As the most recent addition to the pipe makers featured on our website and in our catalogues, we are delighted to introduce Old Dominion Pipe Company. To understand better the care and attention to detail these guys are putting into their work, here’s a little bit more about them. Enjoy!
“Old Dominion Pipe Company, LLC was founded by two brothers, Bob and Bill Savage, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore of Virginia encompasses the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, a land with a steep tradition in both agriculture and history.
The story of Old Dominion Pipe Company is two-fold. The first critical part of the story centers around the preservation of an heirloom Indian corn that had been grown on the Eastern Shore for over 140 years. Bill Savage discovered this heirloom Indian corn variety that was on the verge of extinction and took efforts to try and preserve this piece of American agricultural history. DNA testing of this heirloom variety revealed that it can be traced back to the “Bloody Butcher” variety grown at the base of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains as early as the 1840s. Bill quickly determined that this heirloom corn when ground made a very sweet, and unique textured cornmeal. As a result, he and his wife, Laurel, started Pungo Creek Mills and began harvesting the corn using vintage and antique farm equipment and milling the corn using a restored 1935 Meadows Mills vertical stone grinding mill. In 2010, Pungo Creek Mills won the Best New Food Product Diamond Award at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo in Richmond, Virginia for their heirloom Indian cornmeal. Pungo Creek Mills heirloom Indian cornmeal continues to gain popularity among amateur cooks and professional chefs alike. As part of the harvesting process, one byproduct that began to accumulate in large piles was rather thick and colorful corn cobs. The size and thickness of these unique cobs (much thicker than modern yellow corn hybrids) began the brothers’ interest in producing a traditional corn cob pipe.
The second half of the story surrounds a fascinating archeological discovery in April 2013. While metal detecting in a recently plowed field, Bob Savage unearthed a forged iron band that proved to be the remnants of a wooden barrel. This rather unassuming iron relic proved to be the key to unlocking a Virginia colonial plantation site with a variety of mid to late 18th century artifacts including a large quantity of clay pipe bowls and stem fragments as well as the charred remnants of actual corn cobs from the 1700s. The pipes uncovered ranged from European manufactured white clay pipes to locally produced red clay pipes. Due to the large amount of domestically produced red clay pipes found on the site, archeologists hypothesize that these pipes may have actually been made on site. This historic colonial plantation site is undergoing archeological excavation and preservation and is currently closed to the general public in order to preserve the site for further professional archeological exploration. However, once the excavation work has been completed, plans are to set up a museum to house the artifacts recovered on the site and be able to bring to life the story of these early Virginia colonists.
With the discovery of colonial clay pipes as well as the idea that pipes may have actually been produced on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during colonial times, the Savage brothers became even more committed to their idea of not only commercially producing corn cob pipes from their heirloom Indian corn, but to establish a company that would revive traditional smoking pipes from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Old Dominion Pipe Company is the realization of their commitment towards this goal.
At Old Dominion Pipe Company we are committed to producing only handcrafted traditional smoking pipes that give our customers the true enjoyment of smoking a pipe right out of the pages of history. While many modern pipes employ a variety of plastics, acrylics, and other modern man-made materials, our pipes are painstakingly crafted from only natural materials into proven historically accurate designs.
Our corn cob pipes feature a natural corn cob bowl handcrafted from an heirloom Indian corn that traces its origins back to the “Bloody Butcher” variety grown at the base of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains as early as the 1840s. The color variations in Indian corn carry over in the color of the cobs and cobs are carefully selected so that each pipe bowl is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation. The stem is made from natural bamboo cane as was used in the making of corn cob pipes up through the early 20th century.
Today, in keeping with the legacy of the early pipe makers, Old Dominion Pipe Company proudly embraces the American tradition of using the “reed stem” and introducing it to a whole new generation of pipe smokers. This natural bamboo cane varies slightly from stem to stem due to minor deviations in size and natural imperfections. These minor variations in size and shape give each stem its own unique, original quality. Our bamboo stems are not glued into the cob bowls but rather are individually hand tapered and fitted to each bowl and simply held in place by tension as was the traditional method of securing the stem to the bowl. When purchasing an Old Dominion Indian corn cob pipe, you will truly receive a one-of-a-kind creation, not a mass produced pipe!
While all of our Indian corn cob pipes are designed as functional pipes for use by tobacco pipe smokers, we also realize that non-smokers, who may not have an interest in smoking our pipes, may instead have a sincere interest in collecting them. Our pipes are truly accurate reproductions of traditional corn cob pipes dating back more than 100 years! The pipe makes an interesting souvenir representing an historical artifact of rural Americana and a folk symbol of American culture from the mid 1800s through the turn of the 20th century. Civil War and Western living historians as well as cowboy action enthusiasts will find that our cob pipe can also add an interesting flare to their individual impressions. Our pipes also make historically accurate props for theatrical productions as well as for use in films and documentaries.
Due to the variations in cob size as well as the natural tapering of the cob with our heirloom Indian corn variety, only a small portion of the actual cob is large enough to make our “Virginia Planter” pipe, so quantities are limited each year. Smaller portions of the cob are used to manufacture our “Laughing King” and “Chesapeake” cob pipes which are available for sale through this website.”