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Clay Tobacco Pipe - TD Style

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Artifact Description

The surface of Jacksonville "Blue China" shipwreck contained a widely scattered cargo of 63 clay tobacco pipes from which a sample of 16 examples were recovered in two different styles: 13 examples of a ribbed type (also referred to as fluted or cockled) featuring raised vertical lines extending along the bowl. An additional three pipes were recovered embossed with the letters ‘TD’ on the back of the pipe bowl (facing the smoker) and otherwise entirely undecorated. The pipes were produced in different two-part molds and all are made from white clay. A number of the examples were recovered broken.

All of the pipes have an integral stem whereby the pipe bowl and long stem were manufactured as a single piece. The examples vary in levels of preservation from largely intact pipe bowls and stems to fragmentary examples consisting of just a surviving bowl (sometimes broken) with very little of the original stem extant. Several of the pipes are heavily stained by what appears to be iron oxide; this may be due to alterations of the clay from the salt water environment or perhaps due to adjacent artifacts or ship structures. None of the pipes display any evidence of having been smoked in the form of use-wear marks, including teeth impressions on pipe stems, evidence of reworking of the pipe bowls or charring, thus supporting the conclusion that the assemblage comprised ship’s cargo.

One of the ‘TD’-embossed pipes stands out from the other examples and with the flat trimmed rim of the pipe bowl appears to be of British manufacture. If indeed British, the pipe is likely to have been made from white ball clay, deposits of which are indigenous to Dorset and Devonshire in southwest England. Ball clay was largely used in England, which was a major exporter in the mid-19th century. Although kaolin clay was also available in Britain, with notable sources near Glasgow in Scotland, it was typically reserved for better quality pipes, while ball clay was more common in pipe manufacture Given this identification, it is logical to assume that all of the remaining ‘TD’ pipes come from the same British source.

The emergence of white clay pipes with the initials ‘TD’ dates back over 200 years and by some accounts has been correlated possibly with the London pipe maker Thomas Dormer who, along with his sons, produced pipes from the mid-1750s until about 1780. Decades later, ‘TD’-marked pipes came to stand for a generic style and not for the actual pipe maker. The initials themselves became a trademark used to denote a certain brand. Today they represent a major diagnostic decorative attribute, having been excavated throughout America in contexts dating from the mid-18th century into the early 20th century.




Other Details

L. 10.5-14.0