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They can be separated into fairly closely dateable groups based on the type and shape of the bowl, and by the diameter of the hole through the stem-generally, the larger the hole, the earlier the pipe.
They did not have a very long life; one 17th century writer states that he purchased about 1,000 clay pipes in five years, showing how quickly they were broken and why so many pieces are found.
From about 1650 records become better and for the 18th century most of the manufacturers are known.
In the latter half of the 19th century the number of makers fell drastically due to the competition of the briar-pipe and the cigarette, and by the end of the century the craft was practically extinct.
"Surely in my opinion there cannot be a more base, and yet hurtfull corruption in a country, than is the vile use (or rather abuse) of taking Tobacco in this Kingdome.
A custome lothesome to the eye, hatefull to the nose, harmfull to the braine, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." So wrote James I in 1604 in his 'Counterblaste to Tobacco,' but then he was no archaeologist.
The first mention of tobacco is in about 1565, "little ladells' for taking in the smoke are noted in about 1573, and pipes made of clay are recorded in 1593 although undoubtedly they were in use earlier.Very little is known of the pipemaking industry in the 16th century and it is a difficult job to trace makers for the first half of the 17th century.Because of the high price of tobacco, the early pipes were very small, the bowls mostly being less than an inch high.They leant well forward and the base was usually flattened at the junction of the bowl and stem.A complete pipe of this type in the Guildhall Museum has an overall length of 21 inches.
The smoke was expelled, not from the mouth, but from the nostrils, so as to reap the full narcotic benefit of the expensive herb.