Trove Tuesday – Dead Men’s Bones Make Good Pipes

Oh how attitudes to smoking have changed, and I’m so glad they have. Here is a real blast from the past.

Dead Men's Banes Make Good Pines

Dead Men's Bones Make Good Pipes


SMOKING today is a pleasure almost as world-wide as music and dancing, yet only

400 years ago it was quite unknown to most of the world's inhabitants. Perhaps the only thing as remarkable as the rapid growth of the new habit is the smoking equipment used through the years. Pipes have figured pro- minently in smoking's his- tory, and pipe sales today indicate that this piece of smoking equipment will last as long as the tobacco habit. But judging by pipes of bygone days the present day briar could undergo a revo- lutionary change in shape and design with the passing of another hundred years. Since smoking began — and it's a hard job to put a finger on the exact date — there has been an endless array of pipes — medium, long, light, heavy, straight and bent.   Adelaide has Australia's only pipe museum — run by tobacconist brothers Phil and Ralph Buring— and if you care to investigate smoking habits of bygone days then a visit to the museum will prove well worth while.     The museum has about 400 pipes from 35 different countries, and it's an eye- opener even to a non- smoker. The museum boasts one of the four best pipe col- lections in the world. Six years ago the brothers took over the tobacco busi- ness begun by their grand- father 99 years ago. They unearthed about 40 pipes of previous decades and found that, cleaned up and displayed, the pipes at- tracted considerable inter- est. So the pipe museum began. Clients gave family heir- looms to the collection, and Australian and overseas tobacco factories and

agents, invited to contri- bute, presented many specimens. All the pipes in the col- lection have their own his- tories, and it's only when you get talking to someone like Phil Buring that you realise that these pieces of wood seen jammed in the faces of countless men really have something. Pipes are classified in types — meerschaum, nargil, calabash, kanasta — nothing to do with the other — and chibouque. And each shape has a name. Phil Buring says pipes have become a fetish with him since the unusual hobby began — remarkable, considering he's a con- firmed cigarette smoker— and he wishes he could de- vote more time to the museum. Mr. Buring is often called on to give lectures, radio and luncheon talks, and he has often been referred to as 'a walking pipe encyclo- pedia.'     Perhaps the rarest piece in the collection is a 53 years old Tibetan pipe made from a human shin bone. The pipe belonged to a camel driver trading between Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Mr Buring says that Tibetans put their dead out on a hill until vultures pick their bones clean. When the sun bleaches the bones and the wind covers them with sand, Tibetans un- earth the bones for use as pipes! Although many of the pipes are between 50 and 100 years old, the collection has specimens dating back more than 300 years — one of these is a clay pipe dug from the ruins of London following the great fire of 1666. The museum also in-

cludes a group of five beau- tifully carved meerschaums made in Austria between 1850 and 1900. The group is unexcelled in any collec- tion in the world. Another piece is a West Indian tobacco tube called Tobaco, which was in use aefore 1492. Mr. Buring says that tobacco was named after the tube, and the one which is in the museum is probably the only one now in existence. ***     After visiting Australia's nost unusual museum I think there may be some thing in these lines so well known to pipe smokers: 'Give a man a pipe he can smoke, Give a man a book he can read, And his home is bright with calm delight, Though the room be poor indeed.'

Source: Trove


  1. It was in the mid 1950’s that the Doctor advised my mum to take up smoking to relieve the stress after nursing her mother, until Nana died at home, whilst at the same time attending to the onerous 3 times a day physiotherapy for her second son stricken with Polio during the epidemic. Not to mention her ongoing duties as mother to 3 other children, a demanding husband and a grief stricken father. etc etc etc.
    Nowadays many doctors would have her “popping pills” to her manage these impossible demands. Gradually the world is waking up and not before time, I say. Thanks for the thought provoking post Kylie.
    PS… I’m still finding it impossible to subscribe to your site via emails 🙁 …

    • admin

      Sometimes the pills nowadays can be just as detrimental to our health as the smoking. Attitudes have changed though. I am still working on getting the subscription thingy working.

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