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Meerschaum is a soft white mineral sometimes found floating on the Black Sea, and rather suggestive of sea-foam, whence also the French name for the same substance, écume de mer.
Meerschaum is opaque and of white, grey or cream color, breaking with a conchoidal or fine earthy fracture, and occasionally fibrous in texture. Because it can be readily scratched with the nail, its hardness is placed at about 2. The specific gravity varies from 0.988 to 1.279, but the porosity of the mineral may lead to error. Meerschaum is a hydrous magnesium silicate with the formula H4Mg2Si3O10.

Most of the meerschaum of commerce is obtained from Asia Minor, chiefly from the plain of Eskisehir in Turkey, between Instanbul and Ankara. It occurs there in irregular nodular masses, in alluvial deposits, which are extensively worked for its extraction. It is said that in this district there are 4000 shafts leading to horizontal galleries for extraction of the meerschaum. The principal workings are at Sepetçi Ocağı and Kemikçi Ocağı, about 20 miles southeast of Eskisehir. The mineral is associated with Magnesite(magnesium carbonate), the primitive source of both minerals being a serpentine.

When first extracted meerschaum is soft, but it hardens on exposure to solar heat or when dried in a warm room. Meerschaum is also found, though less abundantly, in Greece, as at Thebes, and in the islands of Euboea and Samos; it occurs also in serpentine at Hrubschitz near Kromau in Moravia. It is found to a limited extent at certain localities in France and Spain, and is known in Morocco. In the United States it occurs in serpentine in Pennsylvania (as at Nottingham, Chester County) and in South Carolina and Utah.

Meerschaum has occasionally been used as a substitute for soapstone, fuller’s earth, and as a building material; but its chief use is for smoking pipes and cigarette holders. When smoked, Meerschaum pipes gradually change color, and old Meerschaums will turn incremental shades of yellow, orange, and red from the base on up. When prepared for use as a pipe, the natural nodules are first scraped to remove the red earthy matrix, then dried, again scraped and polished with wax. The crudely shaped masses thus prepared are turned and carved, smoothed with glass-paper and Dutch rushes, heated in wax or stearine, and finally polished with bone-ash, etc.

Meerschaum products traditionally were made in manufacturing centres such as Vienna. Since the 1970s, though, Turkey has banned the exportation of meerschaum nodules, trying to set up a local meerschaum industry. The once famous manufacturers have therefore disappeared. Nowadays, meerschaum pipes not obtained from Turkish producers are usually made of pressed meerschaum or African meerschaum, which are inferior in quality.

Imitations are made in plaster of Paris and other preparations.

The soft, white, earthy mineral from Långbanshyttan, in Varmland. Sweden, known as aphrodite ( sea foam), is closely related to meerschaum.

All of these pipes were made in Turkey and are of the highest quality.  Hand carved and occasionally signed by the carver.

         

Sherlock and Holmes in a beautiful presentation case.

         

Titled “Pasha” hand carved by Cevher, from Turkey ca. 2008

              

Titled “Sultan” hand carved by Tethi in 2009 from Eskisehir, Turkey.

              

Very well done “Chief” meerschaum pipe. Carved in 2010, unsigned.

 

         

An “Eagle’s Claw” clutching the pipe bowl carved by Artestika ca. 2009 in form fitted case.

 

Meerschaum is a very rare mineral, a kind of hard white clay. Light and porous structure of the pipe keeps the smoke cool and soft. Simply put, it is a unique smoking experience. Meerschaum is the most flavorful and beautiful pipe you can own. This Pipe is made of high quality Eskisehir meerschaum which is very well known to pipe experts. Unlike briar, meerschaum does not burn. Meerschaum pipes do not need pre-smoking for quality performance. Each pipe is hand crafted art. The stone acts as a filter, absorbing tobacco tars and nicotine, and yields a most satisfying smoke. Meerschaum smokes cool and dry with a flavor unrivaled by any other pipe. Because of its peculiarity, meerschaum pipes slowly change their color to different tones of rich honey-brown. This adds a pleasing esthetic enjoyment to its great smoking pleasure. The longer the pipe is smoked the more valuable it becomes due to the color change.

 

         

Titled “The Viking”. Purchased in the 1970s still in original box with papers.  Lightly smoked, just starting to change color.

You can see all of my hand-carved, museum quality,  Meerschaum pipes at my eBay store Kelekchens.  Put your cursor on my assistant (the duck), double click and your there.

Until next time, Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come!”

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Zino Davidoff was born on March 11, 1906 in Kiev, Russian Empire, present-day Ukraine. He was the eldest of four children born to tobacco merchant, Henri Davidoff. Even in his own autobiographical writings, the facts on Zino’s youth are a bit hazy, as he was quite young during this time and could only piece together some stories of his youth. His parents were either cigar merchants or cigarette manufacturers in Kiev. Fleeing the political turmoil and anti-Semitism prevalent in Russia, his parents left some of their family behind and emigrated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1911 for a better life and opened their own Tobacconist shop in 1912. Finishing school in 1924, he went to Latin America to learn about the tobacco trade, spending time in such places as Argentina, Brazil, and finally Cuba where he spent two years working on a plantation and first encountered Cuban cigars.

Returning to Switzerland around 1930, he took over his parents’ shop. What had originally been a modest tobacco shop grew into a rich business during and after WW II. Neutral Switzerland was spared much of the havoc wreaked elsewhere in Europe and became a haven for wealthy tobacco customers. Zino was particularly successful in marketing the Hoyo de Monterrey Châteaux Series of Cuban cigars created for Zurich cigar distributor A Durr Co., in the 1940s and named after great Bordeaux wines.  Around this time, Zino is also credited by many as having invented the first desktop cigar humidor, in order to preserve cigars at the same conditions of humidity and temperature under which they were rolled in Havana. Davidoff also had success writing several books on cigar smoking and Cuban cigar brands.

In 1970, Zino sold his small but highly successful tobacco shop in Geneva to the Max Oettinger Group. Zino stayed on as Davidoff’s ambassador until his death in 1994 at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife and daughter, who remained in Switzerland and by his siblings that had since moved to other parts of the world, mainly North America. Till his last moments, Zino an avid family man, sought out to find his lost family history back in the Soviet Union and then the emerging independent states of Russia and Ukraine. Unfortunately, many historical documents had been lost and so had his search. Not much information exists on their whereabouts, but through saved notes by Zino, it has been speculated that many had defected to North America in the early to mid 70’s, some under new identities and family names.

A tobacconist is an expert dealer in tobacco in various forms and the related accoutrements. Such accoutrements include pipes, lighters, matches, pipe cleaners, pipe tampers, ashtrays, humidors and more. Books and magazines, especially ones having to do with tobacco are commonly offered. Items irrelevant to tobacco such as puzzles, games, figurines, hip flasks, and candy are sometimes sold. A tobacconist shop is traditionally represented by a wooden Indian positioned nearby.

Although I am not really a tobacconist, I have collected many tobacciana collectibles that are offered for sale at my eBay store “Kelekchens”.  You won’t see a wooden Indian but here are a few vintage and antique humidors:

                        

Noritake and Nippon Porcelain Humidors ca. early 19oo’s.

   

Marzi & Remy Porcelain Humidor – Germany ca. 1940’s

    

Metal Humidors – Adam Verde and a Boston Rumidor ca. 1940’s to 1950’s

                   

Glass Humidors – Heisey glass, polychrome mesh (1920’s Art Deco), EAPG  and  Victorian Humidors.

Hand thrown, stone crock humidor with pipe rest lid.

Depression glass, Moongleam, cigarette humidor.

And my favorite:

                   

A stunning humidor with beautiful glass.  Double click on the photos to see better details.

You can see these and many more from my collection.  Place your cursor on my assistant “the Duck” and click to go to my eBay store Kelekchens. Open tobacciana and your there.

Until next time Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come!”

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Early Cultivation

John Rolfe, a colonist from the Jamestown Settlement, was the first to grow tobacco in America. He arrived in Virginia with tobacco seeds procured on an earlier voyage to Trinidad, and in 1612 he harvested his inaugural crop for sale on the European market.  Rolfe’s tobacco operation was an immediate boon for American exports, and English demand increased dramatically when cheap American leaf depressed prices. 15 years after Rolfe’s first crop, English imports of American tobacco had reached almost 500,000 pounds per year, and by 1670 half of the adult male population in England smoked tobacco daily.

Chesapeake Consignment System

The tobacco economy in the colonies was embedded in a cycle of leaf demand, slave labor demand, and global commerce that gave rise to the Chesapeake Consignment System. American tobacco farmers would sell their crop on consignment to merchants in London, which required them to take out loans for farm expenses from London guarantors in exchange for tobacco delivery and sale.  Further contracts were negotiated with wholesalers in Charleston or New Orleans to ship the tobacco to London merchants. The loan was then repaid with profits from their sales.

American planters responded to increased European demand by expanding the size and output of their plantations. The number of man-hours needed to sustain larger operations increased, which forced planters to acquire and accommodate additional slave labor. Furthermore, they had to secure larger initial loans from London, which increased pressure to produce a profitable crop and made them more financially vulnerable to natural disasters.

Differences between the Chesapeake and Deep South

In the Chesapeake and North Carolina, tobacco constituted a major percentage of the total agricultural output. In the Deep South, cotton and rice plantations dominated. Stark diversity in the geographic and social landscapes of these two regions contributed to differences in their respective cultures.

The Chesapeake had relatively few urban centers relative to the South. Instead, multiple markets were established along tributaries. This facilitated the persistence of smaller tobacco farms because the cost of moving tobacco to market was kept reasonable. In the south, all economic activity fed through a few heavily centralized markets, which favored large plantations that could bear the higher transportation costs. Differences in plantation size also owed significantly to the different demands of tobacco farming versus cotton and rice. Cotton and rice were cash crops, and cultivation was geared towards maximizing volume. Diminishing returns take effect on harvest quality past a certain threshold of labor investment. Tobacco, however, was considered to be more artisanal and craft-like, with limitless opportunity to improve the yield and quality. Thus, the most profitable cotton and rice operations were large and factory-like, while tobacco profits hinged on skilled, careful, and efficient labor units.

Colonial Tobacco Culture

A  culture of expertise surrounded tobacco planting. Unlike cotton or rice, cultivating tobacco was seen as an art form, and buyers understood that behind every crop of “good” tobacco was a meticulous planter with exceptional skills. Tobacco shipments were “branded” with a signature unique to its planter before they were sent overseas, and guarantors regarded brands as a seal of approval from the planter himself. One planter proclaimed of his branded tobacco, “it was made on the plantation where I live and therefore as I saw to the whole management of it my self (sic), I can with authority recommend it to be exceedingly good.” Even though not necessarily participating in the manual labor, planters took great financial stake in their final product.

Furthermore, local reputation and social status varied with the quality of one’s leaf. In his book Tobacco Culture, author T.H. Breen writes “quite literally, the quality of a man’s tobacco often served as the measure of the man.” Proficient planters, held in high regard by their peers, often exercised significant political clout in colonial governments. Farmers often spent excess profits on expensive luxury goods from London to indicate to others that their tobacco was selling well. [edit] American Revolution

American tobacco planters, including Jefferson and George Washington, financed their plantations with sizeable loans from London. When tobacco prices dropped precipitously in the 1750s, many plantations struggled to remain financially solvent. Severe debt threatened to unravel colonial power structures and destroy planters’ personal reputations. At his Mount Vernon plantation, Washington saw his liabilities swell to nearly £2000 by the late 1760s. Jefferson, on the verge of losing his own farm, aggressively espoused various conspiracy theories. Though never verified, Jefferson accused London merchants of unfairly depressing tobacco prices and forcing Virginia farmers to take on unsustainable debt loads. In 1786, he remarked:

“A powerful engine for this [mercantile profiting] was the giving of good prices and credit to the planter till they got him more immersed in debt than he could pay without selling lands or slaves. They then reduced the prices given for his tobacco so that…they never permitted him to clear off his debt.”[15]

The inability to pay what one owed was not just a financial failing, but a moral one. Planters whose operations collapsed were condemned as “sorry farmers” – unable to produce good crops and inept at managing their land, slaves, and assets. Washington excused his situation thusly:

“Mischance rather than Misconduct hath been the cause of [my debt]…It is but an irksome thing to a free mind to be always hampered in Debt.”[16]

In conjunction with a global financial crisis and growing animosity toward British rule, tobacco interests helped unite disparate colonial players and produced some of the most vocal revolutionaries behind the call for American independence. A spirit of rebellion arose from their claims that insurmountable debts prevented the exercise of basic human freedoms.

Collectibles of tabacciana are varied and many. Many items such as pipes, humidors, ashtrays, advertsing items etc. are just a few.  The tobacco industry is ingrained in our society from almost the beginning of our nation and helped to provide wealth to America in it’s quest for freedom.

Over the next month I will be marketing many items from my extensive collection of tobacciana, most notably pipes, humidors and ashtrays.  Much of my collection is also part of my asian collection of Nippon.

    

Humidors

 

    

Ashtrays – Nippon, Japanese Enamel Moriage, and Lusterware.

 

    

Hand Carved Meerschaum Pipes from Turkey.

Watch for my items at Bonanzle.com and eBay.  Go to my store now to see what is selling.  Happy Collecting and remember “The Best is Yet to Come!”

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