Period Pipes for Black Powder Shooters


August 22, 2008, 02:15 AM
This may not be considered an appropriate discussion for the forum,and if it is feel free to lock it. However, I am sure there are at least a few pipe smokers here, and what better compliment to blackpowder shooting than a historically accurate pipe? Of course, we should all realize that smoking anything while dealing with black powder is a recipe for disaster. That said, I have done some searching, and haven't really found much info on pipes from those periods in history. All I know is clay pipes are often recovered from civil war sites, but how long is a wodden pipe going to last buried anyhow? Anybody have an other info?

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August 22, 2008, 07:08 AM
I have a wood pipe and case from the 1840's according to the engraving on it. It was presented to a gentleman on his anniversary. I did a on-line search years ago, but couldn't find much on old wood pipes. That may have changed.

August 22, 2008, 07:37 AM
The clay pipes are probally the most common for the period ..Clay pipes came with a long shaft that could be broken off when offering a friend a smoke ..they did this to keep from passing diseases to each other idea ..diseases were takeing a toll .DixieGunWorks sells the clay pipes for a modest price ..I have one in a Civil War Period display I made .

August 22, 2008, 07:38 AM
Um not really sure however.
I would think that a corncob pipe or a clay pipe would be very period.
Again not 100% sure as I am not a pipe smoker I smoke cigars.

August 22, 2008, 07:44 AM
Track of the Wolf has some clay pipes.

August 22, 2008, 08:25 PM
first off here everyone,

the normal pipe for that time period was clay. wood pipes were starting to become mainstream in europe at the time. so i dont doubt an officer of some sort would have a wood pipe. sailors probably a wood pipe.

the "official" ruling in the pipe world is that wood pipes didnt become normally found or mainstream in amercia until the civil war was over. so i say smoke a wood pipe if ya want.
corncob to as well. everybody knows that the missuiri meerschaum company only got started because a gentleman started selling premade corn cob pipes.

Loyalist Dave
August 22, 2008, 09:20 PM
Well it does depend on the period. For the American War for Independence, and prior, a clay pipe with a clay stem, one piece, is correct, on up to the beginning of the 19th century. Clay pipes are documented in the 17th century, following the arrival of tobacco in Europe. (There appears to be some truth to the story that clay pipes appeared as clay was the cheapest material from which to make the pipe, AND with pipes being cheap..., the use of tobacco could then spread, and the market would then expand...., ) Carving wood pipes took time and they cost alot more.

After 1800, clay bowls with reed stems began to appear, as did the use of soapstone for the bowl with a reed stem. Corn cobs of course could've always been used with a reed stem, but you want to convert a realy small corncob pipe to a reed stem to get a correct size bowl (the really large corncob pipes found today are from hybrid corn). As the Civil War approached, the wood and/or briar pipes began to become the norm. Meerschaum also appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, for the very rich.


August 22, 2008, 09:23 PM
Go for the corn cob.

August 23, 2008, 10:59 AM
What a great subject! I too have enjoyed smoking pipes for 20 or so years. If you want to enjoy a good wood (burl) pipe that is somewhat period correct try a Peterson pipe. They are made in Ireland and are relatively inexpensive. I am quite surprised at how many of these pipes I see in western movies...look at what "Angel Eyes" smokes in "The Good The Bad And The Ugly". The Peterson company dates back to 1865 and by 1870 or so the pipes were being imported to the States. Peterson makes the "system" pipe that smokes cool...I have and enjoy several of these pipes.

August 23, 2008, 02:22 PM

corn cobb

though i have never smoked a pipe

.38 Special
August 24, 2008, 10:28 PM
Clays really are the historically accurate pipes, and actually smoke wonderfully as well -- provided you have the right one. Cheap clays meant more for tourists than smokers are made with a slurry and smoke terribly. Pipes made with proper pipe clay tend to smoke delightfully, but they do have their own difficulties. The bowl gets too hot to touch, so must be handled by the stem (there is a special grip!) and all clays are quite fragile, of course.

I am lucky enough to have a couple of pipes from Stephen Bray of Old World Fine Clays, sadly long out of business. They are my finest smoking pipes; better than even my most expensive briars.

4v50 Gary
August 25, 2008, 01:01 AM
Clay pipes for French & Indian, Revolution. They could be shared as men broke off the tip before using it. I don't know when pipes became more personal to people. Check out the paintings in museums.

August 25, 2008, 03:03 AM
Corn cobs of course could've always been used with a reed stem, but you want to convert a realy small corncob pipe to a reed stem to get a correct size bowl (the really large corncob pipes found today are from hybrid corn).

Didn't Missouri Meerschuam have to breed corn with larger cobs because the selective breeding of corn up to that point was to make the smallest cob possible so that the actual corn production would be maximized? If this is true, then what would be the most accurate size for a historic corn cob? Somewhere in between? Also, anybody know where there is any information available on how to make a period accurate corn cob? The modern ones have those plastic stems that can't be accurate. They are great for fishing or some activity where you might easily lose a pipe, but I wouldn't think they are very accurate.

As far as Peterson Pipes go, I am in the process of breaking in a Peterson System Pipe (it smokes better than any pipe I have ever had, hands down). So that is accurate for the later 1800's maybe? Good to know.

Since we are on the subject of historical pipes, we might as well discuss the tobacco that goes in them...

August 25, 2008, 09:50 AM
When I was reinacting, I would take a corn cob and fit it with a reed stem.

Some of the guys used clay stems, usually after it broke of the clay pipe.

I also smoked clays but would make a wood box to store them in.

Both were good smokes.

Remember to hold the clay by the stem, not the bowl.

BattleChimp Potemkin
August 25, 2008, 10:25 AM
For the more "cultured" smoker/shooter, a Hans Christian Anderson is wonderful. It comes with not only the Churchwarden bit, but also a short bit, as well as a military bit holder. Cant go wrong, but the time period may be more Victorian age, rather than Revolutionary.

August 25, 2008, 10:57 AM
Well, smoke what you like and enjoy, however, there probably weren't any aromatics around at the time so I would venture to say that cured virginias were popular and perhaps some english blends. The former are tobaccos without the additives that give aromatics the sweet smell and taste. I prefer an aged virginia which is naturally sweet because it produces it's own sugars when curing.

August 25, 2008, 11:44 AM
I've been an avid pipe smoker for app ox 45 yrs. Clay pipes were a mainstay in Europe before settlers arrived in North America, as they were easily manufactured, inexpensive to produce and essentially cheap enough to be affordable and basically disposable... Tobacco in Europe was horrendously expensive and largely only affordable occasionally to everyday folks. Most wooden, briar, cherry pipes that came on the scene during the early settlements were of traditional ethnic European shapes, of centuries-old design.
Bents of many varieties were preferred choice of those early artisans and craftsmen ie; printers, watchmakers, gunsmths, silversmiths as they were (unlike straight-stem clay pipes) a hands-free design that did could be held in the teeth yet not interfere with on close-up work. A reed or bone-stem cherry pipe would be a good choice for a re-enactor as these were a widely available and often a home made variety.

August 25, 2008, 12:06 PM
They had Perique back then, right? I just discovered that wonderfull stuff.:D

August 25, 2008, 01:29 PM
Too much of that perique makes my hands sweat; then I can't hold my pistols!

August 25, 2008, 01:37 PM
sorry had to do it

.38 Special
August 25, 2008, 09:54 PM
Man's got a point.

Loyalist Dave
August 25, 2008, 10:01 PM
then what would be the most accurate size for a historic corn cob?

Go to the local pipe store, and get one of the small corncob pipes with about a 2" stem...., the kind that are sold for "tobacco use" but we all know what they are really used for...., cut off the wood & plastic stem at the cob, leaving a bit of the glued in wooden stem in the cob. Next, take the awl-blade from a Swiss Army knife (or an exacto knife) and carve out the center of the wooden stem remaining in the cob until the reed stem will fit. Fill, light, smoke.


August 25, 2008, 10:21 PM
The Pipe Forum over at EOTAC would love this topic! I just started smoking a pipe late last year. FAR better tase and aroma, couldn't ditch the cigarrettes fast enough. Two billiards, one bulldog, and a handsome bent apple, love it. Captain Black is OK, but Benjamin Hartwell's Evening Stroll is the best, and based on a very old recipe, might be period correct...

August 25, 2008, 10:29 PM
For Pictures try this site.

English maker of fine pipes.

Livin in Texas

Attachment Manager would not work.:cuss::banghead:

.38 Special
August 25, 2008, 10:30 PM
Captain Black... Like Glocks and blackpowder substitutes... friends don't let friends smoke Captain Black. :neener:

If you simply must smoke an aromatic, McLellan's Captain Cool at least tastes like tobacco. A can of this should prepare you for a "transitional" blend like Frog Morton on the Town, and from there it's a short hop to 965!

August 26, 2008, 12:47 AM
What about osage orange? There are a few pipe makers out there using it to make their pipes.

August 26, 2008, 04:11 PM
Dunhill 965, G. L. Pease Caravan ..Balkan Sobraine (black)..:)


August 26, 2008, 07:25 PM
G.L. Pease...just discovered that stuff.

Loyalist Dave
August 27, 2008, 08:50 AM
NAVY FLAKE, or any other aromatic flake are correct blends and styles for as far back as the Revolution.

You can always carve what you like. Cherry, rosewood, whatever, but most folks used the plain, clay pipe with a long stem as they were very cheap, and the harshness of the tobacco was eased by the cooling distance afforded by the length of the stem.

Check with your local tobacconist, especially if they blend tobacco on site, and ask for straight Virginia, as it's used in many blends...., but often not sold alone. It is an American tobacco without adulterants.


August 27, 2008, 06:35 PM
.38 Special, I live in a small town where the only place that has semi-decent tobacco is Safeway. the two "smoke shops" in this town are actually head shops, and thier pipe tobacco selection is pathetic, cheap garbage.
But I do love Cornell and Deihl 972 with a good beer.

August 28, 2008, 10:22 AM
Clays are pretty fragile. I just looked at those pictures and recall that the last time I smoked a clay church warden, it was cheap. Not anymore.
They advertised them as coming from Devonshire england where the clay was particularly suited for them.

the corncobs I had were fairly unsatisfactory. Maybe I was doing something wrong but the literature suggested they would burn up or go bad after a few smokes.
st james perique was usualy used in small quantities to mix with virginia. Pretty strong stuff. I don't know how long latikea has been around but it's considered a winter smoke. Its cured over cedar fires and smells just like a brush fire. It generally draws a lot of complaints from the peanut gallery.
I had heard that in england it is illegal for some reason or another to flavor the tobaccos. when I was there, I found out that everybody was smoking Irish tobacco that was so heavily purfumed that it tended to get wet and go out. I let a local try out some raleigh aromatic that I brought with me and he considered it way too mild.

August 28, 2008, 10:27 AM
The Clay pipe I ordered from Dixie ..came in a wooden crate type box ..well protected from breakage ...I`ve never thought about givin it a smoke ...maybe I`ll give it a try ...seems like it wasn`t really too expencive ..I think around 12 bucks .

August 28, 2008, 12:49 PM
Call me silly, but I just last night went through a collection of Mathew Bradey American Civil War photos in a book some one gave me.

I oonly found a few pictures of Union soldiers with pipes, 3 or 4, the phot quality being 1860's feild stuff make it hard to make out many details. Very thick cigars seemed about as common in those photos.

I did not see what appeared to be a long stemed clay pipe in any picture. One was a short pipe that looked modern and another seemed to be something like one might see in an old Sherlock Holmes movie.

I followed one of the links on this thread and the site spoke of pipes in late medievel times. What was smoked in those pipes?

My understanding is that tobacco is a new world plant and tobacco before 1492 in Europe would be found right next to the Tomato paste and baked potatos.

As I find other works I have with period photos in them I will keep looking at pipes as this topic is interesting. Perhaps books with studio portrates in them might have some decent photos of men showing off a favorite pipe as well as their military finery.

-Bob Hollingsworth

August 28, 2008, 02:36 PM
late medievel times. What was smoked in those pipes?

If they didn't mean Renaissance, probably canabis sativa.

My father remembers an uncle a few years after the federal narcotics act who used to order some smoking yerb. It smelled like burning rope and he would kind of nod off chuckling to himself.

August 28, 2008, 02:55 PM

August 28, 2008, 04:21 PM
Corn cob and wood pipes are super easy to make. A section of cob or stick with a hole about 1/2" in diameter drilled longitudinally into it about 3/4 of the way through. Another smaller hole of about 1/4" dia. drilled in at a right angle to intercept the larger hole at its bottom. Find an old stick of whatever length you like and work the pith out with a wire. Shape ends into a mouthpiece and the other into a taper to fit the bowl. Once a char is setup on the inside of the bowl they should last for years.

August 28, 2008, 09:09 PM
Clay or home-made wood pipes expose the owner to the risk of being busted for suspected drug paraphernalia should they ever be seen by police. Keeping one in a car glove compartment would be the height of folly. A stop for speeding could turn into a nightmare. Not a chance worth taking.

August 29, 2008, 11:01 AM
Even with my modern well made pipes I get weird looks from co-workers, and the occaisional smirk, about "wacky tobacky", etc. Irritating.
They're far more enjoyable and cheaper than smoking cigarettes.

August 29, 2008, 11:32 AM
We had a pipe smoking deputy here. He was the drug dog guy at the sheriffs department here and kept quite a bit of weed around the house for training purposes. He also liked to smoke it and would mix it with aromatic tobacco so he could do so in public without being detected.
The down side of all this was that the combination of the harsh smoke and the need to actualy enhale it gave him COPD.

He and the drug dog retired together to a rural acreage. One day a former deputy co-worker came by to visit and naturally, their conversation had the word "dope" in it quite frequently. Every time one of them said "dope", the retired drug dog's ears would fly up. Finally, the dog trotted off into the other room and came back proudly carrying a bag of dope.
The visiting deputy said " Dang it! I'm not going to do anything but you need to teach him some new commands."

August 29, 2008, 11:49 AM
Last night I thumbed through "Uniforms of the Civil War" By Robin Smith & Ron Field from Lyon Press 2004 (Paperback) and found a photo of a pair of Union Boys smoking pipes on page 128. Of course there is no way to tell the material of the pipes from the photo, but they are slightly different one having a straight sided bowl and the other a rounded belly on the bowl. Both are of what apears to be a dark material with the begining of the stem the same color, what appears to be a metal band (lighter color) and then a darker stem/ mouth piece. The men are holding the pipes with their mouths and not hands.

THere is a photo on page 187 showing a group of Georgian Corn-fed-erates several of whom are smoking pipes, but between the smoke and the long exposure time/movement the pipes are hard to discribe. One appears straight stimmed and another a bow stem. The picture was ttaken in Macon Ga 10 May 1861.

Before anyone asks, No I do not post pictures from copyrighted material and you will have to look them up yourselves.

If the long stemmed clay pipes from colonial times were more common than more modern pipes in the ACW it seems odd that the few pictures I am finding are of more substantual pipes. On the other hand having a likeness made was a pretty big deal, an event where one might want to impress folks, so a more valuable pipe might be more likely to be seen than a common clay one. The field photos might be somewhat the same as they are almost uniformily staged.

Perhaps some one seeking a Master in history might choose to do an original paper on pipes of the War of Northern Aggression.

It seems that folks I have seen with a recognizable cigar tend to be officers. As pre rolled cigars would be fragile compared to a poke of 'baccy I would imagine them to be a good deal more expensive in the field. One pictured Confederate Company grade officer had a tightly rolled cigar not much greater in diameter than his finger. I wonder if the pictures of Union Field grade officers with very thick stogies might be a result ofthe cigar moving during the takeing of the photo. Or they could be that thick and just a tobacco pacifier, as I call the cigar my Brother in law is chewing on, un lit at any moment.

As a kid I worked in the Shade tobacco business, that is the type of tobacco used to make cigar wrappers before paper made from trash tobacco became common. The smell of an un lit cigar or pipe tobacco is still appealing to me though I do not smoke or chew or dip, or sniff, and don't care fro the smell of burning tobacco.

-Bob Hollingsworth

August 29, 2008, 09:39 PM
I've made clay pipes as a sideline when making pottery. Most were renfair dummies with unreeded stems that could not be smoked, but a few that I made for friends were reportedly good smokes.

I researched them a bit and found that the long-stemmed churchwardens were mostly found in inns, taverns, and eating places. They were loaners, allowing travelers to have a smoke with a meal or a drink, then the end was broken off when the pipe was used next. Some poor folks used the short remaining stub as their regular pipes but most used something else.

Churchwardens were reportedly still used in Civil War times by taverns and retailers but they weren't the carry pipes of field soldiers.

September 4, 2008, 11:00 AM
Many early-modern pipes (1830sish on) were of a military type. A military pipe was a two piece construction. The bowl was one piece and the stem another. The stem had a tapered metal shank that was press fit into the bowl. This allowed the pipe to be broken down for easy transport and there was less chance of snapping off the stem during field manuevers.

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