1902 Encyclopedia > Tobacco Pipe

Tobacco Pipe

TOBACCO PIPE. The smoking of tobacco in pipes is a custom which prevailed in America for a period of unknown duration previous to the discovery of that continent by Columbus. The most ancient pipes of which remains exist have been found in mounds or tumuli called pipe mounds, principally in the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. These mound pipes, which are carved in porphyry and other hard stones, are very uniform in type. The pipe, cut out of a single piece of stone, consists of a slightly convex platform or base, generally from 3 to 4 inches in length, and about an inch broad, with the bowl on the centre. A fine hole is pierced from one end of the platform to the bottom of the bowl, the opposite end being obviously for holding in the hand while the pipe is being smoked. In the commonest forms the bowl is a simple cylinder or urn (fig. 1), but in many cases remarkable artistic skill has been displayed in carving the ____ Monitor „ pi bowls into miniature figures of birds, mammals, reptiles, and human heads, often grotesque and fantastic, but always vigorously expressed (fig. 2). These mound or platform pipes with carved human and ani-mal forms are objects of the highest ethno-graphic interest and im-portance, being among the most characteristic remains of the ancient inhabitants of the Mis-sissippi valley. The wide area over which they, as well as remains of baked clay pipes, are found throughout the American continent testifies to the universal prevalence of smoking in the pre-Columbian era. Many of the ancient clay pipes found in Mexico, &c, are elaborately moulded and ornamented, while others show considerable similarity to the early clay pipes of Europe. Among the North-American Indian tribes the tobacco pipe occupies a position of peculiar symbolic significance in connexion with the superstitious rites and usages of the race. The calumet, peace pipe, or medicine pipe is an object of the most profound veneration, entrusted to the care of a highly honoured official, and produced and smoked with much ceremony only on occasions of great importance and solemnity. It is remarkable that, whilst the most ancient American pipes had no separate stem, it is the stem only of the medicine pipe which is the object of veneration among the Indians, the bowl used being a matter of indifference. The favourite material for Indian pipe bowls is the famous red pipe stone (catlinite), a fine-grained easily-worked stone of a rich red colour of the C6teau des Prairies, west of the Big Stone Lake in Dakota. The quarries were formerly neutral ground among the warring Indian tribes, many sacred traditions being associated with the locality and its product (see Longfellow's Hiawatha, i.). The Babeen Indians of the British-Columbian coast carve from a soft blue clay slate very elaborate and massive pipes with intricate pierced work- and fantastic animal forms, the pipe tube being pierced from some protruding part of the sculpture.

There is considerable dispute as to whether pipes for smoking were at all known in Europe previous to the discovery of America. That tobacco-smoking was unknown is certain ; but pipes of iron, bronze, and clay have been so frequently found associated with Roman remains and other antiquities as to lead many authorities to maintain that such pipes must have been anciently used for burning incense or for smoking aromatic herbs or hemp. Through-out Great Britain and Ireland small clay pipes are frequently dug up, in some instances associated with Roman relics. These are known amongst the people as elfin, fairy, or Celtic pipes, and in some districts supernatural agencies have been called in to account for their existence. ' The elfin pipes have commonly flat broad heels in place of the sharp spur now found on clay pipes, and on that flat space the mark or initials of the maker is occasionally found. There is no reason to believe that these pipes are older than the 17th century. The introduction of the tobacco pipe into Europe is generally ascribed to Ralph Lane, first governor of Virginia, who in 1586 brought an Indian pipe to Sir Walter Raleigh, and taught that courtier how to use the implement. The pipe makers of London became an incorporated body in 1619, and from England the other nations of Europe learned the art of making clay pipes. Baillard, in his Discours du Tabac (1668) says of the English—" Ces derniers ont inventé les pipes de terre cuite, qui ont cours aujourd'huy par tout le monde."

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 inven-tive 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. By degrees pipes of special form and material came to be associated with particular people, so that now we have the elongated painted porcelain bowls and pendulous stem of the German peasantry, the red clay bowl and long cherry wood stem of the Turk, and the very small metallic bowl and cane stem of the Japanese, &c. The most luxurious and elabo-rate form of pipe is the Persian kaly-ûn, hookah, or water tobacco pipe. This consists of three pieces, the head or bowl, the water bottle or base, and the snake or long flexible tube ending in the mouthpiece. The tobacco, which must be previously prepared by steeping in water, is placed in the head and lighted with live charcoal, a wooden stem passes from its bottom down into the water which fills the base, and the tube is fitted to a stem which ends in the bottle above the water. Thus the smoke is cooled and washed before it reaches the smoker by passing through the water in the bottle, and by being drawn through the coil of tube frequently some yards in length. The bottles are in many cases made of carved and other-wise ornamented cocoa-nut shells, whence the apparatus is called nârgila, from nârgil, a cocoa-nut. Silver, gold, damascened steel, and precious stones are freely used in the making and decoration of these pipes for wealthy smokers.

Pipe Manufacture.—The regular pipe-making industries divide into many branches, of which the more important are the clay pipe, meerschaum (real and artificial), and wooden bowl trades. Clay pipes are made in prodigious numbers by hand labour with an iron mould and a steel wire for forming the tube of the stem. Pipe moulding is a very simple operation in pottery, and the work is performed with astonishing celerity. A number of machines have been devised for automatic pipe-moulding ; but the manual opera-tions are so rapid and inexpensive that there is little margin for saving by the substitution of machinery. The pipes are very lightly fired so as to keep them soft and porous ; and so cheaply made are they that the commoner kinds can be retailed at a profit for a farthing each. The principal centre of the clay pipe industry is at Broseley in Staffordshire, where the trade has been established since the early part of the 17th century. Meerschaum pipes (see MEERSCHAUM, vol. xv. p. 825) are the expensive luxury of the European smoker, and large sums of money are occasionally expended on the artistic treatment of the meerschaum bowd or on the adornment of its adjuncts. The common meerschaum is gene-rally provided with a mouth-piece of amber, but modern ingenuity has succeeded in providing a remarkably clever imitation of both substances, so that a large proportion of the so-called meerschaum pipes are factitious. The headquarters of the meerschaum pipe industry is at Ruhla in Thuringia, and in connexion with an official inquiry into the German tobacco trade in 1S79 the average production of pipes and pipe adjuncts in that district for several years was ascertained. Of pipe bowls there were made yearly 540,000 genuine meerschaums; 5,400,000 artificial meerschaums; 4,800,000 wooden heads ; 9,600,000 common porcelain bowls (the favourite of the German peasant) ; and 2,700,000 fine clay or lava bowls. Further the trade included 15,000,000 pipe stems or tubes of various materials; 19,200,000 adjuncts, such as flexible tubes, chains, tops, &c. ; 144,000 pipe cases; 9,600,000 mouth-pieces and cigar-holders of amber, horn, meerschaum, wood, &c. ; and finally 15,000,000 complete pipes of various materials. The whole annual value of the industry is estimated at £1,000,000 sterling. The favourite wooden pipe generally known as a briar-wood or briar-root pipe is really made from the roots of the tree heath, Erica arborea (French, bruyère), principally obtained on the hills of the Maremma and taken thence to Leghorn. There the roots are shaped into blocks each suitable for a pipe, the cutting of the wood so as to avoid waste requiring considerable skill. These blocks are simmered in a vat for twelve hours, which gives them the much appreciated yellowish-brown hue of a good " briar-root. " So prepared the blocks are exported for boring and finishing to St Claude (Jura) in France and to Nuremberg, the two rival centres of the wooden pipe trade. (J. PA.)

The above article was written by: James Paton.

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