Golden Age of Pipe Making

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mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
6,214
4,984
Near Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I think there has probably always been a mix of great pipes, good pipes, and bad pipes. The only difference is that the consumer has access to them all. Once upon a time you could only buy the pipes your local B&M had, or were advertised in the bag of a magazine. Now we are flooded with every kind of pipe from all over.

When people assign the term 'golden age' they are colouring it with nostalgia.
 

Seamaster

Member
Sep 16, 2020
189
918
Scotland
I think there has probably always been a mix of great pipes, good pipes, and bad pipes. The only difference is that the consumer has access to them all. Once upon a time you could only buy the pipes your local B&M had, or were advertised in the bag of a magazine. Now we are flooded with every kind of pipe from all over. When people assign the term 'golden age' they are colouring it with nostalgia.
I concur.

High end — artisan — we've never had it so good; the internet has made low volume, high margin crafts viable in a way they never were before.

Low end — factory — we've never had it so good; sure there may be fewer manufacturers, but the internet has allowed the ones that have survived to offer a range of pipes to the whole world way beyond the paltry selection half-heartedly punted by your local tobacconist.
 

condorlover1

Preferred Member
Dec 22, 2013
4,916
6,876
New York
Plain meerschaum pipes were in my opinion of far superior quality in the past. I could enumerate the reasons but I have done so before on this forum on many occasions. Anything made before WW1 and even up to the very early 20's is far better quality than available today. Maybe it's due to the meerschaum 'curing' or the fact that someone has done the work of breaking the pipe in for you. I don't know but to quote that the line from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley ......"The past is a foreign country".
 

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cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
21,424
10,967
Helena, Alabama
It really is amazing how many individual carvers we have now. I don't think in the early 20th century anyone would have predicted that people would turn it into an artform.
It would be similar to people in the future starting to build cell phones from scratch and sell them out of their garages.. we wouldn't have ever guessed that it would happen.
 
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cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
21,424
10,967
Helena, Alabama
Also, think about availability... we talk a lot about tobacco that was available and when... Pipes being made when and such... but at no other time could we just log into a website and order this stuff. Before malls stretched from shore to shore and Tinderboxes made tobacco and pipes available, you had to live near a city. Sure, there were a lot more people smoking pipes in the early 20th century, but think about how they would have gotten their tobaccos or pipes, and what would have been available and where. Most people never travelled beyond their small corner of the world before car culture, so local grown tobaccos and whatever could be distributed were the only ones available back then. There were mail order companies, but I have no idea how widespread this was, and i imagine these were distributed in the ads of magazines, but I really doubt there was an equivalent to smokingpipes.com in mail order form.
So... right now, we are the first of those who can order a GH&co blend, a Stokkebye blend, and several other corporate tobaccos and pipes from as many different makers in one place like we do. Our great grandfathers may have had more people to hang out with and smoke pipes, but they probably all smoked the same blends all the time, because it was what was available. Granger men, Prince Albert men, etc... And, they definitely didn't have cellars like we do today. They may have had a box of Prince Albert, but that was because they didn't have a way to get into the city that often, so they'd buy grosses at a time.

So, my vote goes to this being the Golden Age.
 

F4RM3R

Member
Nov 28, 2019
290
904
34
Canada
I think the master pipemakers of the past had to put in alot more work to have their work very well known. It's alot easier now to put yourself and pipes "out there".

That being said, I think the level of standard for a factory pipe has gone up(aside from the cheap knockoff crap), with knowledge of good pipe engineering or mechanics more widely known or available. I've seen alot of old factory pipes with very poor designs or engineering in regards to airflow. But I don't really buy new factory factory pipes, or any new pipes for that matter. So it's just a guess.
 
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edger

Preferred Member
Dec 9, 2016
502
2,160
71
Mayer AZ
Plain meerschaum pipes were in my opinion of far superior quality in the past. I could enumerate the reasons but I have done so before on this forum on many occasions. Anything made before WW1 and even up to the very early 20's is far better quality than available today. Maybe it's due to the meerschaum 'curing' or the fact that someone has done the work of breaking the pipe in for you. I don't know but to quote that the line from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley ......"The past is a foreign country".
I only have one mediocre Meer but I love the quote!
 
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edger

Preferred Member
Dec 9, 2016
502
2,160
71
Mayer AZ
Plain meerschaum pipes were in my opinion of far superior quality in the past. I could enumerate the reasons but I have done so before on this forum on many occasions. Anything made before WW1 and even up to the very early 20's is far better quality than available today. Maybe it's due to the meerschaum 'curing' or the fact that someone has done the work of breaking the pipe in for you. I don't know but to quote that the line from The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley ......"The past is a foreign country".
Aside from the philosophical import of the quote, I wish more of us were willing to “travel” to that foreign country via history books. History wouldn’ t need to repeat it’s worst moments so often. One can hope, anyway.
 
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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
31,977
18,890
sable' makes a good point that factory pipes require and required a high level of craftsmanship, and people in the shop have and had immense practice in fulfilling the assigned designs. So it isn't like factory pipes are turned out by robots without taste or judgement. It's a bit like reading the ancient philosophers and finding out how smart they were. They didn't have the scientific and technical world we have today, but some of their ideas are as penetrating today as they were a millennium or two ago. So progress is not a categorical status. We lose something as we gain something, in many cases.
 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
11,563
7,717
I think there has probably always been a mix of great pipes, good pipes, and bad pipes. The only difference is that the consumer has access to them all. Once upon a time you could only buy the pipes your local B&M had, or were advertised in the bag of a magazine. Now we are flooded with every kind of pipe from all over.

When people assign the term 'golden age' they are colouring it with nostalgia.
I agree. Plenty of mediocre pipes and tobaccos were produced in the 19th and 20th centuries. The evidence exists primarily in old advertisements, catalogues, and other printed material. But most of the crap has long become compost, while the better made stuff has survived, probably because it wqs better cared for. So we have a somewhat inaccurate understanding of the marketplaces of that time.
 

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