Monday, November 27, 2006

PIPE DREAMS

I first take up the issue of the Dartmouth's outlawing, in 1993, the custom of seniors breaking their long-stem clay pipes on the stump of the old pine tree in the BEMA during graduation week. This tradition was killed because our Indian brothers accused this rite of involving a "peace pipe". This is, at best, a forced conclusion. Long-stemmed or “Churchwarden” clay pipes existed long before Dartmouth was founded and even before the English came to America. See:

http://history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter03-04/pipes.cfm

Many of these cheap clay pipes were coach drivers' pipes which were used by those early drivers who brought students to Hanover from White River, etc. These coach drivers would, when the nicotine and tar levels around the mouthpiece grew too dark, break off a few inches of the stem to get to a more pristine part. These clay pipes also were used in taverns where patrons could use a communal pipe by first breaking off a few inches of its stem for sanitary sake.

Early Dartmouth students adopted this pipe because of its panache, ubiquity, and low price. They also adopted the habit of periodically shortening the stem for hygienic purposes. Then, of course, when they graduated, this clay pipe would become a college-days throwback and its abandonment for more expensive pipe types (such as briar) was celebrated in this BEMA ceremony. It had absolutely nothing to do with Indians, except perhaps that it was the Indians who introduced the world to tobacco … perhaps an act for which the world should demand reparations?

Alas, we "Big Greeners" have been once again buffaloed by the PC crowd.

3 comments:

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

I also remember this wonderful tradition, which had nothing to do with Indian peace pipes. We seniors gathered for our class day ceremonies in the Bema, and broke our long-stemmed pipes over the Old Pine stump above.

If there was any reason for the Administration to kill this tradition, it was surely due to the sweet aroma of interesting weeds being smoked throughout the class day speachifying.

My memory fades, but I remember nothing having to do with native american pipes or ceremonies. If anything, coming off Dartmouth's founding bi-centennial two years prior, it was more a reminder of our institutional ties to colonial days and our English benefactor.

What a shame that such a tradition was stopped through ignorance, as I am only learning now.

Any Stray Marks said...

Mr. Potts wrote:

"Early Dartmouth students adopted this pipe because of its panache, ubiquity, and low price. They also adopted the habit of periodically shortening the stem for hygienic purposes. Then, of course, when they graduated, this clay pipe would become a college-days throwback and its abandonment for more expensive pipe types (such as briar) was celebrated in this BEMA ceremony"

This is completely false. And by the way, Bema is a Greek word. It's spelled "Bema."

Mr. Dreisbach said that it had nothing to do with Indian peace pipes. That too is incorrect.

According to William Carroll Hill's book Dartmouth Traditions (Dartmouth Press, 1901), President Bartlett investigated the history of the Old Pine and Class Day and sent out surveys to alumni. One of the oldest respondents was Thomas Wilson of the class of 1844, who wrote "The class of '44 at the time of its graduation held memorial services around it and smoked the pipe of peace."

Almost every other alumnus quoted from the period calls it a peace pipe. The song students sang was "When Shall We Three Meet Again?," which they believed was about three Indians parting at the Old Pine. The class orator was for a long time (although possibly not until later in the century) called the Sachem Orator.

None of the alumni from the period before the Civil War mentions breaking the pipe. Hill states that the custom of breaking the pipes did not come about until after the 1870s.

The College administration did not end the breaking of the pipes, it was the class of 1992. The class of 2007, if they wanted, could reinstate it, or they could reinstate just the smoking portion of the event.

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

to Any Stray Marks:

I thank you for your informative history, which adds some needed perspective. Point of clarification... while the tradition may have its historical origins in peace pipes (which you historians can debate), my observation is that by my era any such tie was already gone.

Your information has been factual and your tone constructive. You appear to becoming a regular commenter here. How about if you join us in true dialog by using your real name.