Smoking, drinking and the British sweet tooth

Clay pipe


Object number INV:7379
Unknown donor

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Clay pipe

Europeans first encountered tobacco in their sea voyages to the Americas in the late 1400s. Tobacco plantations, worked by enslaved labour, became immensely profitable for their owners. By the late 1500s tobacco use had become widespread in Europe and as production increased, the price of tobacco fell. Pipes gradually changed shape, as the size of the bowl got bigger to accommodate more tobacco. Smoking was popular; both men and women smoked and clay pipes were so cheap they were simply thrown away when broken.

Pipes lent themselves to novelty in design and all manner of decorative patterns and subjects were produced. This pipe, from the 1700s, has a bowl shaped like a man's head and makes a clear connection between tobacco and black people.

This information was provided by curators from Bolton Museum and Archive Service.