Corncob pipes may seem like something only Frosty the Snowman would enjoy, but for one company, it’s a craft that is enjoyed year-round. Missouri Meerschaum Company has been making corncob pipes for 147 years. Its goal is simple: It wants to produce a great smoking pipe at a price that anyone can afford. It has over 20 different models for pipe smokers to choose from that are perfect for the pipe enthusiasts who want to add some new pipes to their collection at an affordable rate.
Missouri Meerschaum Company is located in Washington, Missouri, which is considered by many to be the corncob pipe capital of the world. In the past, Washington was home to five different companies that produced corncob pipes. Today, only one remains: Missouri Meerschaum Company. Its history dates back to 1869 when Dutch immigrant woodworker Henry Tibbe received some corncobs from a local farmer who asked him to turn them into pipes. Tibbe did such a great job that he continued to make corncob pipes in his shop and began to sell them. They were a hot item and sold fast, quickly outpacing his other woodworks. It didn’t take long before Tibbe was making corncob pipes full time.
“Meerschaum” is a German word meaning “sea foam.” It is also a type of Turkish clay used in high-grade pipes. He compared his light, porous pipes and their cool smoke to more expensive meerschaum pipes, going so far as to name them Missouri Meerschaum. Tibbe and a chemist created an innovative process of applying a plaster-based substance to the outside of each corncob pipe bowl and later patented it in 1878. In 1907, H. Tibbe & Son Co. became the Missouri Meerschaum Company.
Phil Morgan, general manager of Missouri Meerschaum Company, has seen an uptick in the popularity of corncob pipes over the past few years. “I attribute it to two phenomena. First, to the advent of social media and its wide acceptance and use by young people. Once a young person discovers something new that appeals to them—in this case, pipe smoking—they share the experience with their friends,” said Morgan. “Second, to the growing interest by young people to societal conventions of the past. This can be seen not just in the case of pipe smoking but the tendency of young men to grow beards and in the adoption of some clothing fads of the past.”
Today, the third floor of the Missouri Meerschaum Company factory is filled with nothing but corncobs grown in Franklin County, Missouri. The cobs do start off with corn on them, but the corn is shucked and sold before the cobs are stored in the factory. About 3,000 pipes per day are made at the factory and shipped all over the world. The process of making a cob pipe hasn’t changed in over a century, making Missouri Meerschaum Company and its pipes a fascinating piece of living history. Missouri Meerschaum Company’s cob pipes are shipped all over the world, often viewed as souvenirs or given as business gifts with a name of a city, business or event inscribed on them. See all of Missouri Meerschaum’s handcrafted pipes at corncobpipe.com
Interview with Phil Morgan, general manager of Missouri Meerschaum Company
Cigars & Leisure: How would you describe the modern-day pipe smoker?
Phil Morgan: The modern-day pipe smoker could be described by a wide range of age and style-related adjectives, from grandfatherly and well-dressed to collegiate and surf-attired. In between these two groups are many other descriptions: biker, professor, farmer, lawyers, and many others. When you attend a pipe smoker gathering, you will find people from all walks of life, with commonality of enjoying the hobby of pipe smoking.
What’s one huge misconception people have about pipes and pipe smoking?
The biggest misconception is that the hobby is only about smoking. The hobby is mostly about camaraderie and friendship that is developed with fellow pipe smokers.
Tell us about the pipes offered by Missouri Meerschaum.
We offer a wide range of pipe sizes that accommodate different tobacco styles and smoking times. We strive to provide excellent customer service, ranging from help on how to smoke a pipe to replacement of a defective pipe.
What’s one thing pipe smokers should learn or know about before getting into pipe smoking?
Simply how to pack a pipe, how to light a pipe, and the need to smoke slowly. If you learn these things, you will enjoy the hobby of pipe smoking for the rest of your life.
Do you have any predications for what’s to come in the pipe smoking world?
With the FDA regulations covering both pipe tobacco and pipes themselves, it is hard to make a prediction about anything new. There is already an enormous variety of both pipes and pipe tobacco available. My hope is that the renewed interest in the old and venerable hobby of pipe smoking continues so that more and more people can enjoy the friendship and camaraderie of the pipe smoking community.
Country Gentleman Corn Cob Pipe
This pipe’s large, barrel-shaped bowl with dark stained coating gives it a unique appearance. Available in both straight and bent bits and also in a two-pipe gift set.
Diplomat Corn Cob Pipe
One of Missouri Meerschaum’s popular larger, filtered pipe designs. Available in two bowl shapes—the oval-shaped Apple and the tall, cylindrical 5th Avenue.
Freehand Corn Cob Pipe
A true work of art. This premium pipe features a deep, cone-shaped rusticated bowl with a dark stain coating. The Freehand is available in uncoated Natural White cob finish and can be given as a gift on a plaque for the discerning pipe collector.