WE REVIVE THE OLD WORLD CHARM
“CALABASH PIPES ”
Calabash Gourd is one of the first plants cultivated by early humans in Africa continent.
The large hollow chamber allows for the smoke to swirl round and cool before being smoked. This combined with a Meerschaum makes for a cool and dry smoke. The inner chamber also collects any other moisture and keeps the tobacco dry in the bowl. The large meerschaum bowl is removable and allowing the pipe to be taken apart to completely dry out and remove and debris.
The Calabash pipe offers the coolest and driest smoke available so thanks to the mixture of all these materials.
Long before German and Englishman will settle in South Africa, native tribes were growing a kind of “gourd” (squash) with a very hard shell they used to make all kinds of household utensils and various containers.
When European traders discovered this land and making their tobacco, they introduced the smoking habit among the natives. It was natural that after a while they end up using pumpkins to make their own pipes. To avoid burns they covered it inside the dried fruit with clay and fixed a hollow stem to the tip. It was the beginning of Calabash pipe
At the end of the Boer War, in which many British officers took part, including Winston Churchill, they were brought to Europe by the victorious English and shape and finish adapted to meet the requirements of the aristocratic class. The Calabash became famous and its price had tripled. The first signs of real export in the English market date back to 1903 and has not stopped since.
“Calabash pipes made from the imported South African gourds are the hope of smokers for the future; they have been the fashion in England for some time and are coming into vogue in America. Meerschaum deposits are becoming exhausted, but pipes made from the imported gourds are almost as expensive, and seem to be as satisfactory.” (Guy Elliot Mitchell, “To Grow Your Own Meerschaum,” The Technical World Magazine, Vol. XIII, No.1, March 1910, 440) “The Calabash pipe gives every promise of becoming as fashionable with smokers in South Africa as the corn cob is in America, with the additional recommendation that the Calabash is a pipe that lasts, and which smokers take as much delight in colouring as used to be the case with the meerschaum.” (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, 1907, 300)
“Smokers who have used the calabash pipe agree that it gives a special softness of flavor that pipes of no other material offer. I believe this to be so, and that the demand for such a pipe in the American market would be very large. The calabash should be grown in the United States …. The life of one of these pipes is about that of a French briar-wood pipe. The usual lining is plaster of Paris, called by the trade meerschaum. (“CALABASH PIPES. A Practical Smokers’ Novelty From Africa,” Monthly Consular and Trade Reports, No. 313, Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Manufactures, October 1906, 211)
“I found the ‘South African Gourd pipe’ spoken of as being in extraordinary demand in England, so much so that the stocks in the market had run very, very low, but at the present time regular consignments of genuine Calabash pods (so-called) were arriving apparently in the raw state, as the pipes are said to be ‘hand finished’ in this country …. Smokers who have used the Calabash pipe agree that it gives a special softness of flavour that pipes of no other material offer. I believe this to be so, and that the demand for such a pipe in the American market would be very large. ” (John R. Jackson, “A Pipe Plant,” The Gardeners Chronicle. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture and Allied Subjects, Volume XLI—Third Series, January to June 1907, March 2, 1907, 134)
“A British soldier, so the story goes, had broken his pet brier, and all that remained of it was the hard rubber mouthpiece. While crossing a field one day he stepped on a calabash gourd, which the South African natives feed when green to cattle, and noticed that the crook of the stem resembled his pipe. Picking the gourd he cleaned out the inside, fitted his mouthpiece to it, and the first calabash pipe was born.” (“The History of the Calabash Pipe,” The Bulletin of Pharmacy. A Live Magazine for Druggists, Volume XXVI—January to December 1912, 79)
“A well made calabash pipe will appeal to the discriminating pipe smoker, as possessing much of the valued characteristics of the long German pipe, but in a much more convenient form. The bowl occupies but a small part of the hollow neck and the remainder of the space forms a receptacle below the bowl that answers the same purpose as the lower bowl of the German pipe in keeping juices from entering the stem, and it allows the smoke to cool.” (“Calabash Pipes,” The Spatula. An Illustrated Magazine for Pharmacists, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Oct. 1911, 12)
MINING THE MEERSCHAUM
Everything is “handmade” in our meerschaum business
This video hasn’t intended to tell the whole story of mining one of the most valuable mineral on the World and the people who work in this business. It will give you a clue of why your meerschaum calabash pipe would deserve a bit more of your affection.
“There is no doubt that the industry of colouring meerschaum pipes was, and probably is still, thriving in Paris. I remember, when living in one of the streets surrounding the Palais-Royal, to have seen opposite the house in which I lived a man, with his window open, smoking all day long and all the year round curiously elaborated meerschaum pipes. I met him one day, and could not help asking him how he could resist such inhalation of nicotine. He told me he was a professional ‘meerschaum colourer’ for the account of Madame Hubert, an extensive pipe-dealer in the neighbourhood. He was paid a yearly salary of 1500 francs, and supplied gratis with tobacco.” (“Very Like ‘Smoke,’” Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter-Communication for Literary Men, Readers, Etc., Fourth Series. Volume Third, June 12, 1869, 567)
“The mineral [meerschaum] is principally used however as a material for tobacco pipes, which, when made, are soaked in melted tallow, then in white wax, and finally polished with shave-grass. If genuine, a meerschaum pipe acquires a beautiful brown colour after being smoked for some time, the oil of the tobacco being absorbed by the clay; and this is a point to which connoisseurs in smoking attach much importance.” (“MEERSCHAUM PIPES,” Charles Knight, Knight’s Cyclopædia of the Industry of All Nations, 1851, 1187)
“The manufacture of the spurious article is extensive, Paris leading lately in the newer imitations. To produce the yellow and brown colors, so much admired in the real meerschaum pipe, and which come only after they are smoked some time, the blocks are long kept in a mixture of wax and fatty matter. These are in part absorbed, and afterward, being acted on by the heat from the tobacco, the meerschaum assumes various shades of colors.” (Thomas C. Macmillan [ed.], The Inter Ocean Curiosity Shop for the Year 1880, 1881, 160)
“‘The foam of the sea,’ or if you choose, the ‘scum’ of the sea, is the meaning of the name which poetical Germans gave to this singular substance before English science stepped in and called it ‘soapstone.’ Forty years ago it was not much known in England; now, combined with amber, it is in the mouth of half the lawyers’ clerks in London. It is a wondrous vehicle for tobacco; better even than the root of the bruyère or wooden pipe, which is made of the root of the Mediterranean heath, but the name of which has been vulgarized into ‘briar-root,’ and is derived, after all, from the Welsh ‘brwg,’ heather.” (Henry Kingsley, Ravenshoe, 1899, 313)
“There are devotees of the meerschaum; but it is not every one who will undertake such a responsibility. Its humours and its delicacy become oppressive; it is not to be touched with the hand or smoked out-of-doors, nor too near the fire nor to be knocked out, or otherwise roughly treated; nor smoked too fast or too slow. And then, with all our care, we find some happy-go-lucky individual, apparently the especial favourite of the Goddess of the Weed, who does all these forbidden things, and still gets his pipe to a state of perfection which the more painstaking person attains but in his dreams. There is something distinctly irrational in a meerschaum pipe; we may wax it, plug it, humour it in every possible way, and yet it will not go right; and then, when we set at defiance all the canons that the collected wisdom of meerschaum smokers has formed, it will assume such colour and brilliancy as to be the marvel of all beholders.” (“What the Man With The Briarwood Says,” in John Bain Jr., Tobacco Leaves, 1903, 181–182)
“Every person who goes to Genoa invests in this filigree work and in a meerschaum pipe or two; for the Genoese turn out pipes that are downright works of art. The making of meerschaum pipes is not dissimilar from the work of carving pieces of statuary from blocks of alabaster.” (M.J. Carrigan, Life and Reminiscences of Hon. James Emmitt: As Revised by Himself, 1888, 476)
“The first meerschaum pipes with short stems (where the amber joins) were made by a Mr. Saltiel, an enterprising young pipe carver of Vienna, and exhibited in London in the year 1855 at the first world’s exhibition. The wealthy classes of the entire world, through this, overwhelmed him with so many orders that he found himself too suddenly rich and he became insane.
“The first meerschaum pipe made in the United States was carved by Charles Pollak, in New York City, in 1860, from a block which Rev. Dr. Tyng, of Brooklyn, New York, brought from Turkey.
“He exhibited at the American Institute in New York an immense and beautifully carved pipe representing Washington and his generals, which attracted a great deal of attention.” (Francis Elder, “What is Meerschaum?”, The Dietetic and Hygienic Gazette, Volume XIX, 1903, 555) (I suspect that this is the same Francis Elder of Francis Elder & Co., 175 Randolph St., Chicago, Ill. Importers and Manufacturers of Pipes and Canes, a Midwest retailer of WDC pipes; this recently discovered bit of revelatory news, while not refuting what we already know, sheds additional light on this topic not encountered previously.)
“The ease with which meerschaum can be carved, its whiteness, and the fine polish it takes with wax render it especially suitable for elaborate carving and artistic treatment in the manufacture of pipes. Meerschaum pipes are prized for the rich cream-brown or brown color which the bowl assumes after being smoked a while. This color is caused by the mixture of the nicotine from the tobacco with the wax used in polishing the pipe, permeating through the mineral. As long as there is absorbed wax in the meerschaum the color of the pipe will grow darker and nearly black with continued smoking. It is, therefore, necessary to ‘fix the color’ of the pipe when the proper shade is obtained. Though the principle employed is the removal of the wax and boiling in linseed oil to harden the mineral and render it less porous, there are trade secrets in the process which the writer is not at liberty to divulge.” (Douglas B. Sterrett, “Meerschaum in New Mexico,” Contributions to Economic Geology 1907, Part I—Metals and Nonmetals, Except Fuels, Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Bulletin 340, 1908, 467)
“Although the fracture is earthy, and rarely conchoidal, still the state of aggregation of pure meerschaum is very variable, as is proved by the marked difference in the specific gravity. Some kinds sink in water, others float on its surface; and these qualities are, in the estimation of the pipe-maker, indicative of different values, for he rejects both the very heavy and the very light, and prefers the medium density.” (Lewis Feuchtwanger, A Popular Treatise on Gems, 1859, 358)
This one tops them all for total inaccuracy, particularly because of the source and the date of publication. “Meerschaum is composed of the shells of countless small shell-animals, finely compressed together by Nature after million of years underground.” (International Correspondence Schools, Better Pipe Salesmanship, Unit II. What You Should Know About Pipes and Tobaccos, 1947, 28)