The Corn Pipe

July 9th Celebrates - The Corn Pipe

Washington, Missouri has long been known as the “Corn Cob Pipe Capital of the World.” And, in fact, The Missouri Meerschaum Company the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of cool, sweet-smelling corn cob pipes began the tradition for which Washington became famous.

How did this all happen you might be thinking?

On July 9th 1878, Henry Tibbe a Dutch immigrant woodworker had patented his design of the first corn pipe.

Legend has it that a local farmer whittled a pipe out of corn cob and liked it so much he asked Henry Tibbe to try turning some on his lathe. Because the farmer was well-pleased with the results, Henry made and sold a few more in his woodworking shop.

Tibbe’s pipes proved to be such a fast selling item; he soon spent more time making pipes for customers than working with wood, and began full time production of corn cob pipes.

In 1907 the H. Tibbe & Son Co. became the Missouri Meerschaum Company. The word “meerschaum” is derived from a German word meaning “sea foam.”

Meerschaum is Turkish type clay used in high grade pipes. Tibbe likened his light, porous pipes and their cool smoke to that of the more expensive meerschaum pipes and coined the name “Missouri Meerschaum” for his pipes.

Tibbe and a chemist friend devised an innovative system of applying a plaster-based substance to the outside of the corn cob bowls.

Between the turn of the century and 1925, there were a dozen or so corn cob pipe companies in Franklin County, MO, but most were near the Missouri River in Washington.

If you never been to Missouri today’s YouTube video is pleasant little slide show of the town called Washington, where the corn cob was invented, brought to you by user name Exploring with George. The first part of the video shows you the three story building of the Meerschaum Company.

In 1978 it was bought by an industries company out of Indiana, and then sold to John and Geraldine Brandenburger.

Finally, in 1988, Meerschaum Company was purchased by its present day owners. Today, they employ 35 loyal souls who work in the building on Front Street.

One woman worked well into her nineties, until her own family requested that she retire. And as for Phil Morgan the current face of the company, he came out of retirement to manage Meerschaum solely out of his love for the business and the art of pipe-making.

Throughout history we’ve had some famous corn pipe smokers, who made their puff in history. One of which was Douglas MacArthur, the publicity-conscious general personally fashioned his signature look that included his ornate hat, aviator sunglasses and corncob pipe.

A long-time cigarette smoker, MacArthur provided the Missouri Meerschaum Company with precise specifications for the deep-bowled, long-stemmed pipe that he used as a distinctive prop during public appearances.

How’s that for smoke filled room of information?

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell

J.D Mitchell Design Studio


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