anti-slavery tobacco pipe

Contributed by Derek Best

Click image 2 below to hear the Radio 4 interview about this object

Image 1 of 2

Josiah Wedgwood made his "Am I not a Man and a Brother" medallion in 1787 and slavery in the British empire was abolished in an Act of 1833. So this dates from those decades.
The pipe's clay may well have been carried by barge on the new canal network to its maker, but it is a common little pipe of standard unglazed make in two half-moulds and so I have no idea where it was manufactured. I have owned it for 15 years.
The pipe's picture is clearly derived from Wedgwood's design, which was the most important emblem of the anti-slavery campaigns. The other side of the bowl is more badly broken, but you can make out the lower half of a figure in female Grecian dress with the base of a spear or trident and a shield by her feet - Britannia?
I like the irony of a man who had presumably chosen the anti-slavery motif smoking tobacco grown by slaves in Virginia.
The pipe brings together C18th technology, a great industrialist, the fashion for tobacco smoking, which had grown hugely over the century, and the first great popular campaign to reverse a social evil.

Comments are closed for this object

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline


after 1787


View more objects from people in Wear.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.