Bob and Bill Savage, the brothers behind Old Dominion Pipe Company have quite a unique history. They stumbled into corn cob pipe making, almost by accident. The company is just a year old, making it a baby in the world of tobacco pipes, where most pipe makers have been around since the 1800s.
Virginia and its corn cobs
The two brothers started with a passion for the Delmarva Peninsula. This small stretch of land is on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and has a colorful agricultural history.
Bill Savage heard about an heirloom strain of Indian corn called “Bloody Butcher.” The strain, famous for its dark red kernels, was in danger of extinction. To help prevent this, Bill and his wife, Laurel, started Pungo Creek Mills and began growing Bloody Butcher. The corn, when ground, makes a sweet and memorable cornmeal that the company now has quite a reputation for.
Unearthing pipe making history
As Pungo Creek cornmeal gained popularity, the natural byproduct of producing cornmeal, corn cobs, began piling up all over the farm. The cobs on this heirloom corn are thicker and larger than most yellow corn, which is genetically modified to have a smaller and thinner cob. A perfect specimen for making a corn cob pipe!
In April 2013, while using a metal detector before planting a recently plowed field, Bob Savage found an iron forged band from an old corn cob pipe. This simple find led to the unearthing of an old plantation, complete with charred corn cobs from the 1700s and European manufactured clay pipes.
So many American-produced red clay pipes were found on the property that archeologists believe might have been made on site.
Another nod to Virginia history
The discovery of colonial-era clay and corn cob tobacco pipes on the property convinced the brothers to use all those extra corn cobs to help revive the traditional style smoking pipes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Although the company is young, its history is anything but, steeped in an America that, as Mark Twain once said, sometimes grew corn just to get to the cob.