Old Photos: Missouri Meerschaums

Little Midwestern town of Washington, Mo. is the world’s corncob pipe manufacturing center.

When about 1870, a Missouri farmer made himself a pipe out of a hollowed-out corncob, he invented something which has brought a unique industry to Washington, Mo. Since then the Missouri Meerschaum Pipe Company, the world’s biggest corncob pipe maker has made millions of cob pipes for the men who insist that they give the sweetest smoke of all. The pipes are made from oversized white corn which grows well in the rich bottom land around Washington but heavily drains soil fertility. Farmers grow it because they get high prices for kernels and make extra money selling cobs. Today Missouri Meerschaum’s sales run about 10,000,000 pipes annually. Most sell for a dime or a quarter. Few last more than a couple of months.

Apparently the iconic General MacArthur’s corncob pipes are still manufactured in Washington, Missouri.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur smoking corn cob pipe on deck of ship with aide Col. Lloyd Lehrbas, enroute to USAF landing site at Lingayen Gulf in victorious (“I Shall Return”) WII return to Philippine Islands site of earlier defeat. January 9, 1945 © Time Inc.Carl Mydans

A view of a corn cob pipe factory.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A corn cob pipe manufacturer sitting at his desk. © Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A view of different corn cob pipes.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A display card showing different kinds of corn cob pipes.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A picture showing the steps to making a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A view of a storage place for the materials needed to make a corn cob pipe. Proprietors E.H.Otto Sr. and Jr. examine the stock of corn cobs. Washington, MO. April 1945.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A worker making a corn cob pipe.

A worker making a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A worker making corn cob pipes.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A man smoking a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A man smoking a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A man smoking a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A man smoking a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

A man smoking a corn cob pipe.© Time Inc.Wallace Kirkland

  • http://twitter.com/xonassis King Xavier

    As a former smoker of all forms of tobacco, I can assure you that corn cob pipes were never in vogue for people who enjoyed smoking. They were only popular among people like General MacArthur who had presidential aspirations who sought a connection with “the common folk”, people who couldn’t afford actual wood crafted pipes.

    • http://kcmeesha.com kcmeesha

      The place is still in business, I can only conclude there are enough presidential wannabes to keep it going.

  • Bob

    We employed these pipes while in college, back in the 60s, to smoke just about anything that piqued our curiosity. Beat the heck out of those brass bongs.