Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carved Wood Pipe (Louis XV period)


Pipe, carved wood, Louis XV period, Paris, France. 10 1/2 h.

Head of African type man with jade decorating stones in copper settings and trim, and painted in red and green, eyes are ivory; markings, 'Pipe Enseigne du Marchand de Tabac Au Nabab Paris Epoque Louis XV' on slip of paper attached to bottom of pipe;

A handwritten note in French attached to the bottom of this pipe makes it likely that this pipe was used in a tobacconist’s store, called, “Au Nabab.”

Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum


Monday, January 30, 2012

Jungfrau Maple Pipe

 Wood, a very ubiquitous material available around the world. Before the introduction of briar (ca. 1850), as a pipe, starting at various ateliers in St.-Claude, France, and then to Germany, England and the USA, myriad woods were used in making tobacco pipes, depending on where the pipes were produced. Historical records indicate that as many as 25-30 assorted woods were engaged, many of which did not withstand the flame of fire or the heat of the tobacco within; those woods included everything from acacia to walnut. As to formats, nothing in design and configuration was out of bounds in Europe starting with the very first pipes of early 18th century through to the middle of the 19th century. Wood pipes from Africa and South America are another story altogether. The pipes from these two continents defy easy or general classification. 

This complete pipe is also attributed to Jungfrau of Sweden. Dramatically and ornately carved, this 26"-long commemorative pipe in maple supposedly depicts King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden leading his troops into the Battle of Breitenfelt, north of Leipzig, in 1631. There is at least one strike, "A5," that equates to the year 1855 in Swedish dating code, and the Jungfrau accent of a lion on the wind cover. As well, there is a tobacco jar in the Motala Museum with this same bas-relief-carved motif that is confidently attributed to her. 

(Dr. Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kaldenberg Prize Pipe Paris Exhibition of 1867

The Kaldenberg Company of New York City was one of the largest American manufacturing facilities of meerschaum pipes and cheroot holders in competition with the William Demuth Company (WDC), and smaller establishments in the City and in New York state: August G. Fischer, Carl Kutschera, I. Hamburger, and Gustav Stehr.

When this company was awarded prizes at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 the following appeared in the news: Kaldenberg “...over all others, by the American Institute... having been acknowledged the best makers in this country of meerschaum pipes, holders, etc.” (The Round Table, No. 154–Vol. VII, January 4, 1868, 13).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Silver & Ivory Tiffany Pipe

Heide purchased this silver and ivory gem in 1914 in Reading, Pennsylvania. Made by Tiffany of New York in 1890, it was a gift from the Lord Chief Justice of England, Richard Everard Webster, to Jacob M. Gordin, a Russian-Jewish playwright living in America. This elegant 8" pipe became part of the Martin Friedman Collection in 1978.

(Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Japanese kiseru

In our opinion, however distasteful might be lighting up tobacco in an all-metal pipe, the consummate art form in metal pipes is the kisuru, a very uniquely designed tobacco pipe from Japan, The most common style is a simple, three-part pipe consisting of a mouthpiece and bowl of metal, and in between, a connector of bamboo or other wood; the premier examples are those of all metal, known as nobe-kiseru. The metal-working techniques are many and varied, using copper, silver, gold, damascene, pewter and assorted alloys, dictated either by the artist or the prospective owner. Subject matter depicted on a large majority of these kiseru included divine beasts (real and imagined), mythical demons, monsters, and demigods, flora, particularly bamboo, pine and plum blossoms, entomological symbols, ichthyological symbols, and landscapes.

Today, finding a kiseru exhibiting the quality of the one depicted here is a rare feat; finding a skilled Japanese artisan to duplicate this finery is a yet more rare feat. On close inspection, the viewer should be able to appreciate the delicate, precision craftsmanship of chiseling, engraving, encrustation, surfacing, and applying accents and adornment to these utensils of smoke by skilled artisans long ago. One can read in various sources that the kiseru is an opium pipe; nothing could be further from the truth! It was always a pipe for tobacco.

Japanese kiseru, 11 5/8” l., 1 1/2” h., depicting a metal dragon, black and red, Signature on the mouthpiece, silver and coral and coral ball (the sign of a mandarin who would wear the same type of ball, as a button on his cap).

From the James Lee Dick collection. Kiseru pipes are an Asian variation on the smoking pipe that has been around since the sixteenth century. The small bowl size can be deceiving in that a small ball of fine-grained tobacco can last a long time in these small bowls. The substantial amount of decoration on this pipe indicates that it was originally owned by somebody within the social elite of Japanese society.

(Courtesy of the Colorado Springs, Colorado, Pioneers Museum)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Calmady Children Porcelain Pipe

Often, in pipes, art imitates art. This is a portrait of the Calmady Children (Emily, 1818–?1906, and Laura Anne, 1820–1894) painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence (English, Bristol 1769–1830 London), oil on canvas, 1823.

Emily and Laura Anne were the children of Charles Calmady of Langdon Court in Devonshire. Their portrait—shown at the Royal Academy, and engraved under the title Nature—was one of Lawrence's most popular works. This portrait now resides in the (New York) Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And here's the proof (see preceding illustration) that art in the virtual world can imitate art in the utilitarian world of smoking pipes! The likenesses are uncanny. The portrait was copied in exacting detail, indicating that this artist who replicated this painting was not a paint-by-the-numbers hired hand of a pipe manufactory. He was a school-trained professional!

(Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection)

Zulu Horn Pipe - South Africa

Used for the inhalation of hemp, water was poured into this horn pipe. The mouth would extend over the top of the horn to obtain a deep inhalation.

Used on special occasions, as with the taking of snuff and tobacco, smoking was a means of communicating with ancestors.

The shape, natural coloration and elegant carving create a beautiful form. The pipe is carved with classic amasumpa decoration.

Good condition, ceramic bowl lacking. Old collection marking on side.

Late 19th century
L: 16"
ex. UK private collection

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ivory pipe Dieppe, France

"In the Eighteenth Century, Dieppe sculptors already rivaled, in ivory, the minutest details of the best lace makers. One distinct pipe which evolved was a majestic pipe made entirely of ivory with intricate perforations, rococco and serpentine scrolls intertwined with grape and leaf foliates surrounding the bust of some mythological female in ornate headress and lace collar; at the base the head of a griffon or other such allegorical winged beast."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Jasperware (also written as Jasper Ware), remains the most popular product line of household wares and decorative arts from the Josiah Wedgwood factory founded in 1759 at Burslem, Staffordshire, England. Jasperware is a high-fired, creamy-white, fine-grained unglazed ceramic with added metal oxides stained in various colors, the most popular being "Wedgwood Blue." Then, pre-molded, white, bas-relief motifs are appliqued to the surface; the countless motifs include the classical and neo-classical, foliage, flowers, crowns, chariots, scrolls, etc. Pipe bowls were probably considered as miscellanea or sundries, and to accompany these occasional bowls, Josiah's factory also produced ashtrays, tobacco containers, cigar humidors, and lighter bases. It is believed that pipe collectors own more of these smokers' utensils than do the most devoted collectors of Wedgwood/Jasperware.

As an aside, there is no record that Wedgwood ever manufactured pipe stems or mouthpieces. Those components to make a complete and functional pipe were produced by other artisans. Hence, to a smoker or collector, any stem that complements and fits the bowl can be used.

This Jasperware pipe bowl is of the more common configuration. The lower section is the reservoir (or drain plug). Note the matching acanthus leaf decor on the pipe rest, known as a sled.

(From the Dr. Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pasha Porcelain Pipe

A most unusual pipe bowl, a full-figured pasha or emir dressed in haute couture, the caftan accented by appliqued gilt buttons, 6" h., late 19th C., prob. French. 

(Courtesy of the Sarunas Peckus Collection)

For more exceptional porcelain pipes check out our Porcelain Pipe Album.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Big Boy" Effigy Pipe

Ceremonial flint clay polished pipe, Spiro Mount site, Le Flore County, Oklahoma.
A.D. 1350 to A.D. 1450, 11" h., 9" w., weight 11 lbs 8oz

This is the piece from Spiro once popularly known as “Big Boy.” The object is a male figure, naked except for a fur/feather cloak on back and four strings of beads around the neck. He wears a flat round cap set forward on the head. The cap is a flat tablet with rolled round brim and containing a copper plate. There are two maskette ear-ornaments. The hair is in a knot at the back of the head. There is a strap from the hat on both sides of the head which winds around the top knot. There are five vertical collar rolls at the nape of the neck. A rope necklace drops from the nape of the neck.

There are two pipe orifices on the back, on which is blackened. The top pipe orifice begins approximately 2 cm from the nape of the neck bands. The figure has a cloak of 28 feathers or animal skins on the back. Hands rest on the knees with legs crossed.

A long thick plait of hair extends from the cap in a roll to tie at the top of a smooth section at the bottom. The left eye is smaller than the right. Ochre was rubbed on the cloak area and a black substance is evident in strands around the neck above the pipe orifice.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Museum Collections.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gambier Clay Pipe - Diane de Poitiers

Clay head of Diana of Poitiers (1499-1566) , a French noblewoman and a prominent courtier at the courts of kings Francois I and Henry II of France.

This was a showpiece to be exhibited in a shop window. It is the work of Gambier, the most famous clay pipe-maker of the nineteenth century.

For more clay pipe photos, check out the Tobacco Pipe Artistory Clay Pipes Album on Facebook.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ulm’s Ulmer: The Über-Pipe

Ben Rapaport


Personally, I get great satisfaction in a story told, a case argued, a puzzle untangled. This is one of those occasions. As a student of pipe history, I have a theory that the earliest tobacco pipes of wood, clay, porcelain, and meerschaum that originated in one country were eventually either wholly adopted, i.e., replicated, or were adapted, i.e., slightly modified in shape or style, in neighboring countries. Sure, there were the expected individual, regional or national alterations that each craftsman applied to pipes to exhibit his unique skills or the ever-so-slight changes in a pipe’s format to suit his clients’ tastes. But there are always exceptions to every rule, right?

In the recorded annals of pipe history, few configurations or mediums are singularly distinctive or unique enough to be considered stellar contributions to pipe art. In my opinion, to qualify, such pipes must be archetypes or they must meet certain criteria; that is, formats that have not been produced elsewhere, formats that are, stylistically, one-of-a-kind, formats that, today, are considered a nation’s symbolic offering to the pantheon of pipes. Of all the tobacco pipes—every conceivable shape, size, and substance from around the globe—made for smoking tobacco, I strongly believe that only four warrant this special designation: (1) France’s Dieppe ivory pipe; (2) Japan’s kiseru; (3) Great Britain’s Jasperware (Wedgwood)pipe bowls; and (4) Germany’s Ulmer pipe, hereinafter identified as the Ulmer. A knowledgeable museum curator, antiques appraiser, or pipe collector in any of these respective countries would respond that, today, their particular pipe is the pride of their nation. Why? They were not ubiquitous; they were dirt-cheap to buy in their day, but their market values have soared of late; they are beloved by many, but they’re surely not everyone’s favorites; and, most important, they are endangered treasures that should rightfully be the preserve of national museums and archives, not the stuff of public auctions, antiques fairs, boot sales, and flea markets. 

Yet I would be remiss if I did not give honorable mention to China that, some would argue, ought to be the fifth member of this special coterie. Her countrymen invented two utensils in two distinct formats to ingest smoke: the water pipe and the opium pipe. However unique their respective designs, both pipes were used for chandu, the black pill, Chinese molasses, dried latex, that treacle-like substance known by so many other street names. The poppy is a member of the family of Papaveraceae, not the family of Solaneceae within which is the genus, Nicotiana. Furthermore, of late, shoddy Oriental reproductions of both have infested the West, so they do not qualify based on the aforementioned criteria, and neither pipe, however strikingly handsome, is a player in this essay. (And, as an aside, a few pipe collectors might argue that England’s colorful blown-glass pipes [from Bristol and Nailsea] should rightfully be considered a member of this elite group, but I would reason that these are not in the same league, because they were whimsies, not tobacco pipes; others might be less complimentary and call them Imperial kitsch or schlock.)

I had previously written about the kiseru and the Dieppe pipe in Pipes & Tobaccos magazine, and about Jasperware pipe bowls in CIGAR magazine, but the reader need not be familiar with these three pipes to appreciate the Ulmer pipe whose development is detailed in this essay. The Ulmer is somewhat misunderstood, yet it has much appeal to not only antique pipe collectors, but also to those who like it, because they like tobacco pipes made of any wood. Strange, indeed, that so little has been published about what I consider the über-pipe of all wood pipes, a true design original. I am always searching for documentation that sheds light on or provides a better understanding of a pipe’s past, but following the Ulmer’s trail—in any language—has been rather bleak, finding a tidbit rather than a trove. Two publications, a slim pamphlet (Adolph Häberle, Die berühmten Ulmer Maserpfeifenköpfe in ihrer kultur- und wirtschaftsgeschichtlichen Bedeutung [1950]), and an illustrated collector’s guide (Anton Manger, Die berühmten Ulmer Maserpfeifen. Geschichtliches und Kulturgeschichtliches über die Pfeifenherstellung in Ulm mit über 130 Abbildungen [1998]), are the sum total of German literary output. Incidentally, I visited Herr Manger in 2001, and I was overwhelmed by what I saw. He had already amassed an outstanding collection of more than 100 different specimens and, as he reminds me in our frequent e-mail exchanges, he’s still hunting for more. In my considered view, Manger is der Mann mit the most-est, the Meister of the Maserpfeifenkopf …Europe’s King of the Kloben (kloben is explained later). 

Dale Harrison in “Back to Basics: A journey through the jargon of the pipe,” Pipes& Tobaccos, Winter2008, advised: “Unusual pipe styles with equally unusual monikers, such as the Ulmer, can be especially mysterious for those new to pipes.” Well, I am outing the Ulmer so that it’s no longer a mystery to subscribers of this magazine. I mentioned it in passing in “Un-Briars” Pipes & Tobaccos, Spring 2001. Now it’s time to tell a more complete story, or rather, as complete as one can; it is not, by any means, a deep-dive report as have been some of my past contributions to P&T. What follows, dear reader, has not been mined from www.ulmer.com!


If the conversation is about gothic architecture, the city of Ulm enters the discussion, because its cathedral has the highest church spire in the world. If the conversation is about complex musical instruments in Europe, Ulm is center-stage, because its cathedral has the largest organ in the country—6,564 pipes—according to published reports. Historic Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, situated on the Danube River near the mouth of the Iller River, founded in the mid-9th century, thrived as a medieval trading and textile manufacturing center and, according to the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911, is “famous for its vegetables (especially asparagus), barley, beer, pipe-bowls and sweet cakes (Ulmer Zuckerbrot).”
(Parenthetically, Ulm is famous for at least one more thing: the iconic pipe-smoker Albert Einstein was born in that city in 1879. And, here’s a bit of coincidental trivia: since 1995, Christopher Ulmer is the plant manager of Killinger Pfeifen, Freiberg, Germany, a company that manufactures organ pipes and reeds.)

Helen Zimmern said this about her visit to this city (“Ulm,” The English Illustrated Magazine, 1885–1886): “…in respect of wood-carving, [Ulm] may claim to stand first in all Germany.” Then she volunteered, “The introduction of machinery has interfered with its ancient trade of spinning, and of all its former specialties it only retains that in carved wooden pipe-heads of the huge type familiar in representations of the typical German, and known as ‘Ulm-heads’.”  She added: “In the tower [of the cathedral of Ulm], too, is kept a typical ‘Ulm-head,’ the largest tobacco-pipe ever made…” (Could this have been, perhaps, a private hidey-hole for a pipe-smoking priest?) Whether a Zimmern fact or fiction, it is more than coincidental that a corroborative comment (of sorts) mentioning this same (cathedral’s) “Ulm-head” is found in “Traditions Relating to Ulm Cathedral” (The American Architect and Building News, Volume XIX, January–June, 1886), a trade journal: “Tradition telleth that a student from Tübingen once smoked it empty after a steady pull of nine hours.”

The Ulmer was also celebrated in fiction. Here is Berthold Auerbach, Aloys (1877): “But the most distinguished mark of a grown-up lad is the tobacco pipe. So there they stood with their speckled Ulm bowls, silver-mounted and hung with silver chains.” And this from his “The Pipe of War” (R. H. and Elizabeth Stoddard, Readings and Recitations from Modern Authors, 1884):

He had the finest pipe in the village; and we must regard it more closely, as it is destined to play an important part in this history. The head was of Ulm manufacture, marbleized so that you might fancy the strangest figures looking at it. The lid was of silver, shaped like a helmet, and so bright that you could see your face in it and that twice over,—once upside-down and once right side up. At the lower edge also, as well as at the stock, the head was tipped with silver. A double silver chain served as the cord, and secured the short stem as well as the long, crooked, many-jointed mouthpiece. Was not that a splendid pipe?

And this quatrain from “The Last Postillion” by German poet and novelist Joseph Victor von Scheffel (1826–1886) that I am ill-equipped to decipher: “On yellow coat in moonlight cold, Thurn Taxis’ buttons shine: He smokes tobacco ages old, From Ulm pipe brown and fine.” Finally, the impression from someone traveling through Ulm who, by the choice of words, must have seen an Ulmer in use (A Professional Gentleman [pseud.], “A Six Weeks’ Tour on the Continent” [1828], a book review in The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. for the Year 1828): “A pipe, the tube of which would answer for a cudgel, and whose bowl is as big as a breakfast-cup, seldom leaves the mouth of the owner.”


Ulm is that singular place where the Ulmer, locally identified as Ulmer Maserholzpfeife (mottled wood pipe), or Ulmer Kloben (lump or block), was designed and first fabricated. In that Spring 2001 P&T article, I reported that maserholz was the German word for “any type of veined, streaked, speckled, gnarled, burred, knotted, mottled or grained bird’s-eye wood” that was used to make a pipe. All other tobacco pipes produced in that town that exhibited any of these visible surface characteristics were simply identified as Ulmer Holzpfeifen (Ulmer wood pipes). Other wood pipes produced in Central Europe took on various configurations, some similar, others markedly different from the Ulmer, and were collectively called Ungarnpfeife, or Hungarian-style pipes; the three most popular configurations were the Debrecen (a city in Hungary), the Kalmasch (stylistically similar to a chibouk, shaped like a kettle, cauldron, or inverted bell), and the Ragoczy (believed to have been named after a prince of Transylvania).

The Ulmer’s design has been dated to 1733 and attributed to a certain wood turner, Johann Jakob Glöckle (alternatively spelled Glöckler or Göcklen):

“Joh. Jakob Glöckle, ein Weber feines Handwerks (6. März 1702, gest. 3. Juli 1785), begann um 1733 Kleinigkeiten aus Holz zu schnitzeln und geriet dabei auch auf Rauchtabaks-pfeifenköpfe aus Masern. Dies der Ursprung der in Ulm Glöckles-Köpf, im Ausland „Ulmer-Köpf” genannten Pfeifen” (K. Statistischen Landesamt, Beschreibung des Oberamts Ulm, Stuttgart, Zweiter Band, 1897, 338)

Joh. Jakob Glöckle, a weaver of fine handcrafts (born March 6, 1702, died July 3, 1785), began around 1733 to carve trifles out of wood and, thereby, also prospered with tobacco-smoking pipes heads from veined wood. This became the origin in Ulm of the Glöckles-Head, and in foreign countries, the so-called Ulmer-Head.

Here is what has also been reported: “Das sehr gute Gewerbe wurde 1733 von dem Ulmer Weber Jak. Glöcklen gegründet, dessen Pfeifenköpfe sehr gesucht wurden” (Beschreibung des Oberamts Ulm, 1836, 95). (The very good trade was founded by Jak. Glöcklen of Ulm in 1733, whose pipe heads are very much sought after.)  One hundred years later, Wolfgang Merkle in Gewerbe und Handel der Stadt Ulm (1988), called him “Der Begründer des Ulmer Pfeifenmacherhandwerks” (literally, the Originator of Ulm Pipemaker Handcrafts). Or, as another historian put it:

...Johann Jakob Glöckle, hatte 1733 eine besonders schöne Pfeife, die Ulmer Maserpfeife, kreiert, die schnell über die Grenzen Ulms hinaus Verbreitung fand. Der Pfeifenkopf wurde aus Wurzelholz ausgesuchter Bäume und Sträucher, wie u.a. Ahorn und Walnussbaum, hergestellt.” (Hans Eugen Specker, Ulm in 19. Jahrhundert (1990, 114).

...[I]n 1733, Johann Jakob Glöckle had created an especially beautiful pipe, the Ulmer veined wood pipe, that quickly circulated beyond the borders of Ulm. The pipe head was fabricated out of root wood, selected trees and shrubs, such as maple and walnut.  

Greater fame, however, was garnered by another carver, Johann Jakob Gmünder, who advertised in the local press as a “Tabaks-Pfeiffen-Köpfe-Fabrikant in Ulm.”

The Ulmer was later manufactured in at least one other German town, Schwäbisch-Gmünd, but, wherever produced, this distinctive configuration would continue to be attributed to Ulm and to Glöckle. The scope of production is unknown, because there was no pipe maker’s guild and, factually, the earliest Ulm wood turners carved pipes when they needed to supplement their income. By 1789, about 20 Ulmer pipe makers were actively engaged in that city; the number increased to around 45 makers, 1797–1812. Starting with Glöckle’s prototype and for the next 120 years or so, the Ulmer was extremely popular among pipe smokers, but then the Ulmer was supplanted at about the middle of the 19th century by the increasingly-popular porcelain pipe, the surge in meerschaum pipe production, and the acceptance of a new innovation, the cigar, as an alternative mode of smoking. According to archival information, in 1870, only two Ulmer pipe smiths were active in Germany.


Ulm-heads, pipe-heads, pipe-bowls—whatever the local argot may have been—this pipe is, without doubt, one of the hardest to describe in easy-to-understand, comprehensible words and phrases; it’s a challenge in any language. I’ll prove it.

Ernst Voges, Tobacco Encyclopedia (1984) expounds on the Ulmer:

…from Ulm in South Germany, characterized by a large, fashioned bowl and neck mad from a single piece of wood and joined together till about 2/3 of the way up. The walls of this piece were thin, and the top of the bowl and the neck on a level. The bowl was normally fitted with a helmet-shaped or domed lid, which was often decorated with punched work. The shank was attached to a long stem, which was frequently inlaid or fitted with marquetry. The Ulm pipe industry, which started around the year 1700, was famous throughout Europe for the quality of its products. In particular the wood, which was a yellow boxwood with a beautiful finish, was widely prized. 

This is not quite the whole story, but, after all, it’s generic information written for the tobacco trade, not for the pipe aficionado. The Ulmer has been described as being round-shaped and resembling a flask; and this is not exaggerated, in that some Germans slangily call the Ulmer “wassersack” (water bag). The Pijpenkabinet (Netherlands) Web site has this definition: “Quite renowned is the production place Ulm, where the famous Maserholz Pfeife was made, showing a bowl that is flattened on both sides, giving the pipe its particular silhouette.” That’s helpful, but it’s not very detailed. David Wright (The Pipe Companion. A Connoisseur’s Guide [2000]) had a handle on it: “One of the more popular wooden-pipe shapes was the Ulm. A flat U-shaped pipe rounded and wide at the mid-section enabling it to be carried in the smoker’s pocket, the Ulm originated in Germany.” Recently, an Internet seller of a 1960s-era Sven Knudsen briar, a so-called Dantonian Hungarian (Dantonian Pipe Works), tried to explain the Ulmer with similar difficulty: “The Hungarian shape has its origins in the 18th century ‘Ulmer’ pipe, with its tall, cylindrical bowl, and stout shank joined to the rear of the bowl and rising steeply to meet a curved bit that rises considerably higher that than the rim. The deep bend allows the large bowl to hang comfortably in the mouth without tiring the jaw, because the deep bend provides the required leverage.” Still slightly confused?

Next, I turn to Ferenc Levárdy, Our Pipe-Smoking Forebears (1994):

By about 1840 one-hundred and fourteen kinds of Ulm pipes are mentioned…The fundamental characteristic feature of the Ulm pipe was its well-shaped, compact, enclosed mass-form. Two basic types can be differentiated:

1) The head runs into the disk-like water-bag and from there the curved pipe neck is dynamically formed. Both the head and the neck organically coexist with the round mass-form that protrudes slightly from the basic disc.

2) This forms a rounded-off rectangle by connecting the vertical pipe head and neck—also vertical—to the horizontal waterbag. The form becomes ever more compact: nothing but the rim of the head and neck protrudes from the basic form.

This description is somewhat stilted, yet I frequently rely on Levárdy’s opus for insights that only a European pipe historian would know. This next passage from him is illustrative:

An ‘Ulm Pipe’ is not determined either in terms of place of production nor by strict delineations of period, such as a particular year. It is rather a well-defined form which became popular not only in the immediate environs of Ulm but also much further afield, in the Bavarian, Swiss and Austrian Alps and especially in the Tyrol where it was imitated. It was more than simply a functional object: it was a status symbol, a representative indicator of the prosperity of its owner, a member of the wealthy bourgeois society.”

And in this, he is right on: the true Ulmer is a shape, not a specific wood, because many assorted woods were engaged. The bowl left the maker’s workbench in various sizes, from diminutive to extra-large (known as “Riesenpfeifenkopf,” giant pipe head). The Ulmer bowl always contained a thin tin lining (blechfutter). The bowls were made by one set of specialists, the stem made by another skilled group; then the two components were matched and married. The very earliest bowls were plain, and the very earliest stems, explained later, were quite short.

There were Ulmer wood bowl “one-offs,” one identified as a Delphin (dolphin) or griffon (griffin or gryphon) style that was also an Ulm design concept, and it is historically linked to the original Ulmer, although Manger, in his lengthy treatment of both the pipe and pipe carvers, makes no mention of this strikingly attractive format. Little is known about the origin, intent, or fascination with the Delphin—it is not a mammal native to Germany—but its name is best explained by the fact that there is a dolphin carved into the bowl. Levárdy opines:

The pipes from the eighteenth century with the dolphin-griffin-lion feature form a distinct group. The stem extrudes from the wide-open mouth of the dolphin, while the body is the water bag and its tail, to a greater or lesser extent, embraces the bowl, which is decorated either with a griffin with outstretched wings or with a shield in an ornamental frame, supported by lions and containing some identification of the owner: his monogram, or then emblem of his guild, or the family’s coat of arms. Frequently the dominant ornament is an eagle pressed against the bowl. The shared presence of the dolphin and eagle is reminiscent of baroque iconography: the dolphin and the eagle are respectively symbolic of water and air. 
            (Courtesy of The Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection. Photography by Darius Peckus)

The other one-off is an unusual specimen, the “Doppelpfeife,” an Ulmer configured with twin, side-by-side bowls intended, I guess, to coalesce the taste and aroma of two different pipe tobaccos. Some say that the contemporary Oom Paul pipe is also an Ulmer “one-off.” I’ll defer to others to take on that design argument.
                               (Courtesy of The Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection. Photography by Darius Peckus)


Wood was a favorite material of German (and French) pipe makers. Carvers gravitated to hard woods such as walnut, cherry, rosewood, and maple, but they didn’t just use any piece that was lying around. When a tree was felled with its wood intended for a pipe, the wood was drained of its sap, dried for several years, and then boiled or steamed. For whatever reason, the Ulmer was singled out for attention in print and was associated with those woods ideally suited for its fabrication. Turners used hard woods for various articles, and “the roots furnish the well known Ulmer pipe-heads, so much prized in Germany” (Martin’s Natural History, 1874). And here’s an observation from Peter Hanelt, editor of Mansfield’s Encyclopedia of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops (2001). Referring to field maple: “The wood is suitable for turnery and carving (tobacco pipes: Ulmer pipes).” If the printed word of Cope’s Tobacco Plant is the gospel, in the August 1880 issue, the article, “Pipe Woods,” offered a “tolerably complete list”: 36 different woods! And I quote from that very article: “The Walnut Tree.—The roots and the stem-ends of walnut trees which have grown on stony, thin, and sterile ground, can be converted into pipe heads, which from smoking grow blackish in the course of time, and as ‘Ulm pipes’ enjoy great favour.”

Levárdy reports: “A German handbook enumerates twenty-seven kinds of trees that can be used for pipe-making, giving for each one reason or another.” How many woods were engaged in the production of the Ulmer? What has been noted in assorted references is that the most frequently employed were alder, ash, birch, boxwood, buckthorn, cherry, elm, hazel, juniper, maple, rootwood, rosewood, sycamore, walnut, white poplar, wild pear. From this lengthy list it can be concluded that pipe carvers experimented with just about every tree that was native and some that were imported. Interestingly, there is the relatively rare Ulmer in ebony wood that is occasionally encountered.


Initially plain or slick bowls evolved into decorative bowls with appliquéd silver ornaments, or were deeply incised with scenes of hunters, deer, wild game, and bucolic mountain panoramas. Levárdy comments: “At first, carving and figural, ornamental decoration took but a minor role, only becoming fashionable in the nineteenth century… However, the greatest embellishment of the true Ulm pipe was the use of well-selected and carefully-worked wood with quality, durable polishing.” The pipe maker worked in synchrony with silversmiths who crafted the fittings. As time passed, ornate, high-dome silver wind covers, assorted silver ornaments appliquéd to the bowls, and long, and silver retaining chains were added nuances that became standard fare. As to the high-domed wind cover, another standard feature of every Ulmer, the following observation is from Liebaert and Maya (The Illustrated History of the Pipe): “The covers [on the Ulmer] had the advantage of slowing down combustion, offering protection from wind and rain if smoked outdoors and acting as a fire protection measure. Only pipes with covers were allowed in the Bavarian forests where smoking was normally forbidden at the time.”
                   (Courtesy of The Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection. Photography by Darius Peckus)

By necessity, these small factories enlisted the services of horn turners. Stems, at first, were short, often of antler or bone, and were terminated in a turned horn mouthpiece that angled away from the bowl. Levárdy adds:

Especial practical common sense showed itself in the shaping of the horn mouthpieces. Through extensive usage it often occurred that the thin, horny tube wore out as the teeth of the smoker gradually eroded it, and finally the button snapped off. To counter this, the pipemakers of Ulm invented a sequence of buttons (usually five or six, but sometimes up to nineteen or twenty)—[I prefer to call them ridges]—in a bid to produce the ‘everlasting pipe.’

At a much later time, the stems gradually became longer, more ornately ornamented, and were produced in materials other than wood.

Courtesy of the curiosity shop, the Netherlands


The Ulmer shape in meerschaum is known as Wiener Art (Viennese variety or type), because it was made in Vienna, Austria. The meerschaum variant is nearly always smooth-finished, not elaborate, not incised, not engraved.

An exception to the above rule...  Courtesy of a Private Collection

The fitted smoking case or carrying case often accompanies this pipe bowl, which is not a convention with the wood Ulmer. To be specific, the meerschaum equivalent, while a great-looking pipe bowl, is not an Ulmer!

And, because imitation is the best form of flattery, it is known that in Germany, Ulmer-shaped bowls were also produced in both porcelain and amber. Given the meticulously precise German language, these two, no doubt, had their own unique descriptive names. Manger reports that there was at least one porcelain pipe maker, Johann Jacob Schmidt, who fabricated porcelain bowls à la the Ulmer shape. As to this variant, at a Heidelberg auction in 2000, one from a Berlin manufactory was described as a “Pfeifenkopf mit sackfömigem Kessel” (literally, pipe head with a sack-formed cauldron)…not an Ulmer in porcelain or a porcelain Ulmer!

I did not find an equivalent descriptive term for an Ulmer-shaped amber bowl, but envision such a masterpiece, the marriage of this unique shape executed in this lustrously polished resinous, fossilized gemstone! It doesn’t get any better than this, eye candy for the pipe collector, but not for the smoker, because amber would not cure or smoke well.
                   (Courtesy of The Sarunas Peckus Pipe Collection. Photography by Darius Peckus)

And I thought that I covered it all until, in October 2011, I saw an illustration of an antique pipe at a German auction, what I would have to call a bi-Ulmer: a split bowl, the lower half in wood, the upper half in meerschaum. That’s a new one on me, and given its very unusual construct, and based on what I have already reported herein, perhaps it was fabricated in some small burg situated equidistant between Ulm and Vienna.


German porcelain pipes were not popular in the United States, so they were not imported in any significant quantity, but there is evidence that at least a few Ulmers crossed the Atlantic. Information on pipes is found in all sorts of strange and unusual sources; I found two citations there were wholly unexpected. The first is from, of all the odd references—because it recalls the aforementioned Auerbach—the Proceedings and Collections. Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Vol. I, 1858–1884, as reported by a certain Mr. Bennett:

Having in my possession an Ulmer Maserkopf of some considerable age, and having read in one of Auerbach’s delightful village tales of such pipes in use in the last century, I was curious, in view of the discovery of this one at this point, to get some data as to the date of manufacture of them, with the object, if possible, of connecting it with the inhabitants of the village on whose site it was picked up. Unable to arrive at the facts from any books at hand, our fellow member, Mr. Robert Bauer, was requested to make inquiry in the City of Ulm. Professor Frederick Kohn, in answer, under date of April 22d, 1882, writes as follows:

‘I give you the desired information, based on Rev. Mr. Dietrich’s (of Langenau) description of Ulm. Heavy transactions ere made in tobacco in 1642; wooden pipe-bowls were manufactured on the highlands of Ulm and at Geislingen in 1715, by about fifty persons. Maserkœpfe were first manufactured in 1733, by Jacob Glœckler. Sales were made to foreign countries between the years 1779–1812. There were always from forty to forty-five citizens employed in trade. They were especially liked by the soldiers; that they were superseded in 1830 by the porcelain bowls, is well-known.’ 

The second reference is from the museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The following accession record is on file: “Date: 1850. Content Description: This carved wooden pipe in the German Ulmer style comes from the Lydia Leister household. The Leister home was used by General George Gordon Meade as his headquarters at Gettysburg. The pipe features a hinged metal cover that allowed its use during any kind of weather.”


According to a July 14, 2011 e-mail from Esther Siegmund-Heineke, Registrar and Exhibition Manager of the city’s Ulmer Museum: “We own a collection of Maserkopf holzpfeifen indeed and some of them are on show.” This is good news for fellow travelers in this hobby, particularly those who journey extensively in pursuit of certain elusive pipes of yesteryear and yearn to see them in quantity and up close; the Ulmer is definitely one of those. If the reader is a Maserkopf holzpfeifen maniac, then this Museum and the atelier of Anton Manger should be on your European travel itinerary. But fair warning when in pursuit: be aware of the Ulmer’s price points. Consider just one American reference, Mark F. Moran, Warman’s Tobacco Collectibles. An Identification and Price Guide (2003). Moran illustrated a few Ulmers and their current-market values ranging between $950 and $1,570 for one in very fine condition, and that was almost 10 years ago. In November 2011, in Nürnberg, Germany, the auction house of Peter Bamberger conducted “95.Auktion” in which nine very finely carved and ornamented Ulmers were on the block; opening bids for a few started at 150 €, and at least one had an estimate of 900 €. You will find an array of assorted Ulmers on the Tobacco Pipe Artistory Ulmer Album on Facebook.

Back in 1994, an anonymous participant in an on-line discussion of the Ulmer posted the following on forum.pipes.org/messages: “I have always regretted that that kind of pipe—other than as an antique—is no longer seen.” He may not have known that in the past quarter century, there was a slight revival. A few German artisans reproduced the Ulmer, but these pipe bowls lacked the luster and panache of the originals. Until about 1995, Schowa Schum Söhne, GmbH , Bad König im Odenwald, offered a decent reproduction of a plain Ulmer bowl with a new-silver wind cover, but neither smoker nor collector interest was sufficient to continue fabricating this rejuvenated version.

On another Internet post I found: “Ulmer pipes are those that contain much ornamentation. If you want to get frilly and eccentric with your pipe, ulmer is the way to go”. I daresay that “frilly and eccentric” would not be how I would characterize the Ulmer. In my opinion, the Ulmer was a preeminent pipe bowl shape—a perfect 10.0 on the Richter scale of style—among the 114 different wood pipe formats supposedly crafted in that city by the mid-19th century. In his delightful and animated tutorial, El Arte de Fumar en Pipa (The Art of Pipe Smoking [English edition, 1958]), author and pipe connoisseur Joaquin Verdaguer posits:

It isn’t enough to take a heather root, carve a bowl from it, insert a stem and announce: ‘Here is a briar pipe.’ It isn’t enough to seek out decent, intelligent, expert manufacturers. The French are all of that. But a really first class briar can be made only by an artist, nay an enthusiast, a priest of the pipe cult. And, in my opinion, beings of that kind may be found only on English soil. 

Indeed, the briar pipe, whether of English, Danish, Italian, or American origin, is today’s supernova superstar, but the handful of illustrations in this article should convey the fact that many years before the briar, in Germany, another group of artful ‘priests’ made some first-class smokers in just about every wood except briar... pretty impressive work from a bunch of part-time whittlers.

Research continues into the development and manufacture of the Ulmer pipe. In May 2003, at the 17th session of the Arbeitskreis Tonpfeifen (German Society for Clay-Pipe Research), in Heidelberg, Herr Rainer Immensack presented his own findings in a monograph titled “Ulmer Maserholzpfeifen.” This may seem odd, but the Germans proudly proclaim the Ulmer to be „fast bischöflich” (almost pontifical). Americans would consider this to be pretentious, a bit over the top, maybe even sacrilegious. The Ulmer is not priestly, regardless of what Helen Zimmern may have discovered in the tower of Ulm’s cathedral. Furthermore, it was not a pipe format that was produced by one of Verdaguer’s priests of the pipe cult, yet it was certainly, in its time, a proper pipe for a puffing prelate.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Battle of Bunkerhill by Boston's Gustav Fischer

Boston's Gustav Fischer Sr.’s rendition of the “Battle of Bunker Hill,” after John Trumbull’s famous oil on canvas, “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775” (1786). It stands out as one very remarkable sculpture, a monumental two-pound, 34-inch-long meerschaum work of art with 31 high-relief-carved figures, three American flags, and one British flag, a pipe that he carved over a period of four years.

According to The American Magazine, Volume 122, 1936, 36: “GUSTAV FISCHER, 90, Jamaica Plain, Mass. has carved on the largest carved Meerschaum pipe in the world, a picture of the Battle of Bunker Hill, including 25 miniature soldiers.” It was finished sometime in 1905, and although The American Magazine went public about it in 1936, an announcement appeared in The Boston Journal, December 24, 1906, “Battle of Bunker Hill is Carved on Wonderful Meerschaum,” claiming it as “...probably the most valuable meerschaum pipe in America...,” and “Remarkable Skill Shown in Meerschaum Carving,” The Boston Traveler, December 22, 1906, placed a value of $40,000 on it. 
It has remained in the family through three generations, and came out of hiding once, a century later, in 2003, where it was the center of attraction -- and awe -- at the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA, antiques show in May.

There is only one other American-made meerschaum pipe worthy of similar praise, and that was the Christopher Columbus pipe that debuted at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1893, carved just a few years previous to this pipe.

You will find more photos of this remarkable pipe in the Tobacco Pipe Artistory Princely Pipes Album on Facebook.
(Photo courtesy of Dr. Sarunas Peckus.)