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Kamis, 23 Juli 2009

THE CLAY PIPE



The 17th Century clay pipe had a very small bowl as Tobacco at that time was a luxury item as tea was when first introduced at almost the same time to Europe and the colonies. In the Elizabethan times clays were quite delicate with graceful thin bowls and long stems. The Dutch redesigned these clays by enlarging the bowl and lengthened the stem. These new pipes came to be known as the Alderman and were introduced by William II around 1700. The Alderman was hastily adopted by the English. This style was graced with a curve to the stem and called "Yard of Clay" or "Churchwarden" as it is still known to this day. By the 18th Century these pipes with larger bowls, the classic long stemmed Alderman or "Tavern Pipes" were among the most common style being made. The working classes, however often preferred a shorter clay.

With time, both the style and the material of pipes changed. In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, clay pipes dominated the scene. Meerschaum, a form of mined clay made of hydrated magnesium silicate, was introduced from Asia Minor, but this material was very fragile and used by only the very wealthiest of smokers.

It was not until the 1850’s, with the influence of Spanish cigars and a sturdier briar pipe that the clay pipe’s popularity began to wan a bit. By this point, the clay pipe was considered appropriate only for the working class. This was by no means the end of the manufacture of clay pipes but now they began to see competition for the first time. A fancy pipe of Briar maybe even with fittings of sterling silver or gold could show ones stature just as a gold pocket watch could. Elaborate cases and other detailing made the personal pipe a treasure. Victorian tastes made a more sophisticated looking pipe a must.

By the 19th Century, Scotland and Ireland were the primary exporters of clay pipes from the UK. During the time of the great famine when waves of Irish and Scots were immigrating to the new world, these pipes had already acquired nicknames. They were often thought to always have a dhudeen, or short-stemmed clay pipe, in their mouths. Also, the Scottish/Irish styles were very recognizable. Dublins and Derries were two common shapes. African-Americans were often seen smoking white clay pipes later dubbed “Negro Pipes" or worse "Nigger Pipes”!

The 19th Century saw hundreds of designs manufactured. Pipes with figures, animals, and all sorts of emblems became common. Delightful and imaginative pipes of every description were being made from molds in Germany, Holland, and the USA as well as the UK the pipe making center of the 19th Century. To some extent racial stereotyping helped the clay pipe fall from favor despite the fact that a cool smoking clay is a superior smoke to almost any expensive briar or even some Meerschaum pipes. Cruel cartoons of Irish drunks and monkey-faced Black people appeared in periodicals like Harpers, and the London Daily News depicting the lowest classes as tobacco fiends and boozers.

By Beth Maxwell Boyle