This article is presented in partnership with Missouri Meerschaum.

U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur charged into World War II chaotic combats armed with a bit of Show-Me tenacity. Along with his signature wheel hat and aviator sunglasses, his third must-have was a Missouri-made corn cob pipe for strategic pointing.

To this day, the commander’s namesake, “MacArthur 5-Star Corn Cob Pipe,” remains a popular purchase from Missouri Meerschaum Company, a business that propelled Washington, MO., into being “the corn cob pipe capital of the world.”

The pipe company just celebrated its 150th anniversary during April. The factory is still housed in its original, 1884 red-brick building abutting the Missouri River.

MacArthur was a longtime fan of corn cob pipes, and he actually sent proposed pipe-construction schematics through his personal assistant, who lived in Union, to the Missouri Meerschaum company in hopes of receiving a custom pipe. “When the company’s staff at the time sent him that creation, he was delighted and would rarely be seen in a photograph without it,” says Meerschaum General Manager Phil Morgan.

MacArthur Pipe
General MacArthur with his pipe

That pipe’s reputation helped Missouri Meerschaum gain the title of the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of cool, sweet-smoking corn cob pipes.

The MacArthur 5-Star Pipe features a shortened and absorbent tobacco chamber, an extended bowl, and a long shank to allow faster, wider-open puffing compared to wooden pipes. It currently sells for $14.89 from Meerschaum.

Credit for Missouri’s initial corn cob pipe goes to a Dutch immigrant woodworker named Henry Tibbe, who began producing them in 1869 after a farmer requested one. By 1878, Tibbe even patented his process. In 1907, the H. Tibbe & Son Co. became the Missouri Meerschaum Company.

A MacArthur 5-Star Pipe

MacArthur was known for burning a ring around the shank on every new pipe he received. Phil says they still burn a ring around each 5-Star pipe shank in honor of the general.

An interesting business opportunity emerged in 1951 when Missourian and U.S. President Harry Truman relieved MacArthur of service during the Korean War. Meerschaum Museum and Retail Shoppe Manager Rebeca Clinkinbeard says hundreds of MacArthur devotees besieged the company with orders for the iconic 5-Star Pipe–which is how MacArthur’s prototype became a true legacy.

Because the general started rotating his Meerschaum pipes, quantities were shipped to him regularly, reveals Rebeca. In a March 1959 letter to Missouri Meerschaum owner Carl Otto, MacArthur stated:  “With the passage of time I find each year brings increasing enjoyment of my corncob pipes.”

Rebeca says this original letter still whiffs of seasoned pipe tobacco.

By 1925, a dozen corn cob pipe companies operated in Missouri’s Franklin County, most of them in Washington. But today, Missouri Meerschaum stands alone as the first and only surviving slice of this living history.

These pipes are smoked and loved all over the world, to the tune of about 700,000 corn cob pipes sold each year, says Phil. They also are used as souvenirs, often imprinted with city names, businesses, or commemorative events.

To learn more about the Missouri Meerschaum Company, visit their museum & retail shop at 21 Cedar St., Washington, MO  63090, or visit