Locally-Made Tobacco Pipes in the Colonial Chesapeake


Tobacco pipes made in the colonial Chesapeake are often referred to as “terra-cotta” pipes. Made of local clays, they often exhibit a brown, reddish, earthen color, though they also come in a fascinating array of colors from orange to pink to almost pure white.

These New World products have been fascinating Tidewater archaeologists for decades. Who in colonial society most likely produced and used terra-cotta pipes has been an ongoing discussion for over three decades. Theories have credited their production to immigrant Europeans producing them for personal use, Native populations producing them for colonists, and Africans producing pipes them with decorative motifs representative of African origins. Most recently, an appeal to consider who used these pipes, as opposed to who made; them has concluded that the servant class or bound laborers used locally-made pipes because they had limited access to imported European items (Nieman and King 1999).

As the question of authorship continues to be discussed, the archaeological community appears to have found a consensus that the material culture of the 17th century colonial Chesapeake represents a unique interaction between Native and immigrant populations. The production and use of terra-cotta ---or preferably “local pipes” or “Chesapeake pipes”--- are a material remnant of the complex transitional process of cultural interaction, and of power and conflict. This paper explores the transition, nuances and anomalies of tobacco pipe use-- from a mixture of European and local pipes in the early 17th century to an almost exclusive use of European imports by the 1680s. Neiman and King have further encouraged us to look beyond the authorship- who produced Chesapeake pipes? Instead they have encouraged us to also consider who was the intended audience for this product… Who smoked Chesapeake pipes?

Cite this Record

Locally-Made Tobacco Pipes in the Colonial Chesapeake. C. Jane Cox, Al Luckenbach, Dave Gadsby, Shawn Sharpe. 2005 ( tDAR id: 6095) ; doi:10.6067/XCV88913WZ

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1600 to 1700

Spatial Coverage

min long: -77.498; min lat: 36.633 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 39.368 ;

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