Pipe in the possibles bag

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Steel Hayes

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Like American Express, I never leave home without it.
 

Notchy Bob

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There is a lot more to this thread than first meets the eye.

I'll defer to you experienced pipe smokers with regard to the best and/or most authentic way to carry a clay pipe. I'll have to confess, I've never owned one! However, just about all aspects of frontier life appeal to me, and I have run across a few things that may interest some of you. I'll apologize in advance... No offense intended toward anyone.

First is the term "possibles bag." We have discussed this before, but some of it bears repeating. Out of curiosity, I did a computer assisted search of digitized copies of eleven books written and published during the first half of the 19th century. These were all first person accounts. That pouch that we sling over one shoulder and use to carry shooting supplies had several names, listed according to number of occurences:

Bullet Pouch: 13
Shot Pouch: 6
Shot Bag: 4
Shot-belt: 3
Hunting Pouch: 2
Ball Pouch: 1

Also, the term "pouch" was found 14 times, only counting those instances when it was clear from the context that the writer was referring to the shoulder-slung "hunting pouch." I found the term "possibles," in reference to one's personal belongings, 12 times, and "possible sack" five times, but only when referring to a large sack or bag to hold one's "possibles." This was always possible (singular, not "possibles") and always sack (not "bag"). I did not find "possibles bag" one single time. Not once. The hunting pouch was never called a "possibles bag," back in those days.

To avoid confusion, I will use the term "hunting pouch." It is a documented, period correct term, and I think we can all agree on what it is. This pouch would obviously contain shooting supplies... bullets and so forth, but I found that "mountain men" also used it to hold small souvenirs, sinew for repairing moccasins, and flint and steel. However, I did not find any mention of carrying a pipe in one of these, and the fire-making apparatus might also be carried in a separate container. This quote is from Osborne Russell, Journal of a Trapper (1834-1843):

“A trapper’s equipment in such cases is generally one animal upon which is placed one or two epishemores, a riding saddle and bridle, a sack containing six beaver traps, a blanket with an extra pair of moccasins, his powder horn and bullet pouch, with a belt to which is attached a butcher knife, a wooden box containing bait for beaver, a tobacco sack with a pipe and implements for making fire, with sometimes a hatchet fastened to the pommel of his saddle.” (Chapter XXI, page 85)

This was probably in reference to the "fire bag." The following image is of a German adventurer named Balduin Mollhausen, who spent several years on the plains. Note the beaded fire bag tucked under his belt:

Balduin Mollhausen.jpg



In Canada, this tobacco pouch or fire bag was called a skipertogan. This next quote is from Samuel Hearne, an early Hudson's Bay Company employee who explored most of Canada, east of the Rockies, in the company of a band of native people in the mid-18th century:

2021-03-31 (1).png


So, one's pipe would have typically been carried somewhere other than the hunting pouch, but careful as the people were, clay pipes must have been broken now and then. This image is of Lord Milton and Walter Cheadle, British adventurers who took an extended hunting trip all the way across Canada in 1861-1863. Cheadle wrote a wonderful account of the trip, entitled The North-West Passage by Land, published in 1865. This is a group picture of Milton and Cheadle with their Assiniboine guide and his wife and son:

Milton & Cheadle.jpg


In the lower part of the image, front and center, you'll see a hatchet, a pouch, and a pipe:

Milton & Cheadle 2.jpg


It looks to me as if this is a common clay pipe whose stem was broken, and then repaired with a new stem of wood. Probably willow, green ash, sumac, or some other wood with a central pith that could be punched or burned out with a hot wire. It is a clever repair, and probably stronger (and cooler in the hand) than the original clay stem. That fringed pouch lying across the hatchet is probably the tobacco bag.

So, we have documentation of tobacco being preferentially carried in a container other than the hunting pouch. Interestingly, those sheet-metal containers that most of us think of as "tinder boxes" were actually stocked and sold by the traders as "tobacco boxes." This makes sense, really... If you carry your flint and steel in a metal box, it will clatter around and also pulverize your char cloth. The magnifying glass in the lid of some of these was intended for lighting one's pipe. although it could also be used for starting a fire or finding a tiny splinter in your finger. Here is old Hugh Monroe's account of using his glass to light a pipe. It was the first time his Piegan friends had ever seen such a thing, and they were duly impressed:

Rising Wolf 530.1.png


There was a nice article about iron tobacco boxes in The Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly, Volume 9, No. 1, pp. 2-4:

Tobacco Boxes 1.1.JPG


The iron tobacco boxes in the photo were made by Cash Manufacturing, and as far as I know, they are pretty authentic. One has the burning glass, and one does not. It is my understanding the iron would have been the most common material for these back in the day, although many people now seem to prefer the brass ones. Cash has evidently discontinued the elliptical iron tobacco boxes, although there may be a few still floating around unsold.

In any event, whether you carry your clay pipe in your hat, on a gage d'amour, or in a skipertogan, you'll probably be more authentic than if you carry it in your hunting pouch. If the stem breaks, you can repair it with a replacement of wood, and still be period-correct. And, as a final thought, those broken pieces of stem can be used as period-correct beads, but that's another story....

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
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George

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Thank you for an excellent post, Notchy Bob.

You said, "I found the term "possibles," in reference to one's personal belongings, 12 times, and "possible sack" five times, but only when referring to a large sack or bag to hold one's "possibles." This was always possible (singular, not "possibles") and always sack (not "bag"). I did not find "possibles bag" one single time. Not once. The hunting pouch was never called a "possibles bag," back in those days."

More evidence of your point. In Wah-To-Yah and the Taos Trail: Or, Prairie Travel and Scalp dances, with a look at Los Rancheros from muleback and the Rocky mountain camp-fire_, (1846-47) by Lewis Hector Garrard, published in 1850,‘possibles’ is used seven times. What’s more, Garrard defines it simply as “personal property” in a footnote on page 111 in the online version and 100 in my hard copy.
“On the 8th, we packed our robes, and possibles,* and, by eleven o clock, the wagon ,with its two yoke of half-famished oxen attached, ready for a start, was on the top of the hill.”
*Personal property

In the field notes [1837] for his sketch that became "Trappers Starting for the Beaver Hunt," Alfred Jacob Miller wrote:
“On starting for the hunt the trapper fits himself out with full equipment. In addition to his animals he procures 5 or 6 traps, ammunition, a few pounds of tobacco, a supply of moccasins, a wallet called a “possible sack”, gun, bowie knife, and sometimes a tomahawk. Over his left shoulder and under his right arm hang his buffalo powder-horn, a bullet pouch in which he carries balls, flint, and steel, with other knick-knacks. Bound around his waist is a belt, in which is stuck his knife in a sheath of buffalo hide, made fast to the belt by a chain or guard of some kind and on his breast a pipe holder, usually a gauge d’ amour in the shape of a heart, worked in porcupine quills by some dusky charmer.”

Spence
 
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George

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Notchy Bob, you said, "Here is old Hugh Monroe's account of using his glass to light a pipe. It was the first time his Piegan friends had ever seen such a thing, and they were duly impressed:"

I'm not familiar with old Hugh Monroe, haven't found him on the web yet. Can you tell me what date the burning glass incident took place?

Newspapers of the 18th century have numerous ads for burning glasses.

Spence
 
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I THINK one of our problems now lack of horses.
When we look at paintings of Miller or Bodmier we don’t see a lot of extra bags stuck in the belt in the manner of the pipe sack above.
I have a small market wallet with my fire and smoke but I can’t find such in a painting.
Many coats tied with a sash and belts with a knife was oft worn, and pockets were not unknown. And I suspect that a bag was stuck in the sinus of the coat or in a pocket. And much of what we stuff on our selves was on the horse grabbed only when needed.
 

Notchy Bob

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Notchy Bob, you said, "Here is old Hugh Monroe's account of using his glass to light a pipe. It was the first time his Piegan friends had ever seen such a thing, and they were duly impressed:"

I'm not familiar with old Hugh Monroe, haven't found him on the web yet. Can you tell me what date the burning glass incident took place?

Newspapers of the 18th century have numerous ads for burning glasses.

Spence
Spence,

Thank you for the note by Alfred Jacob Miller. I had not seen that, but it provides more supporting information. I'll add that to the total count. Terrific!
I am familiar with Garrard, and his Wah-to-Yah and the Taos Trail was one of the books I searched. I may have not been clear, but "possibles" (plural) were one's personal belongings, as Garrard said, but when used in combination with "sack," the word "possible" was always singular, i.e. "possible sack," but never "possibles sack." The quote you provided from Miller is significant, in that he described "...a wallet called a "possible sack"..." So, @tenngun is probably spot-on, with his market wallet.

Another descriptive reference is in Four Years in the Rockies, Or, The Adventures of Isaac P. Rose, by James B. Marsh (1884) : “While staying in Westport, the packs had been stowed away in a log warehouse, about three miles from town, at the mouth of the Kaw, or what is now called the Kansas River. Here Rose placed his possible sack. This being a large leather sack that would hold about three bushels. In this bag Rose had placed all the curiosities he had collected in the mountains… The bag was filled with curiosities of every description, and Rose valued it more than all the money he had earned during his stay in the mountains…” (p. 229-230). I think the author may have exaggerated a little regarding the size, but I suppose his point was that the sack was pretty big.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Hugh Monroe was an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company through much of the 19th century. He joined the company when he was quite young, and was sent to live with the South Piegan (Blackfoot) people in order to learn their language and cultivate their goodwill toward the Company. He ended up living with them permanently, and marrying into the tribe, who named him "Rising Wolf." I think the episode with the burning glass was in about 1816. James Willard Schultz, who came later but also married into the tribe and wrote several interesting memoirs, knew Monroe very well. Schultz wrote this piece, which gives a short biography of Monroe but is also a wonderful ethnographic study. It also has a bit about muzzle-loaders: Hugh Monroe's Pistol

Schultz also wrote a more complete biography, which is (happily) available to read online, in its entirety, for free: Rising Wolf, the White Blackfoot

This is a photo of Hugh, much later in life. He was a flintlock shooter until the end:

Hugh Monroe - Rising Wolf.jpg


I'm not sure, but that may be Hugh's son sitting next to him.

Thanks for the information!

Notchy Bob
 

Belleville

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A friend once had a tinsmith make him a tin container to protect his clay pipe, It was generally the shape of the pipe and had a hinged door and latch in the front. Pipe slid in thru the door. I think it was based on an original container. If so you should be able to find a reference?
 

toot

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Notchy Bob, you said, "Here is old Hugh Monroe's account of using his glass to light a pipe. It was the first time his Piegan friends had ever seen such a thing, and they were duly impressed:"

I'm not familiar with old Hugh Monroe, haven't found him on the web yet. Can you tell me what date the burning glass incident took place?

Newspapers of the 18th century have numerous ads for burning glasses.

Spence
I always thought that the glass in the tobacco tin was for starting char cloth on fire? makes sense to use it to light your pipe with it. and the tobacco that was carried in it.
 

toot

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A friend once had a tinsmith make him a tin container to protect his clay pipe, It was generally the shape of the pipe and had a hinged door and latch in the front. Pipe slid in thru the door. I think it was based on an original container. If so you should be able to find a reference?
brass & tin cases were at one time common pales to carry a clay pipe in to prevent breakage. and the little tit on the bottom of the bowl was to hang onto when the bowl became to hot to hold.
 

Notchy Bob

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A friend once had a tinsmith make him a tin container to protect his clay pipe, It was generally the shape of the pipe and had a hinged door and latch in the front. Pipe slid in thru the door. I think it was based on an original container. If so you should be able to find a reference?
I know what you are describing. I know I have seen one of those pictured somewhere. I'm pretty sure I have also seen a hinged wooden box with a pipe-shaped cutout. However, I've been unable to find either of these in any of the references I have on hand.

Notchy Bob
 
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Good pipe tobacco is low in nicotine. Higher levels give a biter most flavor agents also add bite. So stay away from cherry or vanilla for a mild smoke.
A plain navel flake keeps well. A black flake is flavored with latikia and add a peppery flavor to your smoke.
A cavandash starts well in a pipe
 

Cruzatte

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I've bought clay pipes from Penn Valley Pipes They have a wide variety of clays that are reasonably priced.

Good pipe tobacco is low in nicotine. Higher levels give a biter most flavor agents also add bite. So stay away from cherry or vanilla for a mild smoke.
A plain navel flake keeps well. A black flake is flavored with latikia and add a peppery flavor to your smoke.
A cavandash starts well in a pipe
For a different flavor try Virginia/Perique blends. They are fragrant, but not cloyingly sweet, and smoke quite cool with little or no tongue bite.

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beardedhorse

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I've gone through 6 clay pipes. Most broke in or falling out of gage d' amore. I do Bent's Old Fort historical interpreation and an original pipe excavated has a long clay stem. I may have to change to a pipe bag and catlinite bowl and ash or sumac stem. Got mine from a local trader in Colo at Frozen Toes Rondy,
 
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