Dating colonial pipes
As “tobacco drinking” (which was the term used for early European smoking) became more popular, the pipe makers began searching for a better plastic medium to use for molding these implements.
At that time, the people of China had been making ceramic dinnerware for hundreds if not thousands of years and were using white clay named for the Chinese region where it was dug. Sometime after AD 1600, a French Jesuit missionary living in China, sent samples of white Chinese made porcelain plates and bowls back to Europe.
Quarterly Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Virginia 20(4):86-102.
1977 Clay Tobacco-Pipes, with Particular Reference to the Bristol Industry.
Impressed into clay tobacco pipes are bits of data that have fueled endless research avenues since the earliest days of archaeology on historic sites excavated on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
This crowdsourced database focuses on just one bit the remains of the marks of the pipe maker or a preferred symbol permanently affixed to the product.
Oswald (19) provides a few important caveats when embarking on a study of pipe makers marks. This included nearly 99 percent of pipes manufactured in the early 17th century, though this estimate diminishes to about 40 percent of all pipes in the 19th century.
And even if your pipe bears a complete mark, identification can be difficult to impossible because of the redundancy of pipe makers initials and the incomplete nature of pipe manufacture lists.
We ask that if you have a nearly complete bowl from which a type can be determined, to use the Oswald 1975 typology, but there is also a field to record reference to another typology, should you prefer. The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe, edited by Peter Davey, BAR International Series, 13 volumes 1979-1994.
In 1698, the English reported that more than 300,000 molded pipes, many if not most of which were probably made of kaolin clay, were exported to the Americas with the Dutch most likely sending at least that many.
Add to that the pipes sent from Belgium, Germany, France and Ireland, as well as the ones made in Virginia, and the quantity of these clay pipes being used in the North America was becoming immense.
Those inventive people decided they could make smoking devices for their personal use, which they did, and later made more to send back to the New World for trade and to sell. There is much unknown information about just when and where the first clay smoking pipes were molded in Europe and in America.
In 1573, William Harrison wrote about molded pipes in his book GREAT ENGLISH CHRONOLOGIE.
Oswalds (198-207) publication remains the most comprehensive compilation of pipe makers in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.