The First Pipe Show!

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The Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851: The First Pipe Show!

Ben Rapaport, May 2022

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Although history records that world fairs and national exhibitions began in the 1790s, it is generally agreed that London’s Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851—also known as the Great Exhibition—was the first international world fair. The exhibition opened on May 1 in a vast iron and glass building constructed specifically for that purpose in London’s Hyde Park. It housed a vast, comprehensive display of inventions, appliances, and every effort of human industry, more than 1,000 exhibits of technology developed during the Industrial Revolution, sent in by almost 14,000 individual and company exhibitors; other reports claim as many as 17,000 exhibitors. The exhibits were grouped into four principal themes: Machinery, Manufactures, Fine Arts, and Raw Materials. Products included natural resources, crafts, and artifacts, from absinthium from a Sardinian vendor to zithers sent by two Viennese manufacturers, all intended to showcase the industrial and cultural commodities of the world. Committees from Britain, its colonies and dependencies, and many other countries were the judges. There were some 100,000 objects displayed along more than 10 miles! It was a rare opportunity for visitors to see, for example, Swiss gold pocket watches, a 50-kilogram lump of Chilean gold, and the 186-karat Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light in Persian), the largest known uncut diamond in the world at the time along with the Daria-i-Noor (Sea of Light), one of the rarest pale-pink diamonds. It was a showcase for British pride, a symbol of the Victorian Age, a magnet for A-list celebrity visitors, and a great success with some minor controversies.

It was an experience, educating producers about new materials and processes, educating consumers about new products, and educating British society about the value of industry, commerce, mechanization, art and taste. It was estimated that more than three million visitors—some reports state as many as six million—had attended. According to Christopher Marsden (“The Great Exhibition of 1851,” “Some of the exhibition’s legacy was more intangible: it had a real impact on art and design education, international trade and relations, and even tourism. The exhibition also set the precedent for the many international exhibitions which followed during the next 100 years.” It closed on October 15, 1851, moved to another location and was used for decades until the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1936.

Inside the Exhibition Hall, courtesy, the British Library,

It was a landmark event for another reason: it was the first public appearance of tobacco pipes for show and for sale. And for tokens of remembrance. One was this outsized clay pipe with in- the-round, bas-relief images of the exhibition hall, Stephenson’s rocket, and a ship at sea from Charles Crop, London clay pipe maker.

Courtesy, Pinterest

Another souvenir was this multi-use, tin-lined, brass tobacco box with three compartments, one for tobacco, one for matches and a striker, and one for a clay pipe. Note the raised décor of the exhibition building.


The first Barling meerschaum from that era that got my attention was in September 2019 when Adam Partridge Auctioneers & Valuers, England, sold this Barling hallmarked (1851) pipe in a fitted case. The Hungarian-influenced Kalmasch shape was a typical style format for most meerschaum pipe makers in the mid-19th century.

1851 Barling Meerschaum

I began my investigation with a single purpose, if I could find the data, to identify all the pipe makers and their exhibits in the Exhibition. Then I became aware of a February 2022 Bonhams, London, auction of a large-ish meerschaum pipe that was to have been made for this Exhibition, and I decided to include a discussion of this event as well. (I will frequently alternate between the two topics in this article, so please stay with me.) Antique meerschaum pipe auctions have always fascinated me, particularly when the House “experts” include indefensible or exaggerated provenance and age. Auction houses have notably been responsible for erroneous authentication opinions in the past, the very reason why the old adage of caveat emptor—buyer beware—is the watchword for pipe collectors. This is the pipe from the Bonhams auction.


According to one edition of the Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations 1851, Barling exhibited eight meerschaum pipes. A different Exhibition catalog had this entry: “Miscellaneous Manufactures and Small Wares: Barling & Sons, 142 High St., Camden Town, Des. And Manu.—Silver-mounted meerschaum smoking pipes.” Was this pipe one of the eight? I had my doubts, because it raises an obvious question: had both meerschaums—a period pipe for sale to the public and a very ornately-carved one associated with the Great Exhibition—been produced around the same time and, as importantly, what was their respective provenance? I looked for evidence. An article in the May 12, 1951 The illustrated London News mentions “A silver-mounted and engraved meerschaum pipe, with cherry and amber stem and polished barrel. It was originally shown by Benjamin Barling and Sons.” But where and when? I could not access the complete article, but this description certainly fits this carved meerschaum pipe.

Twenty years later, it was shown to former Prime Minister Harold Wilson at a “Pipe Smoking Through the Ages” exhibition in London in March 1971. The caption of this Keystone/Alamy photo of Mr. Wilson reads: “…as he inspects one of the exhibits—a meerschaum pipe made for the Great Exhibition of 1851.”


Fifty years later, as mentioned, it appeared in Bonhams “The Connoisseur’s Library Sale” “Lot 221: A very large and impressive silver mounted Meerschaum pipe made by Benjamin Barling for the Great Exhibition of 1851.” It was catalogued as “an award-winning pipe with an elaborately decorated bowl carved in high relief with a detailed scene depicting a stag hunt with figures of huntsmen in 18th century dress, hounds and a fallen stag, the underside near the detachable pipe stem is carved in lower relief with a standing stag. The bowl cover with recumbent stag finial and plain tablet was stamped BB and the date letter Q for London 1851, and B BARLING, LONDON and REGISTERED JAN24 1851. The wood stem has a horn, ivory and amber mouthpiece … a 1970’s/80’s catalogue for Barling showing the 1851 Great Exhibition pipe... Its overall length is 54.5 cm, c., 21 inches).” The estimate was £5,000–£6,000 ($6,170–$7,400). According Bonhams’ Michael Lake, European Sculpture & Works of Art Department, “The pipe is a wonderful piece but sadly it didn’t sell and has gone back to a family member.”

I am not predisposed to accept, ipso facto, that it had been made for this exhibition because of the silver hallmark date of 1851. It’s not one of the eight Barling meerschaums, listed later. And if Barling commissioned this pipe for the exhibition, how does an 18th-century stag hunt motif thematically correlate with the display of 19th-century industrial and cultural products of the world? (For example, the theme of the World’s Columbian Exposition [Chicago World’s Fair] in 1893 was Columbus, and the William Demuth Company of New York exhibited a spectacular meerschaum pipe depicting Columbus landing on American soil.)

Now to the catalog that’s been a Web hot topic since the Bonhams’ auction: the 28-page International Exhibition, London, 1851. Barling’s Celebrated Registered EB WB Briar Pipes. A caption under the image of the catalog on reads: “B. Barling & Sons catalogue of pipes—Printed by Unwin Brothers—The Gresham Press—likely dated 1914, Courtesy Jesse Silver.” (Silver was the first to reprint it, Briar Books Press did a second reprint.) Strange, indeed, is that this stag-hunt meerschaum pipe is not illustrated on the cover, nor inside the catalog, nor given honorable mention. What appears on the cover is the following:

  • EB is Edwin Barling; WB is William Barling, sons of Benjamin Barling.
  • Class 29: Miscellaneous Manufactures and Small Wares. “The miscellaneous character of the objects included in this Class renders it difficult to convey a precise idea of its general import, or the distinguishing features of the articles exhibited under it. Small wares may be taken to comprehend a very large variety of articles, and miscellaneous manufactures necessarily include a similar variety.”
  • No. 305: the sequence number for the Barling, Benjamin & Sons booth, and a list of eight assorted meerschaum pipes. Barling follows exhibitor No. 304, Margaret Harrison, and precedes No. 305a, David & William Gibbs.
  • The medal is a very important clue.

The obverse of this medal is the bust of Albert, Prince Consort, and the reverse is the word “Exhibitor” circumscribed by the words “Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations.” It was not a medal awarded for product excellence. It was presented to around 14,000 exhibitors from Britain, her colonies, and 13 foreign countries that displayed their wares.

The first—perhaps the only—appearance of this pipe is in the Barling 55-page 150th Anniversary Catalogue 1812–1962 with the caption “In our London Showroom a Museum is kept in which are displayed many of the specialty pipes that we have produced during the last 150 years. Above is illustrated a small selection of pipes produced between 1817 and 1875, the large pipe being of particular interest as a rare combination of the crafts of pipe maker, silversmith and meerschaum carver, its date of manufacture being 1850.” The Great Exhibition is not mentioned! (More about the date of manufacture later.) The 28-page 1962 Barling retailer catalog does not illustrate or mention this pipe. Jon Guss’s online article, “How Many Angels? Another Look At The Barling Transition” includes an image of this pipe with this short caption: “Meerschaum with silver fittings from 1851.” When I asked my better half in research if he had knowledge of any Barling catalogs from the 1970s-1980s, as Bonhams had noted, Jon stated: “I’m not sure that Barling produced a catalog per se after 1962. In any case the material I have from the 1970s on does not show any pictures of the early meerschaum pipes.”

I believe that what Bonhams had asserted is conjecture, a leap of faith, or the House was given imprecise information by the pipe’s owner. The issue has, sadly, been misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misconstrued. (Documentation that would contravene my analysis might be found in Imperial Tobacco Ltd.’s archives, assuming there is a stash of early Barling documents. I had asked Imperial…but to no avail.) I’ll return to the mystery of this pipe soon.

Now to my original interest, how many pipe makers exhibited and what did they exhibit. The challenge was to search every available catalog (the Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue… consisted of five volumes), other editions, and every version published by or for the Exhibition sponsors. Not all were available to me, so it was impossible to find every tobacco pipe manufacturer who participated. More frustrating was the fact that I encountered information inconsistencies between and among the various catalogs; what pipes were exhibited or who were the exhibitors depended on the catalog accessed. For example, in the Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851. Part I. Alphabetical Index of Contributors and Whose Names Appear In The Catalogue, on page 12, there is “Barling & Sons.” Barling is also listed in Part II. Alphabetical and Classified List Of Articles Contained In The Official Catalogue, under “Meerschaum Pipes,” but under “Tobacco Pipes, Bowls, Tubes, &c.,” Barling is not. The Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851 Reports by the Juries of the Subjects in the Thirty Classes Into Which The Exhibition Was Divided (1852) identifies all the pipe-exhibitor awardees: Barling is not among them.

It was also difficult to weave together the many disparate entries from so many catalogs and reports into a coherent narrative, so what you will encounter, organizationally, is a patchwork … all the relevant pieces and parts I discovered that, together, tell a story, not the story.

Robert Hunt, ed., Hunt’s Hand-Book to the Official Catalogues: An Explanatory Guide to the Natural Productions and Manufactures of the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, Vol. II (1851):

“Tobacco-pipes, &c. (65.)—Richly ornamented pipe-bowls are shown, decorated with figures of Bacchanals, horses, St. George, &c., and cigar-holders.”

“Tobacco Pipes, &c. (80.)—Various specimens of tobacco pipes and cigar holders, carved and ornamented, and made from white talc.”

Tobacco Pipes. (Exhibitors 176, 211.)—Various descriptions of clay pipes are shown.” “Tobacco Pipes. (Exhibitors 784, 796.)—Pipe-bowls are shown in meerschaum, wood, clay, and china; some highly ornamented.”

British Guiana: “T. G. Duggin sent a specimen of a pipe, or rather tube, used by the aborigines for smoking tobacco, called a winna; it resembled a cheroot in outward appearance, but was hollow, so as to contain the tobacco.”

China: “…pipes are made in enormous numbers, and in an almost infinitive variety of forms; they were of three classes, the water-pipe, the straight-pipe, and the opium-pipe. The Chinese pipes are generally very long, and the bowl very small, it being usually made of nickel copper (white metal). The only contribution, however, was from Dr. Berncastle, who sent an opium- pipe and appurtenances.”

France: “The examples consisted of clay-pipes only from two exhibitors; they were very numerous, and exceedingly well-manufactured, but their forms were not such as to sustain the high reputation for graceful design which this country enjoys. This is to be attributed to the class of persons for whom the pipes were intended, and who prefer a pipe-bowl moulded into the form of some grotesque head, with staring eyes, to the most elegant figures which could be devised.”

Sardinia: “The contributions from this country consist of beautiful examples of carved meerschaum pipe-bowls, which equal those of Austria, but are insignificant in point of number, having been contributed by only one exhibitor.”

“In the Turkish collection were numerous rich examples of the Narguilé, or water pipe, in some cases composed of silver, and ornamented with precious stones; the flexible tube, or Marpitch, used with the Narguilé, is formed with a spiral wire covered with leather over which another wire is coiled, so as to fall between the interstices of the inner spiral.”

Turkey: “There were numerous examples of the long-pipe, or Kablioun, and the short-pipe, or Chiboque, with the cherry-tree, jasmine, wild-plum, and ebony tubes; and likewise the crude gimblets, with which these tubes, five feet or more in length, are bored.”

“The meerschaum works of the Viennese were unrivalled, as regarded taste in design and excellence in execution; the carving of many of the pipe-tubes and cigar-tubes being examples of highly-cultivated art. Most of the fancy pipe-tubes, composed of horn and mother-of-pearl, were more curious than graceful; the cherry-tree tubes were in great variety, and were good examples of this component of the long pipe; besides these, there were large numbers of bone and wood mouth-pieces, and others made of amber, the latter being beautifully worked.”

Germany. “The meerschaum works of the Viennese were unrivaled, as regarded taste in design, and excellence in execution; the carving of many of the pipe bowls and cigar-tubes being examples of highly cultivated art… The meerschaum-pipes from Prussia were not numerous, nor were they so elaborate as those of Austria. …The contributions from other parts of Germany consisted of meerschaum and other pipes from Bavaria, which were not remarkable; porcelain pipes from Hamburg, and clay pipes from [the Duchy of] Nassau. …Those from Hamburg were of fancy forms, and those from Nassau were chiefly plain, which were sold at exceedingly low prices… .Specimens of clay tobacco-pipes: exhibited for the cheapness of produce, and to show the quality of the pipe-clay. Specimens of ochre and earth colours.”

Zollverein (German Customs Union): “Despite all that we have heard of the smoking propensities of German students, despite all that we see of this practice amongst those Germans who honour our country with a visit, Germany does not ‘come out strong in the pipe line.’ To be sure, there are some capital meerschaums, but nothing but what we could beat at Fribourg’s. The Austrian room of pipes is something like.”

“V. PIPES AND AMBER MANUFACTURES. Before discussing the merits of the pipes contributed from all quarters of the globe to adorn the Great Exhibition, it will be proper to notice the materials principally employed in their manufacture. Clays, of different kinds, are more used than any other substance in the formation of pipes. …Woods of several descriptions are next in importance. The wild cherry-tree, and the jasmine are the principal sorts. …Mother-of-pearl, Horn, Ivory and Bone are extensively used; nor are the precious metals and costly gems excluded from a share in the formation of the pipe…Meerschaum (Ecume de mer)…”

United Kingdom: “The pipes in the British side of the Exhibition are unimportant; two consist of steel, one is a contrivance for condensing the fumes of the tobacco, and the other two are of meerschaum. No common clay-pipes are exhibited; their manufacture forms a distinct branch of the fictile-art, and is usually practiced by small makers…”

In the Yorkshire Magazine (1874) an ad from Edwin Southorn’s Patent Broseleys, “These far- famed Tobacco Pipes obtained ‘Honourable Mention at the Great Exhibition,’ 1851.”

The table of pipe exhibitors along with a verbatim description of their exhibits is as complete a list as I could assemble. Excluded are those who displayed stems, then known as cherry-sticks or cherry-tubes for pipes, and mouthpieces. I found no illustrations of any tobacco pipes in any exhibition catalog that I accessed. You probably will not recognize most of the manufacturers, but the array essentially consisted of meerschaums, clays, and narghiles.

Description of exhibits
Shakir Abdekader, Damascus Narguilas
Ali Abou, Damascus Pipes
Oosta Ahmed, Constantinople Narguila, with inlaid gold ornaments
Samuel Alba, Vienna Meerschaum tobacco-pipe bowls; tobacco-pipe tubes and mouth-pieces
Benjamin Barling & Sons, London* 1. Silver-mounted meerschaum smoking pipe, chased, engine-turned, and engraved top, oak border. Design: A fox and leveret. Motto: “Not caught yet.” 2. Silver-mounted smoked meerschaum pipe, chased silver. Design: A chamois. 3. Silver-mounted meerschaum pipe. Engine-turned, cased, and engraved. Design: A pointer dog and bird. 4. Silver-mounted meerschaum pipe. Design: The oak and dolphin (chased). 5. Plain silver-mounted meerschaum. 6. Large silver-mounted meerschaum courier pipe, pierced and engraved top. 7. A small one, engine-turned top, and chased edge. 8. Another small one, plain polished
Phillip Beisiegel, Vienna Tobacco-pipes and cigar-holders of meerschaum, amber, mother-of-pearl, and horn. Tobacco-pipe bowls of meerschaum, silver-mounted and carved
Broseley, Shropshire Tobacco-pipes, the superiority of which consists in the preparation of the clay, giving the article a more porous quality
Duméril, Sons, and Co., St. Omer, France Clay pipes, patented, and pipe-clay statuettes
Baba Emin, Islimia Ornamental pipe
Georg Enstoller, Steyr, Austria Styrian tobacco-pipe bowls of wood
Louis Fiolet, St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais, France Various sorts of clay pipes. The exhibitor manufactures yearly above 200,000 gross of pipes, either plain or varnished, differing in size, form, and length, according to the demand. They are made of 1,200 different shapes, plain or ornamented, representing historical or fancy figures, animals, etc. By means of an enamel invented by the exhibitor, brilliancy can be given to the plainest pipes.
Gerhard Flöge, Vienna Wood, amber, and meerschaum cigar mouth-pieces, and tobacco-pipe tubes
L. Franz, Vienna Walking-stick pipes
Joh. Friedrich, Vienna Cigar mouth-pieces of meerschaum and amber, carved with letters, figures, &c
Governor of Andrinople (Turkey) Pipes and narguilas
Anton Grünhut, Prague Meerschaum pipe, and cigar mouth-pieces
J. Grünhut, Prague A meerschaum pipe. A cigar mouth-piece and a cigar-pipe
W. Grünhut & Co., Prague Meerschaum pipes, and cigar mouth-pieces
Ludwig Hartmann, Vienna Tobacco-pipe tubes, cigar mouth-pieces of wood, amber, meerschaum, and horn; tobacco-pipe bowls of meerschaum; Turkish clay pipes; a tobacco-pipe of ivory
Kassian Held, Nürnberg Tobacco-pipes of Turkish clay with various designs, meerschaum, cigar tubes of the same material
Josef Hübner, Gablonz, Bohemia Porcelain pipe-bowls, painted
M. Hyams, 79 Long Lane Cigars and pipes of British manufacturers
John Inderwick, London Smoking-pipe of Meerschaum, with a carved representation of the death of Nelson, mounted in gold and silver. Registered tube for smoking-pipe
Michael Infanger, Stehr, Austria Styrian hunting tobacco-pipes, bowls of wood
Haji Izzet, Constantinople Narguile pipes
Carl Litschke, Vienna Cigar mouth-pieces and pipes of meerschaum, amber, wood, horn, &c.
Lux Brothers, Ruhla, Germany A large assortment of meerschaum and other pipes
Mehmed Haji, Damascus Narguilas
James Mitchell, Scotland Tin-plate pipe-tops. German silver pipe-tops, and sterling silver pipe-tops, with chain and picker. Malleable iron tobacco pipes, invented by the exhibitor
Müllenbach & Thewald, Hoehr, Germany An assortment of clay tobacco-pipes
Leopold Nagl, Vienna Cigar mouth-pieces and pipes of meerschaum and amber
Osman, Trebisond (Turkey) Ornamental pipes, pipe bowls, and cigar holders
A. Partsch, Theresienstadt Various samples of clay tobacco-pipes
Leopold Pfeiffer, Vienna Different kinds of pipe tubes
Mehmed Remla, Damascus Cigar mouthpiece, and pipes
Usta Rustem, Haskioy (Turkey) Pipes
William Southern & Co., Broseley Tobacco-pipes, of prepared clay, which gives them a more porous quality; with improved glaze, and green lip
Jacob Strauss, Turin A set of tobacco-pipes and porte-cigares in white talc, carved and ornamented
Wingender Brothers, Hoehr Assortment of clay tobacco-pipes
H. Wöbke, Hamburg Tobacco pipes (Turkish clay); genuine meerschaums
Joseph Wojtech, Vienna Pipe-tubes of wood, of various kinds
J. Yerbury, England Staite’s patent diaphragm tobacco-pipe bowl for condensing and collecting the essential oil and moisture of the tobacco
J. Wood, Halifax Wrought polished steel tobacco-pipes
Joseph Zeitler, Vienna Tobacco-pipe and cigar holders, bowls of meerschaum
Ziegler Brothers, Ruhla Real meerschaum bowls, carved and plain; imitation meerschaum bowls; wood and clay pipes and bowls, and china pipes; real meerschaum bowls,

coloured by being boiled in oil

  • The Barling stag hunt meerschaum pipe is not one of the eight pipes.

My best source for identifying the pipe awardees was not any of the Exhibition catalogs, but an obscure 32-page monograph, The Great London Exhibition. 1851. Awards. Published for the Subscribers to Galignani’s Messenger (1851). “The number of pipe and amber exhibitors is forty-nine: 10 holders of a Prize Medal; 18 who received honorable mention; 21 unrewarded. Two types of bronze medals were created: the Prize medal (busts of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, two dolphins and a trident on the obverse; Britannia and attendants on the reverse), and the Council medal (busts of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the obverse; Britannia and Mercury, the Roman God of Commerce, on the reverse); 2,918 Prize Medals were awarded; 170 exhibitors earned the highest and rarest Council Medal for outstanding achievements or contributions. A recipient of honorable mention meant that the exhibitor fell short of meeting the workmanship or innovation standards set for the award of a medal. The Industry of Nations, as Exemplified in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Materials of Industry (1852) lists awards for the category “Miscellaneous Manufactures,” which included tobacco pipes; England received four Council medals, 142 Prize medals, and 100 Honourable mention, information that is not exhibitor-specific. Not surprisingly, these numbers do not comport with the following table. The Jurors Medal was given to all the members of the Jury who judged the exhibits, and Prince Albert was awarded a Great Medal of Achievement. More than 600 American exhibitors participated and, of the 170 medals awarded by the Council of the Great Exhibition, five were awarded to American exhibits, none of which was for pipes.

There’s evidence of a degree of prejudice regarding awards for the pipe exhibitors that may have influenced who and how many received recognition: “Many months before the opening of the Exhibition we had ourselves put forth a plan which (whatever might have been its faults) at least possessed comprehensive substantiality, and would, if acted upon, have prevented the possibility of a tobacco pipe carrying off as great a reward as a mariner’s compass. …For our part, we do not go so far, but think that, if a definite plan had been determined on, and made known to the exhibitors, a far more satisfactory result would have been arrived at in the distribution of awards than is now attained.” (“The Industrial Exhibition. General Remarks,” The London Journal of Arts, Sciences, and Manufactures, and Repertory of Patent Inventions, 1851).

Name and country
Type of award
Jurors’ evaluation
Samuel Alba, Vienna Honourable mention Meerschaum pipe-bowls, cigar-tubes, and amber mouth-pieces
Carl Astrath, Vienna Prize medal Assortment of most exquisite specimens of meerschaum Pipe-bowls and cigar-tubes
Philip Beisiegel, Vienna Honourable mention Meerschaum Pipes with silver mounts and amber Mouth-pieces; meerschaum Pipe-bowls and Cigar-tubes
L.Bolzau, Zollverein Council medal Meerschaum pipe
Duméril, Sons, and Co. Honourable mention
Louis Fiolet Honourable mention Large assortment of Clay-pipes exceedingly well-made. The bowls are mostly in the form of heads, some intentionally grotesque, and others intended to represent eminent personages, scarcely less so, on account of the eyes being picked with two dabs of black
Gerhard Flöge, Austria Council medal Carved meerschaum Pipe-bowls and Cigar tubes in great variety and of excellent designs and execution
Johann Friedrich, Austria Council medal A very large assortment of meerschaum Pipe- bowls and Cigar-tubes with amber Mouth-pieces of beautiful designs, frequently containing several figures, which are exquisitely and boldly sculptured
J. Grünhut Honourable mention A meerschaum Pipe-bowl and two Cigar-tubes, the carving of which is very sharp and spirited
Ludwig Hartmann, Austria Council medal Very large collection of well-made Mouth-pieces of amber, mother-of-pearl, bone, and wood; meerschaum Pipe-bowls and Cigar-tubes
Henderson, Montreal Honourable mention Well-made Clay-Pipes
Lux Brothers, Prussia Honourable mention Meerschaum and other pipes
Müllenbach and Thewald Honourable mention Remarkably cheap Clay-pipes
A. A. Partsch, Theresienfeld Honourable mention An assortment of cheap clay Pipe-bowls, coloured and glazed
B. W. Southern & Company Council medal Tobacco pipe
J. Strauss Prize medal Elaborately-carved meerschaum Pipe-bowls, the sculpting of which is very exquisite
Wingender Brothers, Nassau Honourable mention An assortment of various descriptions of Clay- pipes, intended chiefly for exportation, and which are remarkable for their low price, 5s. 6d. per thousand
H. Wöbcke Honourable mention A collection of well-made Pipes manufactured with Turkish clay
J. Zeitler, Austria Council medal Pipe bowls in massa

Assorted brass, wood, nickel silver pipe cases and silver vesta cases, cigar accessories and other smoking accouterments were on display, but I do not include any of those exhibitors. Considering our fledgling tobacco industry at the time, there were several American tobacco companies that participated, among them, P. Lorillard (New York); Grand Point Perique Tobacco (Philadelphia); John W. Carroll’s “Lone Jack” tobacco (Philadelphia); Marburg Bros. (Baltimore); Wm. S. Kimball (Rochester, NY); G.W. Gail & Ax (Baltimore); Wm. T. Blackwell (Durham, NC); Harry C. Holbrook (Louisville, KY); and Frishmuth Bro. & Co. (Philadelphia). Chewing tobacco was a favorite of the attendees. All these exhibitors were situated in the Agricultural Hall.

Parenthetically, this exhibition set the example for a multitude of national, international, and regional exhibitions that followed in which many more pipe manufacturers from the far reaches of the globe participated, with the most frequent being five Exposition Universelle in Paris, the first in 1855. Inspired by London’s Great Exhibition, a little-known, near-forgotten “Crystal Palace—The Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations“—the first World’s Fair held in the United States, opened in New York City on July 15, 1853. It was a building specially constructed for the occasion. There’s almost nothing in print about the participant-exhibitors, but it was neither of the scale or breadth of its British namesake. There was a handful of sellers of leaf tobacco, tobacco presses, tobacco-plug machines, and tobacco pipes: (1) William M. Williams, Surrey, England; (2) samples of tobacco, snuff and segars from several Germany manufacturers; (3) meerschaum pipe bowls (L. Bolzau, Lemgo, Thuringia); and tobacco pipes (P. J. Van der Waul and F. S. Spaarnaay & Son, Gouda); tobacco pipe bowls and cigar holders of meerschaum, amber (J. Zettler, Vienna); and nargeles (Turkey). Like London’s Crystal Palace, it was destroyed by fire in October 1858.

Now to revisit the Barling meerschaum pipe that continues to echo this notion about an award or awards to Barling, a few of which add slight embellishment. It was a self-perpetuating belief long before Bonhams included it in its auction. What follows is, in my view, harmless puffery … and some recent online pronouncements, nearly all lacking proof.

Peter Davey (ed.), The Archaeology of The Clay Tobacco Pipe IX. More Pipes from the Midlands and Southern England (1985): “Benjamin Barling & Sons seem to have specialized in meerschaum pipes, for they had a stand at the 1851 Great Exhibition where they exhibited ‘an assortment of silver mounted meerschaum pipes.’”

John Culme, The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths (1987): “At the Great Exhibition of 1851, Benjamin Barling & Sons, described as designers and manufacturers, showed 1. Silver- mounted meerschaum smoking pipe, chased, engine-turned, and engraved top, oak border.”

According to “London Smoke” (, several British pipe makers had participated: “John Inderwick …displayed a silver and gold mounted ornately carved meerschaum pipe featuring the death of Nelson” and “Benjamin Barling & Sons displayed eight meerschaums mounted in silver and other materials. Two were simple designs, while the others were exquisitely carved featuring mostly animals. They received recognition for this display and won the Exhibition’s much sought-after official medallion.” “One of the earliest instances of Barling (at this time B. Barling & Sons) engaging with pipecraft is in 1851 at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations. Here, the team was awarded a medal as manufacturers of ‘silver-mounted Meerschaum smoking pipes.’” “Over time these pipes began to garner much recognition, as it did in 1851, when the Barling African Meerschaums received several awards at the London Great Exhibition.” (African meerschaums … several awards?) “Barling began its pipe works by mounting meerschaum bowls, likely carved in Austria using Turkish meer. These bowls were fitted with exquisite sterling fitments of the highest quality. It was a set of such meerschaums that won Barling an award at the Great Exhibition of 1851.” …The company received recognition of their work at the Great Exhibition of 1851 for their display of a set of ‘Silver-mounted meerschaum smoking pipes.’—Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851—page 147.” (The entries on page 147 are the exhibitors in Class 29. Miscellaneous Manufactures and Small Wares.) “This collection [of Barling briars] commemorates the winning of the highest awards by brand founder Benjamin Barling, who showed his silver works at the 1851 World Exhibition in London.”

Facebook (Wombell’s Auctioneers, November 25, 2016): “In recognition of the excellence of their work, Barling’s were offered the opportunity to exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1851, which they duly did, showing a set of 12 (my emphasis) silver mounted pipes.” “On the occasion of the world exhibition in 1851 he won the highest awards at the international exhibition in London for his silver work on a pipe set.” (It was not a pipe set.) “On the occasion of the 1851 world exhibition in London, he won the highest accolades for his silverworks on a set of pipes and attained worldwide attention.” “The Kopp company is dedicating the Benjamin series [of briar pipes] to company founder Benjam [sic] Barling. On the occasion of the World Exhibition in 1851 he won the highest awards at the International Exhibition in London for his silver work on a pipe set.” about Barling: “Auf der Weltausstellung 1851 erhielt man für die außergewöhnlich feinen Arbeiten sogar eine Medaille.” (At the World Exhibition in 1851, a medal was even awarded for the extraordinarily fine work.) “In 1851, at the London Great Exhibition, Barling’s smoking pipes took first and third place.”

To conclude, the product of my investigation is the first list of (most) all the participant pipe makers and, I believe, ample proof that Barling & Sons did not receive a Prize or a Council Medal for any of its meerschaum pipes. Moreover, any student familiar with the evolution of meerschaum pipes knows that it began in Hungary and, for many years, the Kalmasch, Debrecen and Ragoczy were the only bowl shapes produced; none of these had any bas- or high-relief-carved motifs. The format, carving, motif and size of this ornately-carved Barling bowl, and the ivory and amber accents on the wood stem indicate that it was produced much later in the century. History also tells that the British were late comers to the art of carving complex, elaborate meerschaum pipes.

I have an explanation founded on history. In the late 1800s, Austrian and German pipe carvers were the specialists in portraying mythological, battle, bucolic, and hunt scenes on pipes and cheroot holders in both wood and meerschaum, a trend not adopted by either French or British meerschaum pipe carvers, so the more plausible explanation is that this pipe bowl was crafted in either Austria or Germany in the latter half of the century, then sold to or made specifically for Barling, and then fitted with a chased, silver Barling wind cover made in 1850/1851; the stem work could have come from any European wood turner. In those days, it was not unusual for a meerschaum pipe bowl to be carved in Vienna or Munich, and the silverwork and stem added in London to complete the pipe. All the dots are there. To connect them just required a degree of investigation and analysis to arrive at a logical explanation based on the visual evidence and an understanding of the stylistic changes in meerschaum pipe formats and styles as they evolved from mid- to the late 19th-century.

History is as accurate as the historian recreating it. The accuracy of the historian depends on the accuracy of the sources, and that depends on how much time the historian has spent chasing other sources to corroborate the initial ones. I am always skeptical about the confident claims and elaborate stories that attempt to explain the past; incorrect readings can lend support to ideas or beliefs that don’t have an historical basis. Because there are so few sources that accurately recount the early history of the meerschaum pipe industry, it is absolutely necessary to analyze all the available facts. The Barling pipe affair is a perfect example of how a story can take on a life of its own, frequently being modified, changed, expanded, or embellished to make it more interesting in pipe books and then online as it travels around the Web.

To those who follow Barling (or briar) history, I would not expect that you would be as familiar with the evolution of the meerschaum industry in Europe in the mid- to late-19th century. To those who did not question Bonhams description of that auction pipe and embraced it, I believe that my explanation is plausible and persuasive. I’ve tried not to wallow in the details but, unfortunately, the devil is in these very details. As an antique-pipe-research-addict for more than 50 years, it was an academic challenge to disentangle and dissect what’s been written and then to formulate a rational and very plausible explanation of the origin and disposition of this meerschaum pipe. We can agree to disagree, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As to this pipe’s future, it has already survived the ravages of time for about 150 years and it will remain in private hands until the owner finds a more opportune time to sell it. It will probably be in the public eye once again and it may eventually have a new owner.

The Great Exhibition was the first ever international exhibition of manufactured products, a venue in which, also for the first time, pipes from many countries were on display. Collectively, they were a portrait of what was being manufactured at mid-century. The exhibition sponsors enthusiastically welcomed this contingent; the visitors were exposed to the fact that there was the beginning of a burgeoning industry and that pipe smoking was on the rise; and many received recognition for their efforts.

A final word. I believe that what I have catalogued is also ample proof that briar pipes were not on display at the Great Exhibition. “Who Carved the First Briar Pipe?” ( cites Hacker (The Ultimate Pipe Book): “Nonetheless, it was around 1840 when a pipemaker named François Comoy (who, in 1825, started the first full-time pipe factory in St Claude) began carving pipes out of France's native bruyere (which has subsequently been called brier and finally briar.” Others have written similarly, often adding that either François or his son, Louis, made the first briar pipe in 1848 (the year of the French Revolution), a date with which most pipe people concur. Tobacconist University CRT Study cites an earlier date: “Francois Comoy begins carving pipes out of Briar in Saint-Claude, France, Circa 1840.” Perhaps earlier? “In the 1820’s artisans from the French town of St. Claude in the Jura Mountains, renown [sic] for their wood carving skills, began to produce pipes with bowls made from the burl of the white heath tree (Steve Morrisette, “Guide to Tobacco Pipes & Pipe Smoking,” From what I’ve studied, I’m inclined to accept “1856: The COMOY company becomes the 1st manufacturer of briar pipes” ( Others claim that Ulysse Courrieu (Cogolin, France) is the oldest French briar pipe factory that began carving pipes in 1802. What and whom to believe?

Let’s assume that history favors Comoy, so I close with a rhetorical question. If François Comoy was the first to produce la pipe en bruyère, why wasn’t he or his son at the Exhibition promoting this new pipe medium? He would have introduced this newly-discovered pipe material to millions of visitors. As well, he could have been the impetus for an earlier expansion of the French briar industry. And with the very early exposure of briar to a large audience, he could have changed the habits of pipe-smokers everywhere. Admittedly, it’s a question without an answer, but his absence from—and ostensible impact in—the Great Exhibition is now duly noted.