Pipe & Tobacco Trivia

As with just about any subject, there’s a lot of minutiae about pipes and pipe tobaccos. I’m a trivia nut, so I love collecting little details about the items I work with every day. I thought I’d share some with you.

Did you know…

…that meerschaum pipes pre-date briars by about 100 years? The first recorded use of meerschaum for pipe was in the 1720s, and the first briar pipes showed up in the 1820s. By the mid-1800s, briars took over the bulk of the market.

…there are two pipe manufacturers from two different countries that share a common ancestry? Chacom, from St. Claude, France, was formed by members of the Chapuis and Comoy families (the Chacom name is a combination of the names). Henri Comoy left France to establish the Comoy brand in England.

…the most common stains for briar pipes are made using leather dye?

…that the “sand” used for sandblasting pipes usually consists of glass beads, crushed nut shells or metal particles?

…that the term “broken pipe”, which refers to a pipe smoker who has passed on, dates back to when taverns used to keep clay pipes for their patrons? Each person had a spot that his or her pipe was kept in. When visiting, they would take their pipe to enjoy some tobacco while having a drink, and the tobacco was often supplied by the tavern. When a patron died, the tavern owner would remove his or her pipe from the rack, snap the stem and replace it and the space would never be used again.

…that Cavendish is not a tobacco, but a process? In fact, a Cavendish can be made of any type of tobacco.

…that Latakia is not a tobacco as well, but, again, is a process? In Syria, where Latakia is no longer being produced, it was made by smoking a tobacco called Shek-el-Bint over wood and herb fires. In Cyprus, a Turkish varietal called Smyrna is used.

…that Perique was originally made in hollowed logs using stones for pressing?

…that some early pipe tobaccos were not only smoked by sailors, but they would chew them, as well?

…that feathers were used as early pipe cleaners?

…that virtually all tobaccos currently used commercially, regardless of the strain, fall into the nicotiana tabacum category?

…that pipes with wide-open airways (which have become very popular in recent years) aren’t a new thing at all? Corn cob pipes have used a large airway for over 100 years.

…that Missouri Meerschaum began making pipes 145 years ago, but Sutliff Tobacco Company had already been in business 20 years at that time, and Samuel Gawith has been in operation for 222 years?

…that the CORPS Pipe Expo, held annually in Richmond, Virginia each October, is the longest continuously-running pipe show?  The Expo celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

I’ll make some notes for another raft of trivia soon.


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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.