There aren’t many companies that have operated continuously for 150 years. In that elite group is Missouri Meerschaum Company, manufacturer of corn cob pipes, which is observing that ultra-milestone this week and for the rest of the year.
To celebrate that historic accomplishment, there will be factory tours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday, along with music, food and its gift shop will be open. This will be an opportunity to see how the pipes are made, the same basic way they have been manufactured for many years. There will be a similar event at the factory on Front Street in October.
The Washington-made pipes can be found in many countries around the globe.
The corn cob pipe was assisted in its worldwide acceptance by Gen. Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame, who not only smoked the pipe but helped to design some of them. Carl Otto and son Steve, when they owned the company, along with Edmund Otto, traveled to many countries in selling the pipes. Carl was very good at gaining publicity for the company and its product.
In his travels to about 65 countries, the late publisher of The Missourian, James L. Miller, Sr., always carried corn cob pipes with him to give to heads of state and ordinary people. His son, Bill, Sr., who also has traveled to a number of countries, continued the tradition of always having corn cob pipes with him to give out in foreign countries.
Both of the Millers always marveled at seeing the pipes for sale in many countries. They are excellent souvenirs and gifts to people.
Missouri Meerschaum has outlived many of its competitors, especially here in Washington. As far as is known, Washington now is the only place in the world where they are made. The name “Corn Cob Pipe Capital of the World” is appropriate.
It was in about 1869 that a Dutch immigrant, Henry Tibbe, made the first corn cob pipe and started to manufacture them. By 1925 there were as many as a dozen manufacturers of the pipe, including several in Washington. In 1912 the company was sold to Edmund Henry Otto. For over 50 years the company was operated by members of the Otto family. It has been operated by nonresident owners since members of the Otto family sold the business.
The fact that the company has reached its 150th birthday is proof of the quality and endurance of the corn cob pipe.