Pipe Sighting in Historic Charleston, SC
I've been in and out of the office a lot recently on account of some very special people visiting my wife and me: her parents, all the way from Russia. The last time we saw them was back in 2010, when we traveled to and through Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Izhevsk over the course of three weeks. We've wanted to be great hosts now that it's our turn and thus have gone to great lengths to pack as much in to their visit as possible. We rented a cabin at the Myrtle Beach state park for a week in a secluded section on the edge of the forest, where they could easily walk but a few hundred yards to the ocean. On Monday, we traveled to Charleston and stayed two nights in a home that was built 1783, were we spent both evenings sipping red wine in front of the fireplace. Right across the street from the old house is the Hewyard-Washington home, where revolutionaries once met in secrecy, and where George Washington himself would later visit after our independence was won. Before checking in to our place, we walked through the Charleston museum, which is the oldest in the country (founded 1773). On Tuesday, we took a boat to visit Fort Sumter, where the first action of the American Civil War occurred. And yesterday, aside from dining on several of Charleston's signature dishes (like raw oysters and she-crab soup), my father-in-law and I visited the Confederate Museum. We crammed a lot of regional history and local cuisine into a few days in that beautiful historic city, and had great discussions of mixed Russian and English, with my wife kindly acting as our translator.
During all of the museum tours, my in-laws frequently pointed out something all of us would recognize: pipes! We saw a lot of clay tavern pipes, and found an especially nice meerschaum Billiard with an amber stem that had belonged to a Confederate soldier. Because the museum didn't allow photography, I can't share with you this heavily-used artifact that was once a constant companion to the soldier who'd later donated it to the museum. This soldier's pipe was the one that seemed to sink in the most, for me, because it belonged to a man fighting in a cataclysmic war, with or without willingness; something he must have reached for daily during very trying times. Also in the collection were smaller clay pipes and a considerably lengthy rope of twisted tobacco that some bugs had attempted to gnaw on. There was even a solid silver pipe with a horn stem, which had belonged to a postmaster! The other pipes from the Heyward-Washington house didn't seem to be as heavily-used as others, but this might have been because the family who had owned them were able to enjoy new pipes more regularly. They too were puffed on during a time of nervousness, secrecy, and revolution. When I look at these pipes, I can't help but to think of what kind of discussions were being held while their owners were smoking them in a lamp-lit room or around a crackling campfire.
We all know that filling our pipes with cherished tobaccos and puffing away leads to relaxation, though. I believe that every pipe has a story to tell. We have seventy-two estates this evening that each have hidden stories of their own, no doubt, as well as many newly-minted offerings from individual makers and brands that are waiting to open a new chapter. When you examine a pipe from an artist or craftsman, you’re seeing something that they created, and I'm a believer that every artifact has a little bit of its creator that never goes away. Please feel free to take a gander at what we have to share tonight and you might just find a pipe that is quietly calling your name.
Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector