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"Artifactual Evidence"
page 3 of 7

Tobacco Pipes

The vast majority of tobacco pipes on 44Hn254 have been, of course, the English kaolin clay variety in a few shapes exported to the American colonies in great number during this period. Excavators unearthed 63 whole bowls and literally hundreds of broken stems in the cellar / refuse pit alone. To date, one attempt has been made to apply the Harrington-Binford formula (so well explained in Ivor Noel Hume’s book, A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America) to both the cellar pipestems and those from squares in the “yard.” (This research was done in the late 1990s by an Atlee High School student, Jennifer Sloane, and presented at the Virginia Junior Academy of Science at the close of that academic year. She won first place.) The mean date for cellar stems was 1735; that of yard stems was 1748. Using Harrington’s time-tested formula for pipe parts in the root pit, the students concluded that the vast majority (96%) of these stems and bowls fell in the 1710-1750 date range on the chart. Since only a few pipestems were uncovered in the ash level of the pit’s bottom (and mostly dated to the 1680-1710 range when the house was first occupied), we concentrated on the thicker, more trashy level indicative of the house’s later years and subsequent demise. Together with a few other clues, such as the absence of certain English ceramics known to exist on colonial sites by the mid-18th century, we have concluded that the house burned by about 1750.

The method of dating the pipes that has become more reliable is English archaeologist Adrian Oswarld’s 1951 chart of his extensive study of pipe bowl shapes roughly in the period 1580-1860. Once again, Noel Hume’s above-mentioned text has this chart. Using this chart in the refuse-filled cellar and root pit layers, students quickly concluded that our colonists were using these features for trash deposit perhaps as early as 1720. The vast majority of bowl shapes are numbers 16, 17 and 18, the latter easily being the greatest percentage with a much smaller percentage of numbers 12, 13 and 14. However, it was not the bowl shapes that have fascinated the author, but instead, the presence of several maker’s marks on and under the bowls. These marks have been found in three different places on the bowl, and most on bowl style #18, with a smaller percentage on #15. Mr. Noel Hume describes on pp. 304-305 of his publication a condensed version of Mr. Oswarld’s findings on methods of applying maker’s marks by English pipe makers, and for the most part our pipes fit this description to a tee. By the late 17th century, pipe makers either stamped their initials in the back of the bowl or applied them in relief-molded cartouches on the side of the bowl. We have found both types. The author owes a debt of gratitude to Bill Pittman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for identifying these maker’s marks in 1994. Both Mr. Noel Hume and Mr. Pittman noted that these bowl styles and maker’s marks strongly suggest Bristol, England, as their place of origin. A rough chart of these finds is below.

Place of Manufacture
Bowl Style
ER Edward Reed Bristol or London 17th–18th c. #18
RT Robert Tippett Bristol 17th-18th c. #18
JJ several names Bristol or London 17th-18th c. #13, #18
HG several names London(?) 17th – 18th c. #19 possible
JC several names Bristol or London 17th-18th c. #18 possible
CH Charles Hickes(?) Bristol or London 17th-18th c. #18
TH Thomas Harvey Bristol 17th-18th c. #18
JS several names Bristol(?) 17th-18th c. #19 possible
GP no listing with these Bristol(?) or London(?) 17th-18th c.(?) cartouche
initials only
?A several names Bristol(?) or London(?) 17th-18th c. #18

In addition, several fragmentary bowls of style #15 or #16 bear the initial W under a crown on the side of the heel on one side, and a R usually under a harp. In one sample only do we have the initial M(?) under a crown on the bottom side of a bowl of style #18. A few more samples display a shortened version of Robert Tippett’s name inside a relief-molded cartouche on the side of bowl style #18. This particular cartouche is always accompanied by the incised letters RT on the back of the bowl. One additional oddity came out of the cellar fill—a fragment of heelless bowl bearing an incised number 8 where the heel should be. Audrey Noel Hume reports in Five Artifact Studies (vol. 1) of finding one in cellar hole “B” on the Post Office Site in Colonial Williamsburg. Our specimen has the exact same hole diameter of 5/64 inch.

The author would not be stretching his neck too far to say that the occupants of this household probably had an agent in Bristol, England, with which they conducted the business of the day, i.e., tobacco cultivation and eventual sale in the mother country; this agent, in turn, shopped for the finer necessities and shipped them back to our colonial family. And it is with this lucrative activity of tobacco-raising that the author continues his report.

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