It’s a story that first came to life in 1969. Frosty the Snowman, was a jolly and happy soul. His features included more than just his personality, but a corn cob pipe and a button nose, as well as two eyes made out of coal. The story hasn’t lost its luster in 50 years, even when it comes to the iconic corn cob pipe.
“Missouri Meerschaum is a corn cob pipe company that’s been in business continuously for 150 years,” said Phil Morgan, general manager of Missouri Meerschaum Company.
Nestled along the Missouri River in quaint Washington, Mo., the same brick building has seen 150 years of change.
“We were the first company to commercially make corn cob pipes, and for all intensive purposes, we are the last,” added Morgan.
The last corn cob pipe company in the U.S., vowing to stay strong to its roots.
“All the pipes we make are from corn cobs we grow,” said Morgan.
He says the secret sauce for the 150-year-old pipe: the cob.
“The variety of corn we have, we can end up with a tiny small cob or we can end up with a really large, fat cob and obviously, the large fat ones are the ones that we need,” said Morgan.
A fat cob that produces small kernels is hard to find today.
“We have our own hybrid, we’re the only ones who have it,” said Morgan.
A rare type of corn that’s baked into one heritage hybrid.
“Our corn is made up of 4 old, open-pollinated corn varieties from way back in the early 1900s”
The one heritage hybrid creates the desirable cob’s perfect pith for making corn cob pipes.
“The next part of the cob is called the woody ring, and if you let that dry long enough, in our case about two years, that literally becomes as hard as wood and that's why you can make a pipe out of it,” explained Morgan.
From there, the magic of a corn cob pipe begins.
“We have about 30 different styles or different varieties of corn cob pipes,” he said.
The art of making the pipe is all done by hand.
“A lot of craftsmanship goes into the pipe that people don’t realize,” said Morgan.
The attention to detail. The artistry. It’s all stayed the same for 150 years.
“It has been that way from the very beginning,” he said.
Missouri Meerschaum Company still uses one machine 120 years old. Morgan said he doesn’t plan on changing the way the company creates the pipe, as it helps keep the nostalgia alive.
“It’s about as much of an American heritage product you can find anywhere, and that’s what I’m proud of, that we’re keep it going,” he said.
The peak of smoking a pipe came from the 1930s to 1950s. After WWII, more soldiers, and Americans, got hooked to cigarettes, and demand for pipes dwindled. While the peak of smoking a pipe may have come and gone, he said millennials are helping the hobby of smoking a pipe make a comeback.
“I think what’s driving the comeback, is just the social aspect of it,” said Morgan.
The iconic pipe made a memorable impression, thanks to famous fictional stories. From Popeye, to Frosty the Snowman, even Santa Clause in “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” all featured pipes.
But the tradition of smoking a pipe wasn’t always fiction.
“When you’ve been in business 150 years, someone famous is bound to smoke your pipe,” said Morgan.
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most popular individuals who smoked Missouri Meerschaum Company’s corn cob pipe. He even designed his own pipe. It’s still made today. Mark Twain, Norman Rockwell also all smoked a corn cob pipe from Missouri Meerschaum Company
It’s the iconic corn cob pipe’s story, and the revival of nostalgia, helping keep the tradition alive today.