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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Losier

Artefact of the Week Series: Tobacco and Clay Pipes in Seafaring Culture

Not long after tobacco was introduced to Europe in the beginning of the 16th century, clay pipes became a popular and affordable item produced in several European countries. In England, the habit of smoking tobacco became popular in the 1570s. Smoking pipes were not very expensive, costing around two shillings in 1709 and it is known that they were an important item in seafaring culture. Most of them were manufactured, imported, smoked, and thrown away in a period of two years which probably explain why these objects are found in great quantities. At Anse à Bertrand, fragments of smoking pipes are by far the most common artefact found in 17th and 18th century contexts. These most likely represent one of the only leisure activities that fishermen were entitled to during the long and hard seasonal fishing campaigns that brought them from Europe to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon.


In North America, English, Dutch and French smoking pipes, are found in various 16th to 19th centuries archaeological contexts. It is important to note that some smoking pipes factories were set up in the Americas in the 19th century. For example, it is the case for the Henderson factory in Montréal. Makers’ names and places of production are often found on the pipestem.


At Anse à Bertrand, most of the smoking pipes showing a makers’ mark were made in Great Britain such as MacDougall in Glasgow or Reuben Sidney and Robert Brown in Southampton. Regarding French production, we identified only one French factory in the Anse à Bertrand collection which is Fiolet à St. Omer (Pas-de-Calais). Finding Fiolet St. Omer pipes is quite common in French overseas archaeological sites, they are known in Québec and in French Guiana for example. However, we found in 2022 another smoking pipe made in France, but in Paris this time. This is quite unique as for the moment the factory where this object was produced is unknown. Research on will continue throughout the winter.

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  • Frida Arlon (edited by C. Losier)

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