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Not so great moments in Pipe History

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Dave O

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Apologies if I am posting this in the wrong place; this general forum seemed like the best fit. I was scanning pipe-related pieces from the Times of London and came across the following mishap that I thought I would share with you.

The major's trousers must have been absolutely blazing by the time he awoke from what was an apparently dead sleep.

From the Times May 15 1953:

MAJOR “FELL ASLEEP
SMOKING PIPE”
__________

HOUSE BURNT DOWN​

An action was settled in the Queen’s Bench Division before Mr. Justice Slade yesterday in which it was alleged that the defendant fell asleep in his ground-floor flat while smoking a pipe, and that the pipe fell and set fire to his trousers, and resulted in the whole house being burned down. The defendant, Major Reginald Cave, of the Junior Carlton Club, Pall Mall, was sued for damages by the owner of the house, Mrs. Muriel du Bois Sprake, of Redcliffe Place, Earl’s Court, S.W. He denied liability.
Mr. W.R. REES-DAVIES, for the plaintiff, said she and her husband were in effect in March, 1952, running a lodging house in Redcliffe Place. Major Cave had been a tenant for some years. At 4 a.m. on March 19 he fell asleep. When he discovered the fire he rushed out leaving all the doors open—the worst thing that he could do.
Later Mr. Rees-Davies said that the parties had come to terms, and asked for judgment to be entered for the plaintiff for £450 with no order for costs.
His LORDSHIP said that they had been extremely well advised, as it appeared to him that Major Cave had no defence. He felt considerable sympathy for Major Cave. It was the sort of thing that could happen to anyone, and he had taken the right course by at once admitting responsibility and apologizing to everyone.
 

adauria

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Wow, the cheesy Austin Powers / James Bonds / Schwarzenegger one-liners almost write themselves:

- You could say he let things get out of hand

- He was an early adopter of hot pants

- The judge must have put him on the hot seat

- Was he telling the truth, or is a he a liar liar pants on fire?

"OK Austin, that's enough..."

-Andrew
 

Justpipes

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At least the judge had "considerable sympathy" for him. I bet the judge was a pipe smoker. And the story also pointed out the commonality of pipe smoking at that time.
 

Dave O

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Hi,

Well, what I wonder about is the kind of mixture the poor Major was smoking at the time. I hope it was good.

There are many, many articles about pipe smoking in The Times from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. There are lots of articles about efforts to grow tobacco in England. Others are very similar to some of the debates we have today, letters to the editor that are both anti- and in support of smoking (about providing tobacco to soldiers, the cruelty of keeping it from workhouse paupers in the 19th century, etc), complaints to the editor from the 1950s that there were no good tobaccos around and things used to be much better in the old days. Of course we all know that there were lots more pipesmokers then than there are now, but good indications that it was so are the frequent appearance of pipes in inquest reports--sad stories of people getting drunk, falling facedown with pipes in their mouths, and breaking off stems in their throats (injuries that killed them after several days), and one gruesome case where a pipe was actually a murder weapon. There is also a splendid supplement that The Times ran in 1925 containing very detailed contributions about the production of tobacco across the world, a series of historical articles about pipes by Alfred Dunhill, as well as many advertisements (which of course you can find in many historical papers). I am still trying to learn about the history of tobacco so I don't pretend to understand all the articles, but they're good stuff nonetheless. That a major newspaper ran such an extensive supplement shows that there was exceptional interest in pipe tobacco in England (and I imagine there was something similar here in the States).

If you like, here's one I posted a long time ago on another forum and will put up here as some of you may not have seen it. This one is actually a great moment in pipe history (imo) and shows how one Englishman fought crime with his briar pipe in 19th century Camberwell (London). This is about my favorite that I've found so far.

The Times (London), 4 September 1884:

HENRY HOWARD, 19, and GEORGE SMITH, 18, were charged on remand with attempting to break and enter a house at Camberwell. One of the prisoners in his attempt to escape took a flying leap through the window of a house, carrying away a portion of the glass and frame work, and falling several feet upon the pavement. He was then set upon by a gentleman named Leith, who at the desire of Constable 254 P remained to give assistance. Leith knocked his man down with a walking stick, and standing over him with a briar-root pipe, which the prostrate man evidently thought was a pistol, declared he would blow his brains out if he attempted to move. He did not attempt to do so, and shortly afterwards the police came up and took the man into custody. The other prisoner jumped from a high wall into a Board school ground, and was followed and secured. Jones, a warder of Wandsworth Prison, now stated that he knew Howard, who was convicted in January, 1883, at the Central Criminal Court for burglary and sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. It was further ascertained that Smith's proper name was Groves. The prisoners, who denied any intention of breaking into a house, were fully committed to take their trial at the next session of the Central Criminal Court.
 

Oddball

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I once fell asleep with a cigar in my mouth while laying on my couch. Lost a few chest hairs and a nice shirt not to mention scarin the hell out of myself.
 

piperguckert

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I fall asleep with my pipe in my mouth all the time ill be sitting in my chair reading when i pass out wake up several hours later with pipe still in mouth and re light.
 
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