Sunday, April 29, 2012

Columbus Pipe

The William Demuth Company of New York (WDC) claimed to be the largest meerschaum pipe production company in the United States. 


It exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia with nothing exceptional in pipes, but it commissioned the Columbus pipe for the Columbian Fair in 1893 in Chicago that took two years to make. 

Aerial view of the Columbian Fair, Chicago, 1893

Sailing from Spain arrived replicas of the Pinta, Santa Maria and Niña,

Pinta, Santa Maria, Niña, replicas from Spain. Lying in the North River, New York. The caravels which, crossed from Spain to be present at the World's Fair at Chicago, 1892. Source: Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1912.
Also anchored at the World Fair was a replica of the Gokstad Viking ship,

Inside the main pavilion, stood the massive carved meerschaum pipe commissioned by William Demuth Company.

This pipe depicts Christopher Columbus claiming the new land for the Spanish empire, alongside his shipmates, a priest, and Native Americans [altogether, 21 high- and low-relief-carved figures]. The pipe measures 35.5 inches (89 cm) in length overall, 9 inches (22.5 cm) in height, and 5 inches (12.5 cm) in diameter. A meerschaum coloring bowl with three air holes is carved in the shape of palm fronds. The very ornately crafted, sectional mouthpiece consisting of 8 alternating clear and cloudy amber beaded bands and 5 amber ferrules, is 20 inches (50 cm) in length. 


Why a pipe in honor of this event? 

This exposition was all about commemorating the 400th anniversary of the landing of Columbus, 1492-1893. 

The conceptual idea for this pipe may have been any of a number of artists’ renderings of this explorer coming to America:

- Perhaps Johann Moritz Rugendas’ painting, “Columbus Landing in the New World,” also identified as "Columbus taking possession of the New World" (1855) which is on view at the Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany. 

(Rugendas has been quoted as having said: “I feel this role of interpreter. I worked hard and wanted to be the illustrator of the new lands discovered by Columbus in the New World.");

- or an actual 19th century national banknote described as follows:

"5s.—Columbus introducing America to Europe, Asia, and Africa,—the countries represented by female figures. Columbus discovering America; four men. 5 on right end, Five on left end. Reverse side.—Landing of Columbus and men. Spread eagle on right; arms of the State on left; Five and 5 on each end.";

- or the 12' by 18' painting
The Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn (1775 – 1852)

Self-portrait, John Vanderlyn, 1800

commissioned by Congress in 1836, completed in 1846 and installed in the Capitol Rotunda in 1847,
The Landing of Columbus, John Vanderlyn
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
1846; placed 1847
"My picture in the Rotunda is admitted to be inferior to none, if not superior." The artist stated in 1839, as quoted in Schoonmaker, John Vanderlyn, Artist, 1775-1852; A Biography, 1950  

The painting is described in details on Architect of the Capitol:

"In this painting, Christopher Columbus and members of his crew are shown on a beach in the West Indies, the first landfall of their expedition to find a westward route from Europe to China, Japan, and perhaps unknown lands. On October 12, 1492, they reached this island, which the natives called Guanahani and Columbus named San Salvador.

The setting of the painting is a narrow beach at the edge of a wooded bay or inlet. Columbus, newly landed from his flagship Santa Maria, looks upward as if in reverent gratitude for the safe conclusion of his long voyage. With his left hand he raises the royal banner of Aragon and Castile, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, and with his right he points his sword at the earth. He stands bareheaded, with his feathered hat at his feet, in an expression of humility. 

The other Europeans grouped near Columbus represent various classes of society. Behind Columbus and to his right, the captains of the ships Niña and Pinta carry the banner of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and a friar holds up a metal cross. To his left, a sailor kneels, gazing upward, and a soldier looks warily into the woods, where native West Indians watch the visitors from behind a tree. Farther behind Columbus, a cabin boy kneels and a mutineer bows in a penitent attitude. Throughout the central group soldiers carry spears, and the inspector of armament shoulders a musket. At the left side of the painting, more crew members land a small boat as their comrades display a range of reactions, some seeming jubilant at reaching the shore and others eagerly seeking to pluck gold from the sand.

In the foreground of the scene, a fallen tree and spiky, broad-leafed plants suggest that a new and unknown world begins only a few paces from the explorers’ feet. At the right edge of the painting, the natives blend into the forest of tall deciduous trees. Palm trees can be seen near the water’s edge in the middle distance and along the top of the hill at the horizon. Out on the ocean lie the expedition’s three ships, silhouetted against a rising sun.

The Landing of Columbus (detail)

American neoclassicist painter John Vanderlyn (1775–1852) was commissioned by Congress in June 1836 to paint The Landing of Columbus for the Capitol Rotunda. He worked on this canvas at his studio in Paris with the help of assistants. Upon its completion in the late summer of 1846 he reportedly hoped to exhibit the painting in various principal cities, but by October 3 he had arrived with it in New York, and it was installed in the Rotunda by early January 1847.

The painting has undergone various cleaning, revarnishing, relining, repair, and restoration treatments over a dozen times since its installation. In 1982 the painting was attached to an aluminum panel to help it resist the effects of changes in temperature and humidity. All of the Rotunda paintings were most recently cleaned in 2008.

This painting may be Vanderlyn’s most widely distributed work. In 1869 it appeared on a 15-cent stamp (which, with a brown frame and blue center vignette, was the first bi-color stamp issued by the United States), and in 1893 it was used on a 2-cent stamp among the nation’s first commemorative stamps, the Columbian Exposition Issue. It also appeared on the reverse of a 5-dollar bank note issued in the 1870s.

John Vanderlyn was born at Kingston, New York, on October 18, 1775. He studied under renowned portrait artist Gilbert Stuart and became a protegé of Aaron Burr, who in 1796 sent him for five years’ study in Paris—making him the first American painter to study there rather than in England. Returning to the United States in 1801, he painted portraits and landscapes. Two years later he traveled back to Europe and painted in England, Rome, and Paris, where his painting Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage was awarded a gold medal. In 1815 he resumed his work in America, exhibiting panoramas and painting portraits. His subjects were chiefly prominent Americans, including Robert R. Livingston, James Monroe, John C. Calhoun, George Clinton, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor; his 1834 full-length portrait of George Washington (after Gilbert Stuart) is displayed in the Hall of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol. Landing of Columbus would the last major work of his career, which fell into decline. He died in poverty in Kingston on September 23, 1852."

A similar scene is illustrated on the 15 cents stamp of the famous Pictorial Issue of 1869, released during the first weeks of the Grant administration and the first edition of stamps to depict historical scenes in lieu of the portraits of U.S. Presidents. 

1-cent Franklin, the 6-cent Washington and the 90-cent Lincoln. The other seven denominations contain a variety of images. Three stamps illustrate means of postal transportation: delivery on horseback (2-cent), by locomotive (3-cent) and by steamship (12-cent). Two others present historical tableaux drawn from famous paintings of crucial national events: John Vanderlyn's Landing of Columbus (15-cent) and John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence (24-cent). The remaining values (10-cent and 30-cent) are variants on a patriotic eagle-and-shield design. An innovation no less striking in the 1869 pictorials was the introduction of the first two-color stamps in U. S. postal history, on the four denominations of 15-cents and higher.(wikipedia)

Of this series of ten stamps, two present historical tableaux drawn from famous paintings of events that shaped the nation: the 15 cents after the same John's Vanderlyn's Landing of Columbus; the 21 cents after John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence

The 15-cent 1869 Pictorial Issue stamp frame and lettering engraved by Douglas Ronaldson and inspired by the "Landing of Columbus," by John Vanderlyn.

For the the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, The Post Office issued on Monday, January 2, 1893 a series of 16 stamps depicting Columbus and episodes in his career, ranging in value from 1¢ to $5 (a princely sum in those days). They are considered the first commemorative stamps issued by any country.

1-cent "Columbus in Sight of Land", 2-cents "The Landing of Columbus", 3-cents "Flag Ship of Columbus",4-cents "Fleet of Columbus", 5-cents "Columbus Soliciting Aid of Isabella", 6-cents "Columbus Welcomed at Barcelona", 8-cents "Columbus Restored to Favor", 10-cents "Columbus Presenting Natives", 15-cents "Columbus Announcing His Discovery", 30-cents "Columbus Announcing His Discovery", 50-cents "Columbus Announcing His Discovery", 1$ "Isabella Pledging Her Jewels, 2$ "Columbus in Chains", 3$ "Columbus Describing Third Voyage", 4$ "Isabella and Columbus", 5$ "Columbus"

The American Bank Note Company printed approximately 2,005,216,300 Columbian Exposition stamps, totaling over $40,000,000 in postage face value"

The stamp’s first sheet was printed on November 5, 1892. Postmaster General A.D. Hazen and J. MacDonough, president of the American Bank Note Company, autographed this sheet. Alfred Jones and Charles Skinner engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the frame and lettering. Both the 2-cent Columbian Issue stamp and the 15-cent 1869 Pictorial Issue stamp were inspired by the same painting, "Landing of Columbus," by John Vanderlyn. Douglas Ronaldson engraved the frames for both stamps, with some minor differences. The color used for printing was 'Brown-Violet'. The quantities issued for this stamp total more than a billion, over 70 percent of the total number of Columbian Issue stamps, as it paid the standard letter rate for the time period.

The 4-cents stamp of the Columbus series, entitled "Fleet of Columbus", depicts the Pinta, Santa Maria and Nina,

4-cents "Fleet of Columbus"

From what we have ascertained, only two New York tobacco pipe companies exhibited in Chicago, the F. J. Kaldenberg Company, and the Demuth Company. According to the Official Catalogue, Demuth’s exhibit booths were situated in “Department H. Manufactures, Group 108: Traveling Equipments, Valises, Trunks, Toilet Cases, Fancy Leather Work, Canes, Umbrellas, Parasols, etc.” 

Several catalogs and historical accounts, albums, guides, handbooks, and portfolios were published in conjunction with and soon after the Exposition; in at least one, Herbert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair (1893) a black & white illustration of this pipe is on page 171, and the caption is short and simple, “The Columbus Pipe,” with no accompanying descriptive text.

The only Demuth Company catalog in circulation is dated around 1875, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the company published any information as to the pipe’s background: who, by name, carved the pipe, how it was received at the fair, its disposition after 1893, etc. 

 However, in the early 1900s, the company circulated an advertising postcard promoting its products using the image of the pipe on one side—and the accompanying description, “The Discovery of America by Columbus. Cut from a solid block of Meerschaum. Length, 33 inches.”— and the company’s inverted triangle logo, WDC, on the other side. 

In its 1932 company catalog appeared a full-page illustration of the Columbus pipe and the text “WDC $50,000 Meerschaum Pipe.” 

The French newspaper Dimanche Illustré of March 28, 1935 includes a photo of the pipe, giving a better sense of the over sized nature of this masterpiece,

Entitled "A rather sizable pipe", "the remarkable masterpiece presented to us by this smiling young lady dates back to the seventeenth century (sic) and its value is about 10,000 dollars. It belongs to the William Demuth antique collection in New York and represents, carved in meerschaum, a tableau of the landing of Christopher Columbus on the continent of America".

The pipe appeared in Carl Ehwa, The Book of Pipes & Tobacco (1974),

and both the postcard and the company catalog page are prominently illustrated in Rapaport, Collecting Antique Meerschaums (1999), and in the feature story, “Antique Smoking Pipes,” in the Brandywine River Museum (Chadds Ford, PA) Antique Show 2003 catalog.

The Columbus pipe became the property of the Austrian Tobacco Museum, Vienna, Austria, in late 1991, and was the centerpiece of a celebration to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America in that city in 1992. 

The Austrian Tobacco Museum closed in late 2003, and Schloss Schönbrunn, Schönbrunner Schloss-Strasse, Vienna, assumed responsibility for the storage and preservation of the collection as of January 2005. One of the contractual agreements that the new museum assumed was to eventually create a virtual web site to exhibit the collection, and the materialization of this web site has been slowly evolving. 

One day, the world may, once again, see this magnificent rendering in meerschaum in other venues on the Worldwide Web!

As postscript, we have learned of a second meerschaum pipe, also called the Columbus pipe, that was crafted in Chicago about the same time, that was also meant to celebrate this event, an altogether different configuration.

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