Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Sweet Smoke: Pipe Tobacco

Its pretty hard to get mad at pipe smoke. Stinky cigar smoke, yes. Acrid cigarette smoke, of course. But pipe tobacco is... pleasant. A wiff of that apple and cherrywood blend conjures up cozy images of kindly older gents, idling away the hours in country stores. Other pipe aromas make one think of drawing rooms in English manors or woodshops, or...artist's studios!

I'll always remember the smell of pipe tobacco from my first visit to my friend, Will Davies' studio. You noticed it the minute you walked through the front door, even though Will's place was at the back, up a flight of stairs and a hundred feet down the hall. I remember being vaguely astonished by the heaping ashtray of spent tobacco on the low materials table by his drawing board.

Several years later, when I had joined that studio, Will mentioned in the course of conversation one day that his doctor had told him a while back to give up cigarettes, so he switched to a pipe and now allowed himself two bowls a day. "I'm thinking about cutting back to just one, in the afternoon," he said.

Cigarettes are indicative of modern society: mass-produced, packed and sealed, endlessly identical - and fast. An efficient drug delivery-system. Cigars are ostentatious, conspicuous in their demand for attention. They speak of an eff-you attitude, they're big, smell bad and last a long time, torturing everyone who has to endure their intrusion.

But pipes and pipe tobacco are all about individuality, contemplation; about pausing with purpose to fill, pack, light and draw on one's personal blend of aromatics. No wonder that, when you look back through history, from one culture to another all over the world, where smoking took place it was typically done with a pipe.

These comic strip ads for Yello-Bole pipes are funny and kind of hokey, but the art is worth a closer look, especially if you have an interest in comic strip advertising, as I do. You'll find all three of today's ads at full size in my Smoking Flickr set.


  1. Linda3:59 AM

    Thanks for the memories! Grandpa preferred Half and Half tobacco--in the big cans. His paraphenalia of pipes and rolling papers and a "cigarette machine" that rolled his smokes was very interesting to a little girl back in the 60s. Still enjoy the (very rare) whiff of that tobacco!

  2. Thank you! I hope cigarettes die a quick but painful death, but tobacco pipes are a whole other ballgame.

    There is something esoteric about tobacco pipes but even those uninitiated in their ways can appreciate the lovely aromas and images that they conjure.

  3. Anonymous11:26 AM

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  4. Both of my grandfathers smoked pipes. I hung out with my Boodaddy a lot when I was a youngster, he would drive the country roads and roll his own cigarette while steering with his knees, using the same tobacco for both his pipe and his cigarettes. He used Prince Edward. We would always get bits of tobacco on our legs while we explored under his bed for years after he was gone. Now I'm using his pipe.

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