Washington, Missouri has the distinction of being named the “Corncob Pipe Capital of the World.”  The company whose work led to this distinction is the Missouri Meerschaum Company, one of the world’s largest producers of corncob pipes.  This town sits in the low hills along the Missouri River.  Two famous Americans who have favored corncob pipes include Mark Twain and Herbert Hoover. 

Located west of St. Louis, Washington provides the world’s supply of sweet smelling corncob pipes from its two factories that are designed exactly for this purpose.  The first factory had its beginnings as a small business in the late 1860s.  By 1872, its owner, Henry Tibbe, gave his business an official name, the Missouri Meerschaum Company.  By 1939, another factory, Buescher Industry, had been founded to aid in the production of corncob pipes.

Both factories allow visitors.  At Buescher Industry, visitors can peruse the collection of approximately eight thousand corncob pipes on display there.  This is quite possibly the largest known collection of corncob pipes.

Missouri Meerschaum Company only allows visitors through special arrangements or appointments.  The atmosphere here remains authentic to the original days of the factory.  Old corncob pipe ads are proudly displayed.  Filing cabinets are constructed from wood sit upon the original wooden floors.  Original documents including awards and photographs are framed and adorn the vintage walls.

Also an interesting sightseer spot in Washington is an interesting array of buildings from the Civil War era that line part of one of its main streets, Front Street.  These buildings include an abandoned factory that once produced corncob pipes.  Washington was a major stop for many of the showboats that took to the river.

Corncob pipes require a special hybrid corn that contains a high wood content for their production.  This hybrid produces unusually large cobs that are excellent for the crafting of the pipes.  In fact, the cobs are so large that a total of four pipes can be made from one cob.  The cobs must first be aged for at least two years before they can be used to make the pipes. 

Once the cobs are aged properly, they are cut into pieces, hollowed out, and sanded.  Next, they are coated with plaster of paris and allowed to dry.  Then, they are sanded again and shellacked.  Once a stem hole is bored into the piece, the stem and plastic mouthpiece are firmly attached.