Clay Tobacco Pipes

Clay Tobacco Pipes

Once tobacco was introduced to Europe pipe smoking took off at an astounding rate and along with it the manufacture of pipes in profuse quantities. The rise in popularity of smoking grew even against staunch opposition from eminent people of the day. James I was one of the first anti-smokers and his dislike of the habit was to the extreme, in 1603 he wrote his famous 'Counterblaste to tobacco'... "make a kitchen oftentimes in the inward parts of men, soyling and infecting them with an unctuous and oily kind of soot as hath been found in some great tobacco takers that after death were opened. A custom loathsome to the eye, harmful to the brain and dangerous to the lungs." His hatred of smoking prompted him to raise the duty on tobacco .

Clay Tobacco Pipes
This high cost of tobacco in the earlier years meant that the bowls of the pipes were small, as the years progressed tobacco became, in effect, cheaper so pipe bowls increased in size, and an experienced collector can date a pipe by the size of the bowl. By the early 18th century a standard size for the bowl had been reached and pipes had also become more upright as smokers stored them in pipe racks by using the then fashionable spur on the pipe.

Prior to this pipes had a flat heel or base enabling them to be rested on the table, another factor that helps the collector determine the age of a pipe. Many examples of pipe bowls and pipes were very ornate and indeed illustrate many facets of everyday life experienced by their original owners.

Clay Tobacco Pipes
Because pipe smoking became such a popular activity and clay pipes were cheap and easy to produce it has meant that many were just thrown away once they became dirty or broken, the stem being the most usual breaking point, hence mainly only bowls are to be found. Smokers could easily afford to buy their pipes by the dozen or gross and throw them out regularly. Now we find pieces and whole bowls of the many, many thousands of pipes that  were made in all places that people have inhabited during the past 400 years.

Good hunting ground for pipes are bottle fairs and auctions. Many pipe bowls are found by bottle collectors whilst digging old Victorian and Edwardian dumps and are sold off by them as they are not of interest to their particular collection.

Clay Tobacco Pipes

To the novice it may seem odd that so many pipes can be found in our fields and gardens, we all appreciate that the Victorians used dumps but why the unearthing of so many examples elsewhere? Prior to sewerage systems being implemented rubbish and sewage would have been collected during the night and spread in fields, this was known as 'night soil', with this muck would have been many discarded tobacco pipes which would have sunk into the soil to be unearthed in years to come.
Pipes had been modeled by hand to begin with but it wasn't long before man was able to create moulds, usually of two parts, to produce the pipes. But there were still delicate procedures involved in finishing the pipes, for instance a wire had to be guided through a hole at the end of the mould to hollow out the stem, but go too far and it would pierce straight through the bowl. The pipes had to be fired for the right time too,

over firing would result in brittle clay that would break too easily. Yet even with these problems a skilled pipe maker could produce several hundred pipes per day resulting in a cheap commodity that was easily discarded once used.The very early pipes had been plain with a simple line of rouletting or milling around the bowl, but by Victorian times they had embraced the ability to produce pipes that were highly ornate. They went about depicting almost every subject matter imaginable including
commemoratives, such as politicians, comics of the day, heraldic and military emblems plus
all sorts of other subjects like animals, sports or even everyday household items. Many pipes can be found with registration marks or numbers which was an attempt by the larger factories to protect their designs from their competitors.

Clay Tobacco Pipes

Some of the more ornate pipes would have been more expensive to buy than others and may have been kept for 'best' or used by the 'well-off'. The most accomplished ornate pipe makers were the French, their three most famous factories were Fiolet, Gambier and Dumeril. Collectors search out French pipes, as some are very intricate and colourful by the use of enamels to highlight their designs.                                      

As with all collectibles, it is important to learn as much as you can before buying.

1 comment:

  1. These pipes are just works of art. I rarely smoked a pipe because such tobacco is too heavy for me, but I still remember its taste. Now I completely quit smoking. My age called me to this. Even such a strong habit can be defeated with the help of CBD medications now. If you're interested, you can discover this info here I guess I became a little sentimental, but I want to buy such a smoke pipe as a keepsake.