Manufacturing myths: Pipe debunking, part II : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Manufacturing myths: Pipe debunking, part II

by Ben Rapaport

It is often said that a good historian is a myth-buster. A better explanation comes from the historian Henry Adams: “Nothing is so astonishing in education as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts,” and there is certainly a mountain of inert facts that promotes ignorance in the arcane hobby of tobacco pipes. In the winter 2007 issue, I presented a case for questioning some oft-repeated myths, misunderstandings and misnomers in pipe lore. In that article, “Setting the record straight,” I covered the meerschaum, the German regimental (reservisten) porcelain, the Ulmer, the system pipe and the briar. I am confident that yet other pipe formats require similar clarification in this second—and last—installment. No doubt, a few of those included in this segment are somewhat less-known mediums to the readers of this magazine, but, like those expostulated in the first segment, these, too, make for an interesting and animated discussion among pipe aficionados. Once again, I am aiming to crush a few claims, to talk the walk about misunderstood or misrepresented tobacco pipes.

Tobacco pipe materials of yore
The pipe, to quote someone more prosaic than I, is an ingenious contrivance, but Chauncey Thomas, “Smoking the Pipe” (The Technical World Magazine, Volume VI, September 1906–February 1907), takes issue with some of these contrivances: “All fancy types of pipes are apt to be no good whatever.” After all, in earlier times, pipes were made to suit every possible taste, no matter how eccentric those tastes may have been. Beyond clay, meerschaum, porcelain, corncob, briar and the large assortment of ethnographic pipes of the Americas, Africa and the Orient—all the usual suspects—at some time, the reader may have come across a statement in a pipe or tobacco book such as this: “Pipes of various patterns and styles are smoked throughout the world.” Or this from Chambers’s Encyclopedia, A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, Volume 10: “A great variety of other materials are or have been used for tobacco-pipes. Among these may be mentioned silver, brass, and other metals, glass, ivory, horn, cane, bamboo, and various kinds of stone.” Volume XIX of The Encyclopædia Britannica of 1890 went further: “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.” Or this from T.B. Cooper, “The Story of the Tobacco Pipe” (The Reliquary and Illustrated Archæologist, Vol. XII, 1907):

“In every clime and country the fumes of tobacco are inhaled through some kind of tube, and a collection of the world’s pipes would contain more types of peculiarity than there are nations or tribes upon the face of earth. Little more than a century ago a nation’s pipes were, as a rule, made of the most suitable and available material found in their respective countries, and some peoples of necessity still adopt what seem to us very curious and strange devices.”

Here are some of those “very curious and strange devices.”

Some pipes that smoke, some pipes that don’t.

Read the rest of the story by subscribing to Pipes and tobaccos magazine or the online digital edition.

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Category: Feature Article, Pipe Articles, Spring 2014

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