A Brief History of Tobacco Pipes

A row of pipes which need to be filled with pipe tobacco.

Since the beginning of time, humans have tried to smoke numerous different herbs in different ways, and tobacco pipes have been around for centuries and have a long and interesting history.

The first pipes were found in Egypt and dated back to 2000 BC; they were found inside tombs alongside mummies and were put there so they could enjoy a smoke in the afterlife! However, historians are unsure whether the Egyptians used the pipes during religious rituals or whether it was recreational.

Additionally, it was also discovered that the Romans, Celts, Greeks and Nordic tribes enjoyed smoking tobacco through a pipe as well! As you can tell, this recreational activity was enjoyed worldwide and over thousands of years.

With this in mind, we have delved into the history of the tobacco pipe and how it is still enjoyed today after all these years.


According to historians, tobacco was first used by Native Americans, where they cultivated the plant and smoked it during ceremonies as well as for medicinal purposes. The pipes which were used were usually smoked to symbolise reconciliation between rival tribes.

Christopher Columbus then brought a handful of tobacco leaves and seeds back with him to Europe. However, Europeans didn’t get their first taste of tobacco until the mid-16th-century, when diplomats and adventurers began to popularise it. Tobacco was then introduced to France, Portugal and England from 1556 to 1565.


Since the discovery of tobacco, pipe smoking has had a huge impact on Western culture. Since its invention, the pipe has been a long-time symbol of class as well as sophistication, but it has come a long way!

When tobacco was imported from America during the 16th-century, Europeans began to smoke it using clay pipes as mentioned above. The clay was known as ‘Koalin’ or ‘China Clay’ after where the clay was dug from. This type of clay was a fine but dense material that offered its users a clean smoke but would often burn hot. As pipe smoking grew in popularity across Europe, the design of these clay pipes became a lot more detailed and artistic.

During the mid 18th-century, a whole new type of material found its way into the pipe smoking world, and that is meerschaum. This mineral can be found in deposits around the world but most notably near Eskisehir in Turkey. Meerschaum pipes started to grow in popularity because they were easy to carve integrate designs into, as well as their unique colouring.

The calabash was a variation on the meerschaum pipe and was made out of the calabash gourd and has a meerschaum insert. The distinctive shape of this pipe gave the user a more mellow smoke as there was a large air chamber under the bowl. This type of pipe was known as the one most favoured by Sherlock Holmes.

Due to the formation of the East India’s Company, tobacco and other exotic items became more widely available. Additionally, the exchequer was also enjoying a huge increase is revenue from taxing tobacco due to the popularity of smoking. Although tobacco was costly, the leaves were often smoked in small clay pipes which are sometimes still found today along the banks of the River Thames.

Even today, there are still pipe makers throughout the world. The inventor of the windshield pipe Alfred Dunhill opened his tobacco shop in 1907. As he was unsatisfied with the quality of pipes available, Dunhill decided to set up his own workshop.

In more recent times, pipes are still a popular way to smoke tobacco. Pipe tobacco is often a lot more moist, fresh and flavourful giving a completely different take on smoking altogether! Do you still enjoy using a smoking pipe? Let us know using our social media channels, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our website for pipes as well as tobacco!

One thought on “A Brief History of Tobacco Pipes

  1. Pingback: Scientific Evidence Suggests Pipe Smoking is Older Than First Thought | Havana House

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