Henry Tibbe’s Patent For an Improved Corn Cob Pipe is Approved: July 9, 1878

United States Patent & Trademark Office

Dutch immigrant and woodworker Henry Tibbe received approval on his patent application for an improved corncob pipe on this date in 1878. He had begun producing the pipes almost a decade earlier, in Washington, Missouri, and his legacy is still carried on today by the Missouri Meerschaum company.

According to the Missouri Meerschaum website, Tibbe was asked by a local farmer to try creating some corncob pipes with his lathe. The design turned out so well that he began selling them in 1869. The patent application which was granted on this date reads, in part, “Be it known that I, HENRY TIBBE, of Washington, in the county of Franklin and State of Missouri, have invented a new and Improved Pipe, of which the following is a specification. My invention relates to smoking-pipes, more especially those made of corn-cobs, the object being to improve their durability and appearance, and facilitate their being cleaned.”

One hundred and forty-six years after the patent was granted, the Missouri Meerschaum company can still be found in Washington producing corn cob pipes based in part on Henry Tibbe’s original design. In 1907 the original company, called H. Tibbe, Son & Co., became Missouri Meerschaum, and Washington became the corn cob pipe capital of the world as the piped continued to gain popularity. In one notable example of the pipes’ popularity, General Douglas MacArthur sent in a design he developed himself and asked Missouri Meerschaum to manufacture it. He was photographed often with his iconic corn cob pipe, and the company still produces pipes based on MacArthur’s design.

According to a piece on SmokingPipes.com, many aspects of the production process remain the same as they used to one hundred and fifty years after the company’s inception, with some of its production equipment still in use after more than one hundred years.