenced manufacturing briar-wood and meerschaum pipes in Dublin. At first the trade was confined to the making of special pipes for individual customers, but, ere long, the demand became so great that Mr. Kapp, of Grafton Street, Dublin, who had afforded the opportunity to Mr. Peterson of carrying his work, decided to extend the trade, and in this way the foundations of the present extensive business of Messrs. Kapp & Peterson, Ltd., were laid.” (E.J. Riordan et al., Modern Irish Trade and Industry, 1920, 186)

“Over more than sixty years, Pipa Castello has become known for being the only producer that directly performs all the phases in the construction of the pipe, including the research, the work on the briar wood, and the construction of the mouthpiece. Every pipe is carefully hand-made from one single piece, owing to the characteristics of the raw material (the briar wood).

“Vertical integration distinguishes the Castello pipe from its competitors, who assemble and sell pipes worked by small artisanal subcontractors.

“Among smokers, the Castello pipe is a true cult object which is often purchased for the simple pleasure of owning one, or for a collection.” (Anna Grandori, Organization and Economic Behavior, 2001, 320)

“Genuine lovers of the weed almost invariably use the French briar, with amber, or as second best, vulcanite mouthpiece—never celluloid. The briar pipe has the charm of giving off no odor of its own, and the tobacco is given full opportunity to do its best with its own smoke. … The rich polish of its bowl, the clean, smooth, golden amber and bright silver band suggest only happy thoughts and a whole world of consolation.” (“Pipe Lore,” Army and Navy Life, Volume X, January–June 1907, 444)

“The old clays and the once famous meerschaums have been superseded by the elegant and inexpensive ‘briars’—or, correctly, bruyère pipes. For thirty years this semi-mineral has been steadily rising in favour, until to-day one well-known London firm asserts that were all the briar-wood pipes they have sold, of one particular pattern, strung together, they would extend a distance equalling that from the base to the summit of a mountain 210,000 feet high, supposing such a mountain to exist.” (“A Chapter on Pipes,” The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume CCLXXIX, July to December 1895, 23)

“There is no such thing as a pipe costing too much money, considering the length of time it can be used. Suppose a customer paid $6 for a briar pipe and we will figure he smokes six pipefuls of tobacco a day, making 2,190 smokes a year. It costs him a little over two-tenths of a cent a smoke—that is, of course, provided he smokes the pipe for one year. Some people have smoked their pipe for twenty years.” (Carl Avery Werner, Tobaccoland, 1922, 400)

“The briar is the favorite with Englishmen, who are probably the greatest pipe-smokers in the world. Taken all in all, it is the best all-around pipe in use, and has as wide a variation in price as the meerschaum, whose costliness, by the way, may be increased by the carving of the bowl. The principal item of expense in the briar is not in the pattern of the bowl, but in the stem, which, if made of rock amber, brings the figure up to $50 or $100.

“Here are two bowls of virgin briar and a rock amber mouthpiece eight inches long, worth $250. Briars are carved with the same artistic skill as the meerschaum, but the greatest demand is for the plain bowl, and either the straight or curved mouthpiece of amber or vulcanite. There are a hundred varieties of shapes, and the majority of them are the result of suggestions by customers—a large majority of whom are college men, wishing a particular form of a class pipe, which the manufacturer turns out to order. As more than one pipe is manufactured, the shape or peculiarity attracts attention, and a demand is created. (“When You Smoke A Pipe,” The United Shield, Vol. VI, No. 9, November 1909, 2)

“Q. What is the difference between a 25¢ briar pipe and a briar pipe costing $3.00?

A. The only difference is in the quality of the briar, the mouthpiece and workmanship. Only French briar is used in making pipes sold in the United States, but there is a marked difference in the quality of briar wood.” (“Questions and Answers,” United Shield, Vol. VII, No. 2, March 1910, 5)

“An extraordinary instance of the demand for our goods in the U.S.A. is the case of Dunhill pipes. The amazing vogue for these pipes in America is solely due to the fact that the American looks upon the Englishman as one who knows and appreciates a good pipe.” (Jessica C.E. Gienow-Hecht [ed.], Decentering America, 2007, 41)

“At first they [briar pipes] were too expensive for most smokers but by the 1880s they were already in fairly common use, and as they gained in popularity so to did the demand fro milder Virginia packet tobaccos, which were most suited to briars. The introduction of the briar pipe, it must be emphasized, was important in influencing tastes in tobacco rather than in affecting overall demand for tobacco goods, which, as has already been noted, was mainly dependent on the size of the population and its average income per head.” (B.W.E. Alford, W.D. & H.O. Wills and the Development of the UK Tobacco Industry, 1786–1965, 1973, 111)

Now here’s a very early description of a briar pipe that denotes its earliest composition: “The ‘briar-root’ pipe, mounted with silver, and having a goose’s leg-bone for the stalk, a glass mouth-piece, and a cushioned case for carrying the same, comes to little less than one pound sterling, and would be considered reckless trading, if parted with for less than five or ten shillings.” (A. Forsyth, “The Price of Tobacco,” The British Farmer’s Magazine, Vol. XLVI, 1864, 413)

Briar pipe making

“Ten or fifteen years ago the majority of briar pipes smoked in England were made in France and Germany, but English manufacturers now supply their own land and other countries with briars at cheaper prices. About 40 tons of briar-root are imported to London annually. Nuremburg and Ruhla do a big trade in briars, the average annual output from each place being 500,000 pipes.” (W.A. Penn, The Soverane Herbe. A History of Tobacco, 1901, 170)

“Briar-root blocks are cut into about 25 different sizes and three principal shapes. The shapes are—‘Marseillaise,’ ‘Relevé’ and ‘Belgian.’ The first two are the more usual shapes; from the ‘Marseillaise’ blocks are cut, the ordinary briar pipes which have bowl and stem at right angles; ‘Relevé’ blocks are cut into a shape for converting into hanging pipes, and the ‘Belgian’ blocks, for which there is but a small demand, are shaped to fashion into pipes which have bowl and stem at an obtuse angle. The minimum size of ‘Marseillaise’ blocks is about 3 inches in length, two inches in depth, and 1-1/2 inches in width.” (“The Briar-Root Industry in Italy,” in J.W. Oliver [ed.], The Indian Forester. A Monthly Magazine, Vol. XXVII [1901], 115–116)

“About 6,000 tons of roots are extracted per year. The output is controlled by firms in St. Claude, France. The work is carried on by 40 small sawmills of primitive kind, the St. Claude firms advancing them the necessary money to buy the roots. In 1911, 1,813 tons of ebauchons (rough blocks) were shipped from the island, and only 308 tons of this amount went to foreign ports; 1,505 tons went therefore to St. Claude.” (“The Briar-Wood Industry of Corsica,” Commerce Reports, Department of Commerce, Nos. 152–203, Volume 3, July and August 1921, 333)

“The aged wood is trimmed to leave only the close-grained, dense burl, then cut into blocks called ébauchons. These are boiled in water to remove the sap, then dried under cover for several months. Pipe makers season them as much as two years more, then cut them into seventy sizes of roughs needed to make 700 to 900 styles of pipes.” (E.J. Tangerman, Whittling and Woodcarving, 1936, 150)

“This is where the English pipe is so vastly superior to the foreign-manufactured article. In England, the entire pipe is finished by one man, who is thus able to ensure correct and tight fitting of the various parts, so that the pipe when finished possesses a beautifully symmetrical outline. In the case of the foreign article, each man makes a different part—by the gross or thousand, it may be remarked en passant—and thus when it comes to the final fitting up the whole article has a disappointing, hotch-potch appearance, though strenuous endeavours are made to cover up the bad workmanship by attractive mountings. (Frederick A. Talbot, “The Making of a Pipe,” The Windsor Magazine, Vol. X, June to November 1899, 639)

“The attempts of the English at fancy and ornamental pipe-making are confined chiefly to imitations of foreign productions, and to the finishing, mounting, and polishing of such as are imported in the rough. The French, among whom anything resembling anything the English and Dutch model is rarely seen, are said to employ about 4000 hands in the manufacture of common pipes. …. The Germans have perhaps experimented more profoundly in pipes that any other European people.” (“Tobacco-Pipes,” Chamber’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, Volume V, January–June 1856, 93)

“Consider the detritus from making pipes for smoking. Did you know that the sweetness of pipe smoke has a great deal to do with the quality of the briar used to make the pipe? Well, it does: the densest, most expensive briar roots make the best pipes. And when a pipe is ground out from the briar, the byproduct of the process is briar sawdust. To most people, it would be just dust under their feet. But when I saw it pile up at a pipe factory I visited once, I suspected it might have hidden value. So I gathered up some of the ‘waste’ and mixed it with water-glass (sodium silicate, used commonly as a cement or adhesive), an inert substance with no flavor. I put the mixture into a mold and made some briar sawdust pipes.” (Leonard M. Greene, Inventorship: The Art of Innovation, 2002, 153)

In describing the center of pipe-making in St.-Claude, France, “As the orders are given the pipes are fitted with a special kind of putty that is not only very hard when dry, but is also able to resist heat. Inequalities in the grain of the wood are removed by means of sand-paper and pumice-stone. The pipes are then dipped in a bath, which varies according to the quality of the goods. Defects in poor pipes are hidden by means of a dark colour, whilst a light one is used for bringing out the veins of a beautiful piece of brier-root. In the case of an absolutely perfect piece a colourless oily bath is employed to bring out the lovely stripes and streaks of the wood. …. As to the metal-work on pipes—the silver and gold mounting, and the various novelties that are introduced on the pipe market from time to time—glass tubes, or other interior mechanism, for collecting the nicotine and enabling the smoker to clean his pipe rapidly and efficiently—Saint-Claude has nothing to learn from other places where pipes are made.” (Bernard St. Lawrence, “Pipe Town. Where Briers are Made for the ‘Tommies’ and the ‘Poilus,’” The Wide World Magazine, Vol. XLII., No. 247, November 1918, 319–320)

And speaking of putty, recall the present-day continuing discussion on fills and flaws? Here’s something from the past, the author making an analogy between making pipes and writing poetry: “The conscious part of composition is like the finishing of roughly shaped briars in a pipe factory. Where there are flaws in the wood, putty has to be used in order to make the pipe presentable. Only an expert eye can tell the putty when it has been coloured over, but there it is, time will reveal it and nobody is more aware of its presence now than the man who put it there. The public is gulled into paying two guineas for a well-coloured straight-grain, when a tiny patch of putty under the bowl pulls down its sentimental value to ten shillings or so.” (Robert Graves, On English Poetry, 1922, 78)

Brief and to the point: “Yet it was until 1879 that a Frenchman came to England to make the first briar pipe.” (The Geographical Magazine, 1965, 719)

Calabash pipes

“Calabash pipes made from the imported South African gourds are the hope of smokers for the future; they have been the fashion in England for some time and are coming into vogue in America. Meerschaum deposits are becoming exhausted, but pipes made from the imported gourds are almost as expensive, and seem to be as satisfactory.” (Guy Elliot Mitchell, “To Grow Your Own Meerschaum,” The Technical World Magazine, Vol. XIII, No.1, March 1910, 440)

“Smokers who have used the calabash pipe agree that it gives a special softness of flavor that pipes of no other material offer. I believe this to be so, and that the demand for such a pipe in the American market would be very large. The calabash should be grown in the United States …. The life of one of these pipes is about that of a French briar-wood pipe. The usual lining is plaster of Paris, called by the trade meerschaum. A cheap grade is lined with tin. These pipes sell from 97 cents to $62, according to type of finish. Pipe mounting and fitting being cheaper in England than here, large shipments are made to England for mounting and returned here for sale.” (“CALABASH PIPES. A Practical Smokers’ Novelty From Africa,” Monthly Consular and Trade Reports, No. 313, Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures, October 1906, 211)

“Calabash pipes made from imported South African gourds have been in fashion in England for some time and are now coming into vogue in America. …. Pipes made from the imported gourds are expensive. American dealers usually charging $3 to $12 apiece for them. They are the lightest pipes made for their size, are graceful in shape, color like meerschaums, and are delightful smokers. Unlike the cheap pipes which are turned out by machinery, no two of these calabash pipes are alike. In this lies much of their charm. In this, likewise, lies their cost, for unlike the great mass of pipes turned out by machinery, the crook of the calabash varies so that each mouthpiece must be made to fit it and each lining of meerschaum or plaster of Paris must be specially adapted. In our land of labor-saving machinery and expensive hand-labor this is what makes the pipes costly.” (“Calabash,” Farmers’ Cyclopedia. Abridged Agricultural Records in Seven Volumes, Volume IV, Grass, Hay, Grains, Vegetables, 1914, 270)

“I found the ‘South African Gourd pipe’ spoken of as being in extraordinary demand in England, so much so that the stocks in the market had run very, very low, but at the present time regular consignments of genuine Calabash pods (so-called) were arriving apparently in the raw state, as the pipes are said to be ‘hand finished’ in this country …. Smokers who have used the Calabash pipe agree that it gives a special softness of flavour that pipes of no other material offer. I believe this to be so, and that the demand for such a pipe in the American market would be very large. The Calabash should be grown in the United States, and, to this end, seed has been promised which, when supplied, will be transmitted to the American Department of Agriculture.” (John R. Jackson, “A Pipe Plant,” The Gardeners Chronicle. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture and Allied Subjects, Volume XLI—Third Series, January to June 1907, March 2, 1907, 134)

“A well made calabash pipe will appeal to the discriminating pipe smoker, as possessing much of the valued characteristics of the long German pipe, but in a much more convenient form. The bowl occupies but a small part of the hollow neck and the remainder of the space forms a receptacle below the bowl that answers the same purpose as the lower bowl of the German pipe in keeping juices from entering the stem, and it allows the smoke to cool.” (“Calabash Pipes,” The Spatula. An Illustrated Magazine for Pharmacists, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Oct. 1911, 12)

“The Calabash pipe gives every promise of becoming as fashionable with smokers in South Africa as the corn cob is in America, with the additional recommendation that the Calabash is a pipe that lasts, and which smokers take as much delight in colouring as used to be the case with the meerschaum.” (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, 1907, 300)

“The pipes are the lightest in the world for their size, are graceful in shape, color like meerschaums, and provide a delightfully cool smoke. But at present they are almost prohibitive because the American dealers, although importing the gourds at prices ranging from 50 cents to $2 per dozen, sell them in the made-up pipe at prices ranging from $6 to $12 each.” (“Calabash Pipe Gourd Grows in America,” Popular Mechanics, April 1910, 524)

“A British soldier, so the story goes, had broken his pet brier, and all that remained of it was the hard rubber mouthpiece. While crossing a field one day he stepped on a calabash gourd, which the South African natives feed when green to cattle, and noticed that the crook of the stem resembled his pipe. Picking the gourd he cleaned out the inside, fitted his mouthpiece to it, and the first calabash pipe was born.” (“The History of the Calabash Pipe,” The Bulletin of Pharmacy. A Live Magazine for Druggists, Volume XXVI—January to December 1912, 79)

I ask the reader, tongue-in-cheek: Is it possible that this British soldier [identified elsewhere as Tommy Atkins] might be a direct descendant of Karl Kovacs, who “invented” the first meerschaum pipe, and is Tommy related to that pipe repairman in St. Claude who, instead of repairing a French envoy’s damaged meerschaum pipe, made a briar pipe for him instead? He who believes in this tale of the calabash also believes in the Easter bunny, tooth fairies and winning the really BIG lottery!)

Meerschaum and Meerschaum pipes

“There is no doubt that the industry of colouring meerschaum pipes was, and probably is still, thriving in Paris. I remember, when living in one of the streets surrounding the Palais-Royal, to have seen opposite the house in which I lived a man, with his window open, smoking all day long and all the year round curiously elaborated meerschaum pipes. I met him one day, and could not help asking him how he could resist such inhalation of nicotine. He told me he was a professional ‘meerschaum colourer’ for the account of Madame Hubert, an extensive pipe-dealer in the neighbourhood. He was paid a yearly salary of 1500 francs, and supplied gratis with tobacco.” (“Very Like ‘Smoke,’” Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter-Communication for Literary Men, Readers, Etc., Fourth Series. Volume Third, June 12, 1869, 567)

“The mineral [meerschaum] is principally used however as a material for tobacco pipes, which, when made, are soaked in melted tallow, then in white wax, and finally polished with shave-grass. If genuine, a meerschaum pipe acquires a beautiful brown colour after being smoked for some time, the oil of the tobacco being absorbed by the clay; and this is a point to which connoisseurs in smoking attach much importance.” (“MEERSCHAUM PIPES,” Charles Knight, Knight’s Cyclopædia of the Industry of All Nations, 1851, 1187)

“The manufacture of the spurious article is extensive, Paris leading lately in the newer imitations. To produce the yellow and brown colors, so much admired in the real meerschaum pipe, and which come only after they are smoked some time, the blocks are long kept in a mixture of wax and fatty matter. These are in part absorbed, and afterward, being acted on by the heat from the tobacco, the meerschaum assumes various shades of colors.” (Thomas C. Macmillan [ed.], The Inter Ocean Curiosity Shop for the Year 1880, 1881, 160)

“‘The foam of the sea,’ or if you choose, the ‘scum’ of the sea, is the meaning of the name which poetical Germans gave to this singular substance before English science stepped in and called it ‘soapstone.’ Forty years ago it was not much known in England; now, combined with amber, it is in the mouth of half the lawyers’ clerks in London. It is a wondrous vehicle for tobacco; better even than the root of the bruyère or wooden pipe, which is made of the root of the Mediterranean heath, but the name of which has been vulgarized into ‘briar-root,’ and is derived, after all, from the Welsh ‘brwg,’ heather.” (Henry Kingsley, Ravenshoe, 1899, 313)

“There are devotees of the meerschaum; but it is not every one who will undertake such a responsibility. Its humours and its delicacy become oppressive; it is not to be touched with the hand or smoked out-of-doors, nor too near the fire nor to be knocked out, or otherwise roughly treated; nor smoked too fast or too slow. And then, with all our care, we find some happy-go-lucky individual, apparently the especial favourite of the Goddess of the Weed, who does all these forbidden things, and still gets his pipe to a state of perfection which the more painstaking person attains but in his dreams. There is something distinctly irrational in a meerschaum pipe; we may wax it, plug it, humour it in every possible way, and yet it will not go right; and then, when we set at defiance all the canons that the collected wisdom of meerschaum smokers has formed, it will assume such colour and brilliancy as to be the marvel of all beholders.” (“What the Man With The Briarwood Says,” in John Bain Jr., Tobacco Leaves, 1903, 181–182)

“Every person who goes to Genoa invests in this filigree work and in a meerschaum pipe or two; for the Genoese turn out pipes that are downright works of art. The making of meerschaum pipes is not dissimilar from the work of carving pieces of statuary from blocks of alabaster.” (M.J. Carrigan, Life and Reminiscences of Hon. James Emmitt: As Revised by Himself, 1888, 476)

“The first meerschaum pipes with short stems (where the amber joins) were made by a Mr. Saltiel, an enterprising young pipe carver of Vienna, and exhibited in London in the year 1855 at the first world’s exhibition. The wealthy classes of the entire world, through this, overwhelmed him with so many orders that he found himself too suddenly rich and he became insane.

“The first meerschaum pipe made in the United States was carved by Charles Pollak, in New York City, in 1860, from a block which Rev. Dr. Tyng, of Brooklyn, New York, brought from Turkey.

“He had learned his trade from his father-in-law in Old Buda.

“He imported the raw material in blocks the same year to manufacture it into pipes for the trade, thereby introducing into this country a new industry.

“He exhibited at the American Institute in New York an immense and beautifully carved pipe representing Washington and his generals, which attracted a great deal of attention.” (Francis Elder, “What is Meerschaum?”, The Dietetic and Hygienic Gazette, Volume XIX, 1903, 555) (I suspect that this is the same Francis Elder of Francis Elder & Co., 175 Randolph St., Chicago, Ill. Importers and Manufacturers of Pipes and Canes, a Midwest retailer of WDC pipes; this recently discovered bit of revelatory news, while not refuting what we already know, sheds additional light on this topic not encountered previously.)

“The ease with which meerschaum can be carved, its whiteness, and the fine polish it takes with wax render it especially suitable for elaborate carving and artistic treatment in the manufacture of pipes. Meerschaum pipes are prized for the rich cream-brown or brown color which the bowl assumes after being smoked a while. This color is caused by the mixture of the nicotine from the tobacco with the wax used in polishing the pipe, permeating through the mineral. As long as there is absorbed wax in the meerschaum the color of the pipe will grow darker and nearly black with continued smoking. It is, therefore, necessary to ‘fix the color’ of the pipe when the proper shade is obtained. Though the principle employed is the removal of the wax and boiling in linseed oil to harden the mineral and render it less porous, there are trade secrets in the process which the writer is not at liberty to divulge.” (Douglas B. Sterrett, “Meerschaum in New Mexico,” Contributions to Economic Geology 1907, Part I—Metals and Nonmetals, Except Fuels, Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Bulletin 340, 1908, 467)

“Although the fracture is earthy, and rarely conchoidal, still the state of aggregation of pure meerschaum is very variable, as is proved by the marked difference in the specific gravity. Some kinds sink in water, others float on its surface; and these qualities are, in the estimation of the pipe-maker, indicative of different values, for he rejects both the very heavy and the very light, and prefers the medium density.” (Lewis Feuchtwanger, A Popular Treatise on Gems, 1859, 358)

“According to recent reports it would appear that the meerschaum industry in Germany is in critical condition. The American Consul in Annaberg says that the manufacturers of meerschaum pipes, cigar holders, &c., are unable to secure anything like an adequate supply of raw material, and for the trifling quantities they can secure, they must pay a greatly increased price. In the last three years, prices of raw meerschaum have about doubled, and, at the same time, America and England have secured control of practically all the meerschaum still to be had. … Practically all known deposits of meerschaum have been exhausted.” (“The Decline in the Meerschaum Industry in Germany,” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Volume LVII. From Nov. 20, 1908, to Nov. 12, 1909, 43)

Want granularity in pipe definitions? Here’s one recently revealed to me that you won’t find on the Internet: “In the population censuses, occupation registrations and literary sources of the 18th and 19th centuries’ pipe-makers (Pfeifenmacher) are distinguished from pipe-carvers and pipe-engravers (Pfeifenschnitzer). In the early days the makers of clay pipes pursued their skills within the framework of the potter’s guilds. Pipe-carvers mainly made pipes out of wood, bone and other materials, while pipe-engravers made meerschaum pipes. Pipe-engravers worked outside the guild system, and the branch preserved its independent character. To make a valuable, carefully-worked meerschaum required erudition in the applied arts. Apart from the master craftsmen of note, silversmiths, sculptors and painters also made meerschaums.” (Anna Ridovics, “A pipák szépsége” [The Beauty of Pipes], in A szépség óhajtása, 2008, május 22–augusztus 3)

“The tobacco shops display in the windows a whole museum of attractive subjects; sleeping Venuses, fainting Ledas, sirens who, if more modern, are not more clothed; rosy Cupids, spitted on amber needles like large butterflies or moths; next, spread out fan-shape, are heads of heidukes with ferocious moustaches sculptured in meerschaum with unparalleled skill; heads of negroes and of gypsies in hats, the top taken out—for these, as well as the busts of sirens and amazons with high hats, are destined to hold cigars and cigarettes; serpents in coils, doves billing and cooing; all the products of an art almost unknown among us, but which is developed here in this wonderful carving in meerschaum fro the benefit of smokers, and for those who watch them colouring these carved goddesses.” (Victor Tissot [English translation by A. Oswald Brodie], Unknown Hungary, two volumes, 1881, 265)

In the continuing dialogue on how to color a meerschaum, here’s one man’s solution: “Take a new corn cob pipe fill it with Bull Durham tobacco; place the meerschaum pipe upside down over the bowl of the corn cob pipe and blow through the stem of the latter; when the meerschaum becomes hot apply beeswax to the bowl and parts to be colored, and burn again; apply the beeswax four or five times, each time adding as much wax as the bowl will absorb and thoroughly burning off after each application; finally polish the meerschaum with a flannel rag saturated with pure olive oil; this will produce a brilliant effect and the longer you burn the meerschaum the deeper color it will take on. Try it and be convinced. I have put several pipes in fine condition by following the foregoing method.” (The Spatula. An Illustrated Magazine for Pharmacists, Vol. XIV, No. 1, October 1907, 681)

This one tops them all for total inaccuracy, particularly because of the source and the date of publication. “Meerschaum is composed of the shells of countless small shell-animals, finely compressed together by Nature after million of years underground.” (International Correspondence Schools, Better Pipe Salesmanship, Unit II. What You Should Know About Pipes and Tobaccos, 1947, 28)

Giving honorable mention to the Flower City Briar Pipe Company and Joseph W. Chobotsky, its vice president and general manager, the following statements were made: “Perhaps it is not generally known that there are only four houses in the world engaged in the manufacture of pipes, and that this concern is one of the largest. They have the distinction of being the only house in America that manufactures chipped meerschaum pipes, which are made from the drillings of genuine meerschaum with a preparation of their own. It is said to be almost impossible to distinguish this product from the genuine.” (William F. Peck, History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York, Vol. II, 1908, 1415) (P.S.: There’s not an iota of truth in this claim!)

A final factoid on meerschaum comes in the form of an interesting quotation from the author of The Tobacco Pipe Manufacture, Pipe Clays and Meerschaum, John George Reynolds, who, in the last paragraph of his lengthy treatise, states: “It may not be out of place to add that the writer was the first Englishman who ever imported or manufactured meerschaum into the United Kingdom.” (Peter Lund Simmonds [ed.], The Technologist. A Monthly Record of Science Applied to Art, Manufacture, and Culture, Volume III, 1863) (I have read nothing elsewhere to corroborate or refute this claim.)

Other pipes

“Russia and Scandinavia, on the contrary, have a curious arsenal of smoking implements. The Siberian pipes in ivory, in which the inhabitants of certain districts smoke dried poisonous mushrooms; the pipes of the Cossack of the Don, with his steel (cased) in leather attached to the stem. Pipes of graphite of the Oural; the small metallic pipes of the Laplanders.” (“Report on Tobacco Pipes,” The Journal of the Society of Arts, Volume XXI, from Nov. 22, 1872, to Nov. 14, 1873, 68)

“Mother-of-Pearl, Horn, Ivory, Bone, and Compressed Charcoal are occasionally used [for pipes]; nor are the precious metals and costly gems excluded from a share in the formation of the pipe. But these have not that intimate connection with the subject under notice, which appertains to two materials—Meerschaum and Amber, whose names are euphonious to the ear of the genuine smoker.” (W.R. Loftus, The Tobacconist. A Practical Guide to the Retail Tobacco Trade in All Its Branches, 1881, 35–36)

“A truly unique smoking pipe can be fashioned from the junction of the [antler] brown tine and the base of the antler. The tine forms part of the pipe stem, while the flared burl (where the antler attached to the skull) becomes the open bowl of the pipe. …. A plastic mouthpiece of the kind that comes with the disposable corncob pipes had been fitted to the working end of the pipe stem.” (Dennis Walrod, Making The Most of Your Deer, 2004, 197)

“It is the root [of the Hakea leucoptera, or beef-wood tree] which has been used for making pipes, so far as my experience goes. Being a smoker, I can say confidently that it surpasses cherry, briar, or any other pipe I have seen. …. The local manufacture of home-made tobacco-pipes must be great, and I have on several occasions been shown beef-wood tobacco-pipes which it was hard to realise had been made in the bush with rough tools. I understand that in Sydney at least one firm is engaged in the manufacture of pipes from this wood, so I hope that Australians who love a pipe will consider the expediency of giving this highly-recommended wood a trial.” (“A Native Timber Suitable for Tobacco-Pipes,” The Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, Vol. V, Part 1, January 1894, 224)

“On account of the present scarcity and high price of French briar, a number of pipe manufacturers in this country have been on the lookout for substitutes, and the Forest Products Laboratory has conducted experiments to determine the availability of other woods. It is reported that the mountain laurel root burns out more readily than briar, but forest service experts are trying to find a method of hardening the wood, and have succeeded to an appreciable extent. …. Other woods now widely used for pipe making are apple wood, red gum, ebony, and birch, together with smaller amounts pf olive wood. And osage orange.” (“Pipe Makers Buy Mountain Laurel Roots From Government,” The Railway Conductor, Volume XXXIII, 1916, 686–687)

“But the ornamented pipe, made of rare kinds of wood, agate, amber, crystal, cornelian, ivory, meerschaum, or various kinds of pure or mixed metals, and curiously and artistically carved and adorned, becomes a costly object of virtu. The pipe has always been a political symbol in France during the revolution, being furnished with figures and inscriptions illustrative of the popular feeling; and in Germany all the quaint imaginings of Teutonic diablerie appear in the grotesque designs of the pipe-makers.” (“Tobacconalia,” The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume LIV, November 1859, 534–535)

Pipemakers receiving international acclaim

The following firms received awards for their tobacco pipes: (a) Nax, Kuhn, & Silberman, Philadelphia; (b) Fred. Julius Kaldenberg, New York; (c) Wm. Demuth & Co., New York; (d) Bernstein Brothers, Ostrolenka, Lomza, Russia; (e) Baudier, Ulrich, & Co., Paris, France; (f) Widow Hasslauer & de Champeaux, Givet, France; (g) Gebhard Ott, Nuremberg, Germany; Arnold Trebitsch, Vienna, Austria; (h) Franz Heiss, Vienna, Austria; (i) Hermann Kemperling, Vienna, Austria; and (j) P. Goedwaagen, Gouda, Netherlands (United States Centennial Commission, International Exhibition, 1876, Reports and Awards, Volume V, Groups VIII–XIV, 1880, 70–71)

Pipe smoker's paraphernalia

“He [Sir Walter Raleigh] might have also distributed some of the gadgets that made the pastime of pipe smoking so intricate an endeavor, such as ‘a metal stopper to press the tobacco into the bowl, a gold or silver pick to cleanse the bowl, a knife to shred tobacco … a scoop for loose tobacco, and whatever else appealed to the playboy as necessary.’ The latter perhaps included boxes in which a person carried tobacco and tongs to transport it from box to bowl. In fact, after a time, ‘the average gallant required so many smoking accessories … that a dedicated manservant was needed to carry them.’” (Eric Burns, The Smoke of the Gods. A Social History of Tobacco, 2007, 24)

“Ultimately, smokers had to satisfy themselves with more earthly pleasures, but they explored their individuality through their ‘paraphernalia of smokiana,’ from the tools of their habit (clay pipes, briar pipes, meerschaums, churchwardens, pipe cleaners, matches, cigar holders, cigar cases, ash trays, pipe-lights, spills, spittoons, tobacco pouches, storage jars, snuff boxes, pipe racks, and so on), to the more general objects that completed the smoking experience (favorite smoking armchairs, tables, slippers, jackets, hats, and smoking companions).” (Matthew Hilton, “Leisure, Politics, and the Consumption of Tobacco in Britain Since the Nineteenth Century,” in Rudy Koshar, Histories of Leisure, 2002, 324)

And Hilton strikes again, expressing a similar thought in another essay: “As props to their smoking idiosyncrasies, devotees collected ‘the paraphernalia of smokiana,’ including clay pipes, briar pipes, meerschaums, churchwardens, pipe cleaners, matches, cigar holders, cigar cases, ashtrays, pipe-lights, spills, spittoons, tobacco pouches, storage jars, snuff boxes and pipe racks, as well as their favourite smoking armchairs, tables, slippers, jackets and even hats.” (Matthew Hilton, “Smoking and Sociability,” in Gilman & Zhou (eds.), Smoke. A Global History of Smoking, 2004, 126, 128)

(From Matthew Hilton … to Hans Brinker.) “Every man of them had his tobacco pouch. Some carried what might be called the smoker’s complete outfit—a pipe, tobacco, a pricker with which to clean the tube, a silver net for protecting the bowl, and a box of the strongest of brimstone matches.” (Mary Mapes Dodge, Hans Brinker, Or The Silver Skates, 1865, 245)

Pipe collecting

“A true collection ought to have—and a true collector is usually aroused by—an element of the hunt. In this sense, a collection of Dunhill pipes is not, technically, a true (or better, pure) collection. One could, after all, with enough money, simply walk into Dunhill’s, order the full line of the company’s pipes, write a check, and be done with it. A true collector is excited by the rarity, above all by the apparent inaccessibility, of the objects of his desire.” (Joseph Epstein, A Line Out for a Walk. Familiar Essays, 1992, 134)

Pipe smokers / Pipe smoking

“The habit of smoking with pipes spread with incredible rapidity; and among the various peoples the pipe assumed special characteristics, and its modifications became the medium of conveying social, political, and personal allusions, in many cases with no little artistic skill and humour. The pipe also became the object of much inventive ingenuity, and it varied as greatly in material as in form—wood, horn, bone, ivory, stone, precious and other metals, amber, glass, porcelain, and above all clay being the materials employed in various forms.” (“PIPE, Tobacco,” The Encyclopædia Britannica. A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and General Literature, Volume XIX, 1890, 111)

“I was smoking my pipe when it came to me … How many good ideas are born in a pipe of tobacco. There is something in the calm contentment of smoking a pipe that seems to open up the mind for new ideas. A busy man, a thinker whose brain is crisscrossed with a thousand impressions, finds that smoking his pipe wipes out most of the confusion and leaves his mind clean …” (Advertisement for Edgeworth tobacco, McClure’s Magazine, March 1922, 116)

“Half the pleasure comes from searching for the perfect tobacco blend or just the right bit (that’s the mouthpiece). But despite its rich history, pipe smoking is now an affectation best savored privately, where your friends won’t notice that you look like a parody of a Norman Rockwell painting—or that your favorite ‘blend’ smells like a fire at a Log Cabin Syrup plant.” (Sam Stall, Lou Harry and Julia Spalding, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1,001 Things You Hate to Love, 2004, 208–209)

“Pipe smokers in this country [the United States] could be roughly divided into two classes: those who smoked pipes, not as an economy, because they preferred the pipe to any other form of smoking, and those who combine this reason with motives of economy. The former class could be expected to pay well for what they wanted, and they were certain to get what they wanted. That meant usually a finely hand-made English pipe that they knew and called for by the maker’s name; a Barling, or a Comoy; a B.B.B., or a Loewe, or a Peterson, or a G.B.D. For the second class, numerically much larger, a dollar and a half was an unheard-of price for a pipe. They regarded a pipe as just a pipe, and when buying one they were wont simply to demand, ‘Gimme a pipe.’” (“‘Digging in’ for Peace. Pipe Manufacturer Is Advertising Heavily Now to Hold Markets the War Handed Over to Him Conditionally,” Printers’ Ink, Vol. CV, No. 5, Oct. 31, 1918, 45–46)

“Because the pipe reflected ‘the personality of its owner far more than is imagined,’ the choice of a pipe was all important, and should ‘suit the man.’ Long-stemmed churchwardens, short-stemmed alternatives, clay or briar, the latter curved in a myriad of ways, all these along with the huge variety of tobacco blends could distinguish each smoker while he remained part of the collective experience of manliness through smoking.” (Ian R. Tyrrell, Deadly Enemies: Tobacco and Its Opponents in Australia, 1999, 140)

“In the perfection of the art of smoking, the Persians may rank first, then the Turks, Russians, Hungarians, Dutch, English, and, last of all, the Germans. This last observation may somewhat startle the reader, since the German is seldom seen without a pipe in his mouth; the fact is, he is a great consumer of tobacco, but not a smoker, since he does not know how to enjoy it.” (Oscanyan, “Persian and Turkish Tobacco,” Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. XXII—July to December 1886, 652, 654)

“China, Turkey, Persia and Germany worship the pipe. In Europe the pipe is patronized on account of its cheapness. Turks and Persians use the mildest forms of pipe-smoking, choosing pipes with long, flexible stems, and having the smoke cooled and purified by passing through water. The Germans prefer the porous meerschaums,—the Canadians, the common clay.” (“Tobacco,” The Atlantic Monthly, Volume VI, No. XXXIII, July 1860, 199)

“Pipe-smokers are necessarily more involved with the ritual of smoking than are cigarette-smokers. After all, the pipe-smoker has many more functions to perform: He has to fill his pipe, clean it, tap it, stoke it, and keep it lit. In the process he can use it as a scratcher, pointer, drumstick, etc., which permits the use of the pipe (to stall for thinking time) as a secret signal instrument.” (Gerard Nierenberg and Henry H. Calero, How to Read a Person Like a Book, 1990, 64)

“Smoking a pipe is an art. Many years later I bought five fine briar pipes and two or three cheap ones, and took up pipe smoking. I had tampers, scrapers, special lighters, pouches, pipe stands, and other items too numerous to list. Wilse just had one pipe and a can of Prince Albert. I often wished I had paid more attention to Wilse when he explained pipe smoking. After about a year, I decided smoking a pipe properly required an assistant. I had no assistant, so I quit.” (James L. Winfree, I Killed a Bluebird, 2003, 42)

“If tobacco smoking is justifiable at all on hygienic grounds, it is generally conceded that the pipe is the least injurious means. But tobacco pipes differ considerably in material and shapes, both of which must be important factors in determining the character of the smoke. Thus there is the clay, the meerschaum, and the various wooden pipes, the briar, cherry, or myall. Next to the tobacco, therefore, which should always be pure and free from added flavoring, an expedient which is resorted to far too commonly nowadays, probably in many instances to cover an inferior quality of tobacco, the best kind of pipe is a point to be considered.” (“The Choice of a Tobacco-Pipe,” New York Lancet, No. 11, November 1898, 378)

Soldier, spy, diplomat, writer, adventurer, erotic hero, Giacomo Casanova speaks:

“‘The perfection of the tobacco,’ he replied, ‘is certainly necessary to the pleasure of smoking; but it isn’t the most important thing, for the pleasure that good tobacco gives is only sensual …. So listen. The principal pleasure of smoking consists in the sight of the smoke. You must never see it leaving the pipe, but only from the corner of your mouth, at exact intervals, never too often. So true is it that this is the principal pleasure, you will never see a blind man who enjoys smoking.’” (Giacomo Casanova, The Story of My Life, Penguin Classic, 2001, 121)

And a little something about pipe-smoking competitions, proving that it is not a late 20th century socio-cultural event (CIPC/ICPC rules, obviously, did not exist.)

“London, October 27.—At the pipe smoking competition at the brewers’ exhibition in Islington yesterday, the world’s record for a nonstop smoke was broken by a Highgate gardener named Catling, who kept an old briar root pipe alight an hour and fifty-three minutes.

“Each of the numerous competitors took his own pipe and was supplied with an eighth of an ounce of tobacco, and at the word ‘Go’” the matches were struck. Six seconds were allowed for lighting and after that no re-lighting was allowed.

“The second place winner kept his pipe going an hour and fifty minutes and the third one hour and thirty-five minutes.—Chicago Tribune.” (Gardening, Volume XV, Sept. 15, 1906, to Sept. 1, 1907, 77)

Pipe fittings

“On account of free trade in England this is the only industry—the manufacture of smoking pipes in meerschaum, briar, and applewood—that is not carried on in that country; their wants are all supplied by the three countries above named [France, Germany, and Austria]. …. Nearly all the work, with the exception of boring and drilling the cavities for holding the tobacco, is manual labor on wood pipes, and on meerschaum pipes skilled hand labor entirely. …. Not only does this particular industry suffer, but a great many connected with it. I will name a few. …. Now come the manufacturers of rubber mouth-pieces, the zylonite and celluloid factories, horn tips, amber, etc. Then come the metal workers who produce the bands, covers for pipes, chains, and screws, and all the paraphernalia necessary in order to finish the pipe before putting it on the market. Then come the sandpaper manufacturers, of which a large quantity is used in the manufacture of wood pipes; varnish-makers, manufacturers of oil for the polishing of pipes in connection with pumice stone; also wax and paraffine for boiling meerschaum pipes, and the shave grass used to produce the fine polish on the meerschaum pipes, was formerly all imported from Europe, but is now produced in the Connecticut Valley, Long Island, New Jersey, Maryland. Paper-box makers, paper-makers, lithographic printers for printing labels, which is quite a large item in the expense of every manufacturer …” (“Pipes and Smokers’ Articles. Statement of F.J. Kaldenberg, of New York,” Testimony Taken by the Subcommittee on the Tariff of the Senate Committee on Finance, Part II, 1888, 848–849)

“We are manufacturers of briar pipes and employ 250 hands in our factory. One of the materials used in our business is celluloid pipe bits or mouthpieces. …. For the cheaper class of pipe we can obtain in this country an inferior celluloid pipe bit, which will answer for these requirements. We cannot obtain in this country the better class of celluloid pipe bits which we need for the better class of pipes, which are used by the foreign pipe manufacturers on pipes which they ship into this country. We are bound to obtain these better quality bits from abroad, as the largest celluloid manufacturer in this country, and the only one making the best quality, equal to the imported, has had an understanding for some years with a few favored manufacturers of pipes, selling them these mouthpieces at a price much cheaper than they would sell them to other manufacturers against whom they discriminate, thereby making it impossible for those manufacturers not favored to compete on the better quality of celluloid mouthpieces.” (“S.M. Frank & Co., New York City, Wish a Reduction of Duty on Celluloid Pipe Bits,” Tariff Hearings: Before the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, Sixtieth Congress, Jan. 5, 1909, 719)

“The mouth-piece of the bruyère, from henceforth briar-wood, is generally of horn or vulcanite, sometimes of amber, and less frequently of bone. The first process in the manufacture of a horn mouth-piece is ‘cooking.’ The horn is boiled for ten minutes in water. Brazilian bullocks provide the horn, and an idea may be formed of the large number used in pipedom when it is realised that only the tips of the horns are serviceable, the centre and base being hollow. Only two mouth-pieces can be cut from one pair of horns. After ‘cooking,’ the horn is straightened under a lever, cut to size, long or short as may be required, turned on a lathe, fraiged—i.e., ground on an emery wheel to remove angles—and bored in a machine. …. A large class of briar-wood pipes are fitted with vulcanite. This, of course, is manufactured from india rubber. Smokers can tell in a moment the difference between a vulcanite mouth-piece, cut from the sheet, and a moulded mouth-piece. The inferiority of the latter is attested by its comparatively rough feel to the lips, whereas that cut from the sheet approaches as nearly as possible in this particular to amber. Undoubtedly the amber mouth-piece is set off to the best advantage upon a meerschaum pipe; with the briar-wood, horn or vulcanite would seem to be more in keeping. Still, there are many smokers, besides the Turks, whose predilection for the fossil resin is steadfast.” (James Cassidy, “A Chapter on Pipes,” The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume CCLXXIX, July to December 1895, 23–24)

“… [t]he bones from the hind and fore legs of the cattle are used for … screws for joining the mouthpiece to the stems of pipes, mouthpieces and buttons …; horns are made into buttons, combs, brushes and pipe mouthpieces … (Accounts and Papers: Seventy-Seven Volumes, Commercial Reports [Miscellaneous], Vol. CIII, Session 16 Jan. – 18 Dec. 1902, 21)

“The silver mounts, which serve for decoration, and to band the portions firmly together, are cut into the requisite lengths from a silver ribbon, taken to Goldsmiths’ Hall to receive the ‘lion of renown,’ returned to the factory, and ‘set’ upon the pipes with a cement made from gum and plaster of Paris. The name of these silver mounts is legion, and every smoker is familiar with the ‘plain silver,’ ‘engraved silver,’ ‘Carlton, ‘screw-band,’ ‘handy,’ &c.; in fact, there are literally ten thousand designs and patterns in the English-made pipes of today as turned out in a single manufactory.” (“A Chapter on Pipes,” The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume CCLXXIX, July to December 1895, 25)

“To a perfect meerschaum pipe an amber mouthpiece is essential—a mouthpiece of amber from the Baltic Sea. In the East it is still considered to be a sort of alchymised gum, or transmuted white of eggs. Of this substance, too, the thievish Greek has many imitations to sell—the best being of Bohemian glass; but the glass is hot, brittle, and disagreeable, while the amber is always cool, pleasant, and pure.” (Anon, Hints for The Table, London, 1859, 144)

“The amber of Malagasy was prized for necklaces and pipe mouthpieces. It is semi-transparent, wave-streaked, and honey-colored. Synthetic amber is plasticized phenol formaldehyde or other synthetic resin. Amberoid is reclaimed scrap amber pieces compressed into a solid, sometimes mixed with pieces of copal or other resin.” (George Stuart Brady et al., Materials Handbook, 2002, 64)

“While the color of amber is generally yellow it occurs in all shades, from pure white to ‘black.’ … At Constantinople a pipe-stem of the milk-white variety is prized by the Turks at from forty to one hundred dollars.” (Erminnie A. Smith, “Concerning Amber,” The American Naturalist. An Illustrated Magazine of Natural History, Vol. XIV, March 1880, 188)

“Pipe stems are made of cane, and of cherry, elder, mock-orange, jasmine, and other woods. Great numbers of cherry stems are made in Austria. Mouth-pieces are usually made of ivory or amber, but sometimes of gold and silver. A great deal of amber is used for making mouth-pieces for pipes and cigar-holders, and some are very costly.” (“Pipe,” The Young Folks’ Cyclopædia of Common Things, 1884, 469)

And talk about production statistics, considering the time frame, the following numbers are staggering: “A Ruhla [Germany] specialty is the meerschaum pipe, and with it goes hand in hand the manufacture of pipe stems, pipe lids and mountings, cigar holders, and mouthpieces. The annual output averages about 27,000,000 pipe lids, 19,000,000 pipe cases, 15,000,000 pipe stems, 10,000,000 mouthpieces, 10,000,000 porcelain pipe bowls (covered), 5,500,000 imitation and 540,000 genuine meerschaum pipes with amber mouthpieces, 5,000,000 wooden pipe bowls, and 15,000,000 completed pipes—a production of the value of about 6,000,000 marks ($1,428,000) per annum.” (United States Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures, Monthly Consular and Trade Reports, No. 319, April 1907, 216)


“To Remove a Broken Amber Pipe Stem.—When an amber pipe stem is broken off the amber part of the stem is very likely to stick in the bone sleeve, and if one attempts to take it out by force the bone sleeve will probably be twisted out of the neck of the pipe. To overcome this difficulty soak the broken stem and sleeve in alcohol. This will soften the amber stem slightly, and it can then easily be unscrewed from the sleeve.” (“Practical Hints,” Meyer Brothers Druggist, 1912, 242)

“Imitation Amber of pyroxylin plastic is exclusively used for the bits of pipe stems, and consists of ordinary plastic containing yellow to brown dyestuffs, pieric acid, ammonium pierate or the sudan series of yellow, gold and brown dyestuffs being used to impart the desired shade. The dyestuffs are dissolved in the alcohol added to the camphor before conversion of the pyroxylin. In natural amber and other fossil resins appear small translucent or opaque patches, usually of a lighter color than the resin in amber, due to the crystallization of succinic acid. To imitate this appearance, lighter-colored plastic in small pieces and containing pigments is rolled with the amber-colored sheets. The reason for the tendency of some manufacturers’ products of this material becoming cloudy progressively after long standing has never been satisfactorily explained.” (Edward Chauncey Worden, Nitrocellulose Industry, Volume Two, 1911, 691)

The tobacconist

“I entered a tobacconist’s, in a narrow street behind the high church, and asked to look at a pipe. I never saw such a pipe-shop in my life. It seemed as though ten thousand Haarlem organs of tobacco pipes, rolled into one, had been stacked in the narrow magasin. Chibouques, narghilés, hookah, or hubble-bubbles; cherry-stick pipes, with amber mouth-pieces; porcelain pipes, with views of Switzerland and the scantily-arrayed sultanas painted thereupon; cocoa-nut pipes, real meerschaums, sham meerschaums, cutty-pipes, St. Omer pipes, pipes culottées, and pipes virgin of essential oil; unpretending ‘yards of clay black’ pipes, white pipes, red pipes, and blue pipes hung from the ceiling, clustered in corners like the fasces of the Roman lictors, covered the counter, littered the floor, cumbered every inch of room, packed in casks and cases.” (George Augustus Sala, “Make Your Game,” Chapter II, The Welcome Guest. A Magazine of Recreative Reading for All, No. 38, Jan. 15, 1859, 28)

“The saddest change in the shops of London is in the chemists: the greatest, in the tobacconists. There must be now a tobacconist to every ten men of the population, or something near it, and many of these already save the purchaser such a huge percentage that a time must be coming when they will pay us to buy tobacco at all. The new tobacconists are in every way unworthy of the old: they know no repose, as a tobacconist should; they serve you with incredible despatch and turn to the next customer. To loiter in one of their shops is beyond consideration and no Prince Florizel could be a tobacconist to-day, unless he was prepared for bankruptcy.” (E.V. Lucas, A Wanderer in London, 1906, 55)

“Tobacco soon became one of the staple commodities of the tavern … the keeper of the tobacco-shop ranked high among our opulent tradesmen. It was not, however, till the latter part of the seventeenth century that the ‘tobacco seller’ was known as a ‘tobacconist,’ that name having been originally solely limited to those who smoked tobacco.” (“The Antiquities of Tobacco,” The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, MDCCCLIX, July to December Inclusive, Being Volume VII of a New Series, September, 228)

“There is an air of solitude about the town [Göttingen, Germany], which even the number of students cannot remove. They may be distinguished in the streets by the almost inseparable pipe and portfolio with which each is provided. Commerce seems to be confined to literature and tobacco; and the only flourishing trades are those of the booksellers and pipe-sellers, as their shops outnumber all others.” (John Murray [Firm], Handbook for North Germany, 1877, 210)

“Wm. Demuth & Co. are setting out to change the pipe-buying habits of the country. They are definitely seeking to get the American pipe buyer, whether he have seventy-five cents or $5; to ask for their pipes by the company’s trade name, its initials …

Up to recently, as remarked, this house had featured its Wellington pipe in particular, its trade-mark in general. But the Wellington represents not twenty per cent of the company’s pipe business. It has a long line ranging in price from as low as five cents to as high as $6 … Wellingtons used to sell for as low as twenty-five cents. Seventy-five cents is now the lowest price named in the copy.” (“‘Digging in’ for Peace. Pipe Manufacturer Is Advertising Heavily Now to Hold Markets the War Handed Over to Him Conditionally,” Printers’ Ink, Vol. CV, No. 5, Oct. 31, 1918, 46–47)

Pipe tobacco

“For instance, Cope’s segmented the pipe tobacco market into Cut Cavendish for ‘hardy working men, soldiers and sailors’, London Shag for ‘metropolitans’, Tobacco de Luxe for the upper classes, and for the middle-price range there were a number of different tastes: Golden Magnet (‘sweetly soothing’), Faust (‘delicately fragrant’), Peerless (‘exquisitely mild’) and Yankee Pride (‘purifies the breath and annihilates the microbe’). (A.V. Seaton, “Cope’s and the Promotion of Tobacco in Victorian England,” Journal of Advertising History, Volume 9, No. 2, 1986, 5–26)

“The briar pipe was especially well-suited to the flue-cured and Burley tobaccos, while the clay, and the meerschaum pipes were better suited to dark air- and fire-cured varieties.” (B.W.E. Alford, W.D. & H.O. Wills and the Development of the U.K. Tobacco Industry 1786–1965, 1973, 111)

“After all, the fundamental joy of smoking lies, not in the pipe, but in the tobacco; and, in this essential, variety of taste has no end. An eccentric friend, who had spent 30 years in the Rocky Mountains, used to say ‘a mixture with just a little too much perique is just about right.’” (“The Camp Fire and the Pipe,” Shields’ Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, July 1907, 67)

“Vacuum-packed tins of pipe tobacco can be kept up to 20 years. Once opened, they can be stored for another 20 years under the right conditions.” (Frank Kendig and Richard Hutton, Life-Spans, or How Long Things Last, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980, 162)

“Vaporia Mixture. This brand is composed of the finest imported tobaccos the world produces. We claim it is the best pipe tobacco found in this or any other country, and is also recommended very highly for the use of cigarettes. The tobacco contains a very large percentage of the finest Arabian Latakia, that is scientifically blended with the best quality of genuine Turkish, Honoradus, and North Carolina leaf, which makes it a very rich, cool and aromatic smoke, neither too mild nor too strong, and is the purest and most fragrant tobacco procurable.” (Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg [comp.], Yale Literary Magazine, April 1912, 13)

“The weakest form in which tobacco is smoked is perhaps the narghilly of the Turk, or the hookah and hubble-bubble of the Indian. Next to that is the flavourless herb of the Germans, smoked in a porcelain pipe with a long tube. The strongest form of pipe smoking indulged in is smoking Cavendish or other strong Virginian tobaccos in a short pipe.” (“Tobacco,” in John James Drysdale et al. [eds.], The British Journal of Homoeopathy, Vol. XVIII, No. LXXIV, October 1860, 678)

“One may sing of the rival virtues of pure Virginia, Latakia, Turkish, Cavendish, Shiraz, Golden Cloud, Birdseye, Navy Roll, Rifle Cake, Old Judge, Golden Shag, Sun-dried, and all the multitudinous forms and qualities of the soothing weed. But each man loveth his own brand or his own blend, and is not to be converted from the belief that it surpasseth in excellence all others.” (“Concerning Pipes,” Charles Dickens, All the Year Round. A Weekly Journal, Third Series, Volume X, July 1, 1893, to Dec. 30, 1893, Sept. 9, 1893, 248)

“Pipe smoking tobaccos are distinguished according to the different mechanical processes used in their production. Thus there are (1) Granulated, (2) Plug-cut, (3) Long-cut, Fine-cut, etc. In former days it was customary for smokers to buy their tobacco in the roll or twist and cut and manipulate it themselves. This custom has, however, passed away almost entirely in the U.S. It still survives to a large extent in Europe where smokers prefer their tobacco moist. In the U.S. pipe smoking tobacco is usually cut and ready for the pipe and sold in packages or cans.” (W.A. Brennan, Tobacco Leaves. Being A Book of Facts for Smokers, 1915, 124)

“Historically, there have been fewer types of pipe tobacco compared to then thousands of brands of cigarettes around the world. They are normally prepared using so-called Cavendish types of blend with very heavy use levels of components such as aromatic fruit extracts, molasses, liquorice and cocoa. Perique type of tobacco is also used, incorporating both fire-cured tobacco and heavy fermented or sweated tobacco. This, together with added flavor materials such as those described above, gives a very phenolic, fermented character.” (P.R. Ashurst, Food Flavorings, 1999, 433)

“The different methods of using tobacco are harmful in the following order: chewing, cigarette smoking, cigar smoking, pipe smoking, Turkish-pipe smoking.” (The Popular Science Monthly, Vol. XXVIII, November 1885 to April 1886, 568)


You may have noticed, as you read these quotations, that the primary and secondary sources cited are many and varied, proving that, in the conduct of investigative research, one never knows what one might find in print and where it might be found. I’ll keep looking and loading. Meanwhile, anyone with access to a computer can do their own search and find plenty on Google Books and Google News, but if P&T ’s readers want more from me, Chuck Stanion will certainly let me know.


  1. This article was originally published in the "web extras" section of the Pipes & Tobacco Magazine website, which is sadly now defunct. It appears here on Pipedia by permission of the author.