- JRR Tolkien - Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years you have seen or heard of The Lord of the Rings. It’s one of the most successful books ever written, as well as one of the most beloved movie trilogies ever created, generating billions of dollars at the box office. The creator of Lord of the Rings was an unassuming Oxford professor named JRR Tolkien who was a lifelong fan of the pipe. So much so that it is unusual to find a photo of him without his pipe. Tolkien began smoking a pipe around the time of the First World War and some have theorized that he did so to relieve some of the tension of the battlefield. He remained an avid enthusiast of hand pipes his whole life and passed on his love of pipes to his literary creation, the Hobbits.
- Albert Einstein - E=mc2 is probably the most famous mathematic equation ever devised. Though few understand its profound implications, nearly everyone knows who came up with it. Albert Einstein was working at the Swiss patent office in 1905 when he devised his earth-shattering equation, which eloquently describes the equivalence between mass and energy and would ultimately lead (much to his consternation) to the development of nuclear weapons. Einstein was a lifelong pipe enthusiast and was rarely seen without one. To quote the great man, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs”.
- Gerald Ford - Gerald Ford was our nation’s 38th president and a pivotal figure in American politics. After Richard Nixon was forced to resign Ford took over a nation divided. For many millions of Americans, photos of the unassuming Ford relaxing in the oval office smoking confidently on his wooden pipe provided much-needed reassurance that, as he himself declared upon taking office “Our long national nightmare is over”. To say Ford was a fan of hand pipes is an understatement. He is known to have smoked 8 - 10 pipes per day. It didn’t seem to have any negative effects on him though as he lived to the ripe old age of 93.
- Hugh Hefner - Regardless of what you think of his magazine it would be naive indeed for anyone to try and deny the immense influence Hugh Hefner had on popular culture. By openly embracing nudity and bringing sexual issues out into the open Hefner played a central role in relaxing the buttoned-up norms of the mid-20th century and creating the more sexually permissive society we live in now. Hefner was a renowned pipe enthusiast who at one point had a briar pipe designed especially for him and marketed to the masses as “The Hugh Hefner Pipe”. Hef relaxing in the Playboy mansion with his signature silk pajamas, smoking jacket and briar pipe became iconic images of the middle and late 20th century.
- Douglas MacArthur - You can’t have a discussion about famous pipe smokers and not include General Douglas MacArthur. The image of MacArthur staring off into the distance, outrageously large corn cob pipe clenched between his teeth, is one that stirred patriotic feelings in the hearts of an entire generation. Ever the showman, he was keenly aware of the power of the image and created one for himself that separated him from the pack. In private, he was more of a briar pipe kind of guy. But when the photographers gathered around he always reached for that distinctive corn cob. FYI: MacArthur actually designed the pipe himself and sent the schematic to the Missouri Meerschaum Company who made it for him.
- Vincent Van Gogh - Van Gogh was a notoriously unstable guy who lurched from profession to profession (including a stint as a missionary in the coalfields of Belgium) before settling on painting. His art career spanned only 10 years, but in that 10 years, he managed to create a singular legacy. While he sold only two paintings and some drawings during his lifetime, many of the works he pumped out in a matter of hours while standing under the blazing sun of southern France are today worth tens of millions of dollars. Van Gogh loved to puff on his hand pipes while he painted and while composing the hundreds of letters he wrote to his brother Theo. When he couldn’t afford tobacco (which was often) he would simply chomp on the pipe anyway.
- Stephen Fry - Stephen Fry has had a wide-ranging career that includes countless TV credits in his native Great Britain, an extensive list of stage appearances and key roles in blockbuster films including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. He has also published numerous books of both fiction and non-fiction, including a history of classical music. In 2003 Fry was honored as Pipe Smoker of the Year at a ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London. His response to the honor was typically Fry-ish; “It makes me feel all grown up because pipes are very grown up.”
We could go on but you get the picture. Pipe smokers have made significant contributions to society throughout the ages and there is no reason to think that they’re going to stop any time soon. So light up a bowl and go change the world.