Rural Missouri - May 2013 - (Page 8)
Chronicle of the
photo illustration by Kyle Spradley
Missouri Meerschaum Co. remains
the nation’s ﬁrst and only producer
of the famous pipes
The Missouri Pride corncob pipe, with a totally natural corncob bowl, is one of nearly 30 styles of pipes Missouri Meerscaum Co. makes at its factory in Washington.
Today, the Missouri
The word meerschaum comes from a German
Meerschaum factory is
word meaning “sea foam.” At the time, some of the
owned by a small group
most pristine smoking pipes were made of Turkish
of investors and has
clay called meerschaum. Henry believed his pipes
he corncob pipe is an icon in American culTo watch a video about
nearly 40 employees
mimicked the look of a meerschaum pipe thanks to
ture. From Mark Twain’s tales of Huckleberthe process of making a
who handle everything
his patented process of adding a layer of plaster of
ry Finn and Tom Sawyer sneaking away to
corncob pipe, click this butfrom growing the corn
Paris to the outside of the cob.
smoke their pipes along the river to famous
ton inside our digital
and harvesting the cobs
“It was kind of an early form of marketing to proAmericans such as World War II hero Gen. Douglas
edition, online at
to assembling the pipes
mote his products,” adds Phil, a Three Rivers Electric
MacArthur and celebrated painter Norman Rockwell,
and shipping them to
corncob pipes have been a part of
Within a decade, ﬁve more corncob pipe fac“It all begins with a seed,” Phil says. “Across the
tories opened in Washington, and several others
“Very few things are as authentiriver from our factory, we have a 150-acre ﬁeld where
cally American as a corncob pipe,”
popped up in surrounding Franklin County.
Washington But the Missouri Meerschaum pipes always
we grow our corn for the type of cobs we need.”
says Phil Morgan, general manager of
Most farmers today prefer to grow species of corn
Missouri Meerschaum Co. “But as much
were regarded as the best and made Henry
with a smaller cob and larger grain, but Missouri
a wealthy man.
as it is a part of our country, Missouri is
Meerschaum prefers a fatter cob from a variety the
In 1878, Henry’s son, Anton, joined
where the corncob pipe became famous.”
his father’s operation and helped
For nearly 150 years, Missouri Meer“Our corncob has a thicker pith and bigger
expand the company’s production facilischaum has been producing corncob
woody ring,” explains the general manager. “This
ties. Steam engines were installed to drive
pipes at its factory in Washington.
gives us more to work with to make the pipes.”
the lathes and improve production as the Tibbe
Several other pipe companies have come and
Each fall, corn pickers harvest the corn and bring
pipes began shipping across the nation.
gone, but Missouri Meerschaum stands as the origiit to a nearby shelling facility. The cobs are starting
More than a decade later, Anton looked to a new
nal and only remaining commercial producer of
to age and harden already.
technology — electricity — to upgrade the factory.
corncob pipes in the country. The company’s lonIn 1893, he supervised
gevity has earned Washington distinction as the
the construction of Wash“Corncob Pipe Capital of the World.” Each year,
ington’s ﬁrst electric power
Missouri Meerschaum grows its own corn to proplant, which to this day
duce more than 30 different styles of pipes and ship
bears the Tibbe name.
700,000 pipes worldwide.
The new plant brought
Ask any pipe smoker about a Missouri Meerelectricity to the town and
schaum, and you’ll likely learn not only of their
powered not only Washsuperior value but also the great experience from a
ington’s streetlights but
cool-smoking, sweet-tasting pipe.
also the Tibbe factory.
“We take pride in making a pipe that is affordAt the turn of the cenable for everyone,” Phil says. “Most of our pipes cost
tury, the Tibbe family sold
around $10, and we basically do things the same way
its company to the Otto
as they were produced more than a century ago.”
family. The name was ofﬁMissouri Meerschaum got its start in the late
cially changed to the Mis1800s with Henry Tibbe, a Dutch immigrant, who
souri Meerschaum Co.
was a wood turner in Washington. Legend has it
“The Otto family ran
that one day, a farmer who had been making cornthe plant for more than 75
cob pipes in the area came to Henry and asked if
years, and they witnessed
there was a way to turn the cobs on his lathes. Henthe heyday of pipe smokry found a way to perfect cob turning and started
ing during the 1940s and
selling them at his shop.
1950s,” Phil says. “At one
Before long, word spread about the pipes, and
time, the company made
Henry ceased wood turning and started the H. Tibbe
25 million pipes in a year
& Son Co. in 1869 as the ﬁrst commercial corncob
This photo from 1887 shows the Missouri Meerschaum Co. factory along Front
and had more than a hunpipe factory in the world. His pipes were made
Street in downtown Washington. The original structure still stands, although it’s
under the Missouri Meerschaum name.
been expanded during more than a century of producing corncob pipes.
photo courtesy of Missouri Meerschaum Co.
by Kyle Spradley
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2013
Rural Missouri - May 2013
Table of Contents
Chronicle of the corncob pipe
Missouri Snapshots contest
The family that drills together
Out of the Way Eats
Where bluegrass grows
Hearth and Home
Veggies and vision
Rural Missouri - May 2013