In Praise of Missouri Meerschaum

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
This morning I’ve smoked several of my stash of Missouri Meerschaum pipes and I think I take the lowly cob pipe for granted.

They have only two drawbacks.

The first is they look like Granny and Jed on the Beverley Hillbillies and I went to college so I could afford to smoke nice briar pipes. So, don’t smoke em’ around company, and that drawback is moot.

The other drawback is they don’t taste like briar pipes. The answer to that is a cob pipe will sweeten a burley and mute a strong Virginia. Red wine doesn’t taste like white wine, either. It’s different, than briar not worse than briar. Every cob is a cool, sweet smoker, and no other pipe is sweeter or cooler.

The advantages of a Missouri Meerschaum are many.

There’s not much “estate market” for a dead man’s cobs, because new ones are so cheap. I buy all my cob pipes new and forget what they cost the next week.

Missouri Meerschaum has perfect quality control. There are no bad ones, no disappointments. If they need repair glue them back together.

Ancient Algerian briar is the second best heat insulator. Cobs do not get hot.

If you sit and study one there is no way on earth you or anyone else could possibly fashion a better one.Every MM pipe is a hillbilly Dunhill or Castello, the very top of it’s kind.

Fifty years ago I burned my first Missouri Meerschaum up in a few moths but not one since. With just minimal care and rest and rotation a $5- $15 Missouri Meerschaum is a lifetime purchase.

If you forget and leave one someplace you can either buy a new one, and nobody will steal your cob if you go back looking for it.

My only regret about a Missouri Meerschaum is I have so many and rotate them among my other pipes I’ve never had one build a cake. I wish I had one with a cake, to prove they will cake.

I don’t see why a cob just doesn’t burn up like kindling anyway.

But I’ll try to be more grateful for the ones I have now.
 
Last edited:

didimauw

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 28, 2013
9,963
31,839
34
Burlington WI
This morning I’ve smoked several of my stash of Missouri Meerschaum pipes and I think I take the lowly cob pipe for granted.

They have only two drawbacks.

The first is they look like Granny and Jed on the Beverley Hillbillies and I went to college so I could afford to smoke nice briar pipes. So, don’t smoke em’ around company, and that drawback is moot.

The other drawback is they don’t taste like briar pipes. The answer to that is a cob pipe will sweeten a burley and mute a strong Virginia. Red wine doesn’t taste like white wine, either. It’s different, than briar not worse than briar. Every cob is a cool, sweet smoker, and no other pipe is sweeter or cooler.

The advantages of a Missouri Meerschaum are many.

There’s not much “estate market” for a dead man’s cobs, because new ones are so cheap. I buy all my cob pipes new and forget what they cost the next week.

Missouri Meerschaum has perfect quality control. There are no bad ones, no disappointments. If they need repair glue them back together.

Ancient Algerian briar is the second best heat insulator. Cobs do not get hot.

If you sit and study one there is no way on earth you or anyone else could possibly fashion a better one.Every MM pipe is a hillbilly Dunhill or Castello, the very top of it’s kind.

Fifty years ago I burned my first Missouri Meerschaum up in a few moths but not one since. With just minimal care and rest and rotation a $5- $15 Missouri Meerschaum is a lifetime purchase.

If you forget and leave one someplace you can either buy a new one, and nobody will steal your cob if you go back looking for it.

My only regret about a Missouri Meerschaum is I have so many and rotate them among my other pipes I’ve never had one build a cake. I wish I had one with a cake, to prove they will cake.

I don’t see why a cob just doesn’t burn up like kindling anyway.

But I’ll try to be more grateful for the ones I have now.
We want pictures.

I love cake
IMG_20190412_130329.jpg

And I'd be devastated if I lost my Legend...
PXL_20230206_061901297.MP.jpg
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
The year after my father died I wanted to make my own corn cob pipe and my own cigar box fiddle.

The best old time fiddle player I knew dissuaded me from the cigar box fiddle project by playing the fiddle I’d been given by the widow of an old time fiddler, named C L Christian. Geezus. I own an equal fiddle to any in the New York Philharmonic. I needed to learn to play it, and never have.

And Harry Hosterman told me that I could never equal a sixty five cent cob pipe from the grocery store. He’d tried.

But I went to the corn crib and found several of the largest cobs there, which had to be from a crop two years old because we’d sold the last corn crop in 1971. There were some large unshelled ears and I shelled those.

The hardest part of making a cob is finding a stem. In 1972 there were still bamboo fishing poles sold and I found just the right size section to accept a Dr Grabow filter. A little work with some drills and Elmer’s glue and I had a pipe.

My pipe sucked compared to the store bought pipes for looks. My chamber was not much bigger around than a pencil.

But I took it with me squirrel hunting and opened a new pouch of Half and Half and my home made pipe added the sweetest taste to my favorite tobacco I’d experienced to date. I didn’t need the filter, even.

The only porcupine I’ve ever seen ambled up, and I shooed him away.

My pipe smoked sweet as a nut for the one pouch of Half and Half it took to burn it out.

I still had the stem so I tried another, same story.

Since then I’ve let Missouri Meerscaum make them for me.:)
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,822
30,991
71
Sydney, Australia
The best old time fiddle player I knew dissuaded me from the cigar box fiddle project by playing the fiddle I’d been given by the widow of an old time fiddler, named C L Christian. Geezus. I own an equal fiddle to any in the New York Philharmonic.
Really ?

There were times when I was driving my first car, a Honda Civic, and thinking I was in a drop head Bentley coupe.
And then I’d wake up :cry:
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
Really ?

There were times when I was driving my first car, a Honda Civic, and thinking I was in a drop head Bentley coupe.
And then I’d wake up :cry:

C L Christian was a railroad engineer in Harrison Arkansas for about forty years before he retired to rent my grandmother’s home for $30 a month, in 1960.

How a common man came into possession of a hundred dollar grade fiddle involves a race riot and a strike and his wife Evelyn paying their last twenty dollar gold piece so another family could escape north to the safety of Missouri.

This thread wouldn’t last a second.:)


You cannot imagine the stories of high balling trains and railroad bulls and hoboes and lynchings and always a tune at the end when Evelyn brought the fiddle in to Chris.

I only saw him drunk in front of me one time, and that one time was enough. My father had him move.

Chris still had whiskey bottles hid out in the barn I knew about, until a storm brought the barn down a couple of years ago.

When he died in 1968 of cirrhosis of the liver, Evelyn brought me his $100 fiddle in a sack.

It’s not a Strad.

But it was a high dollar violin.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
One of the last competitors to Missouri Meerschaum, if not the last major one, was H & B in Washington

Beautiful Vintage H&B (Hirschl & Bendheim factory 1904-1978) Straight Saddle Bit Stem Corn Cob Pipe - Likely from the 1970's - In Original New Unsmoked Great Condition - Accepts 6mm Filters - A SUPER RARE FIND!!!​


IMG_6718.jpeg

Missouri Meerscaum kept selling the brands they bought out for years, and perhaps the last one was H & B’s Irvin S Cobb model. Walgreens carried these until about thirty years ago.

They inserted a red hot plug in the pipe to toast it and break it in.

IMG_6715.jpeg

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Toasting and polishing used to be an option on the Freehand, perhaps other models.

If Missouri Meerschaum wants to make a new model they have over a hundred and fifty years of records in the museum to consult.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
When I spent most of a day in the MM factory about twenty five years ago the manager dug this Whangee out and sold it to me for ten dollars along with a fascinating story.

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Missouri Meerschaum and its competitors offered different sizes and grades of pipes from the start, and the best bamboo for a pipe came from one certain place in mainland China.

The loss of China to the communists in 1948 put a large dent in supplies.

But Missouri Meerschaum had such excellent political connections among the war hawks (they supplied Gen Douglas MacAurthur) Congress put bamboo from the Yangtze valley on the free list and exempted it from embargo, years before Nixon went to China.

In their museum is all this preserved Congressional Record of Senators arguing how the economic well being of Missouri depended on continued inports of Chinese bamboo.

I asked the manager if that cost the company very much, and he said they sent a lot of pipes to politicians as exhibits to help in the effort.

My Whangee is the full Monte, with plug in bottom and Patriot spooled top and deluxe stem and it’s toasted and polished, and the last of the real Chinese bamboo.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
With quality there is basic, good, very good and superlative

I enjoy your stories and reminisces.
But having a story attached DOES NOT transmutate a lump of coal into the Hope diamond

That day I spent about 1998 is just priceless, and I wish I could remember more of the manager’s stories.

He said the Whangee was popular for fly fisherman to complement their bamboo fly rods. It was always a low volume special, what he called a “show off” pipe.

IMG_6724.jpeg

The museum was just crammed with odd and unusual “show off” pipes, and the manager said he got the most requests to reissue the “Radio”.

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He showed me why remaking a Radio was something he could do, but it would be expensive.

IMG_6731.jpeg

They’d have to source the highest grade of second growth Arkansas hickory and turn that down to reinforce a cob shank.

Even in the late nineties high grade hickory hammer handle blanks were scarce.

And the stems would require a supplier make a mould just for the Radio.

He said if he had an order for enough Radio pipes he’d love to make a run, but at the price he’d need he thought it doubtful.

They all smoke the same.

How bad do you want to show off your pipe to your buddies?
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
More trivia about Missouri Meerschaum

All the entire world’s supply of high quality cobs are raised on one 150 acre field and harvested by an antique mechanical corn picker. They plant more than they need to safeguard against a crop failure. The factory can hold many years worth of cobs, which must age at least two years.

The seeds are cross pollinated from four varieties of corn to make large, tough, close grained (smaller kernels) cobs.

Originally hickory or imported bamboo, the shank dowels are now boxwood.

The printing on the shanks was to simulate bamboo, not a corn cob.

Traditionally, the workers are paid minimum wage and did not punch time clocks and could come or go as they pleased, and they will never do one thing they don’t want to do. Quality control is beyond fanatical. (This is a Missouri thing, you wouldn’t understand.:) )

Hours are usually 7 to 3:30. Unless they aren’t.



The machines and the carts used are well over a century old. The cobs come in the back and progress in stations, to the front.

If you stand and watch then made you’ll buy a General or Country Gentlemen or Diplomat. Only the best and largest cobs are used for those.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
Do they use the kernels for anything? Can’t imagine it’s as tasty as sweet corn but I’d assume it could work for livestock feed.

The typical yields today on the endless miles of fertile corn fields you’ll see driving to Washington is well over 200 bushels an acre. The little 150 acre field of Missouri Meerschaum likely doesn’t yield 50 bushels an acre of cattle feed. The corn there is bred only to produce big cobs.

Today the cash price of corn is only $4.32 a bushel.

The value of the shelled corn isn’t much but it’s fed to livestock and not wasted.

On all the other hundreds of miles of cornfields along the Missouri all the cobs are ground up and returned to the fields.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,835
13,901
Humansville Missouri
I've never had luck with them. They smoke great for me but I burn through them pretty quick. Won't buy them now on principle.

I burned up my very first 65 cent Missouri Meerschaum Legend in 1972 in just a few months. I was smoking too fast.

The challenge of making a good cob pipe has always been that dried corn cobs are so flammable they were good kindling to start fires.

The other farm use of cobs was toilet paper, seriously.

The smokers who can get a cob to cake are sloooow puffers.:)
 
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