Montreal Clay Tobacco Pipe Prices In 1852, 1856, 1869, and 1870

Clay Tobacco Pipe Prices In 1852, 1856, 1869, and 1870 in Montreal


Very little is known of the prices of clay tobacco-pipes in Montreal throughout the nineteenth century. No price lists, such as the 1900 Scottish and Irish booklet (Anonymous 1900), or the circa 1875 McDougall catalogue, have survived, and little is known of the relationship between imported pipes and locally produced Montreal pipes. A search of the Montreal Gazette newspaper from January of 1845 until August of 1856, and the Montreal Herald newspaper from August of 1869 to February of 1871 has revealed some information on the wholesale prices of pipes in the Montreal market. The listings were entries in the tabulation of wholesale grocery prices in the business section of each of the newspapers.


The earliest price information was found in the Montreal Gazette and begins with the wholesale listing of July 10th, 1852, and ends with the listing of December 18th, 1852 (Figure 1). The 1852 price quotes were divided into TD pipes, imported products, and Montreal pipes. A high and low figure in shillings and pence was given for a box of each pipe type. Unfortunately no information was given in any of the papers as to the quantity of pipes in a box. The 1852 prices are of interest as they provide the first indication of the relationship between imported pipes and locally produced Montreal pipes. From July 10th, until October 16th, only imported pipes were listed. Imported pipes were priced at between 16 shillings and 17 shillings 6 pence per box. On October 23rd, Montreal pipes were listed for the first time at 7 shillings 9 pence per box.

Montreal Clay Pipe Prices 1852

In the same quote imported pipes dropped to between 14 shillings 6 pence and 15 shillings 6 pence per box. Until the 6th of November 1852, Montreal pipes remained at 7 shillings 9 pence per box. The November 6th quote, for the first time, gave a high figure of 8 shillings 6 pence per box, for Montreal pipes. On December 11th, 1852 the low quote for Montreal pipes rose to 8 shillings 6 pence and the high quote to 8 shillings 9 pence. The prices of both types remained constant after the 11th. The last quote was that of the 18th.


Pipe prices appear not to have been quoted again in the Montreal Gazette until January 7th, 1856. Where as the earlier quotes were references to wholesale listings, the 1856 quotes were titled Prices Current for General Groceries. The 1856 references refer only to imported pipes as they were taxed at 12.5 percent. Montreal pipes were not listed. The listings continued until April 5th, 1856 when they appear to have been terminated (Figure 2). The 1856 quotes indicated that imported pipes were priced at between 10 shillings and 11 shillings 4 pence per box. These prices remained constant until February 18th when the high quote rose to 11 shillings 6 pence per box. The prices did not change after the February 18th quote.

Montreal Clay Pipe Prices 1856

1869 and 1870

Further price information was obtained from the Montreal Herald for the years 1869 and 1870. The quotes appear as current wholesale grocery prices, with imported pipes being taxed at 15 percent. Montreal pipes are not mentioned by name, rather the quotes refer to half boxes of Henderson TD pipes and half boxes of Scottish pipes (Figure 3). The 1869 quotes begin with the August 6th entry and terminate with the December 17th entry. The 1870 quotes begin on the 14th of January and end on the 25th of February. For the entire
period the prices remained constant at $1.30 as a low for Henderson TD pipes and $1.40 as a high. Scottish pipes were priced at $1.125 as a low and $1.50 as a high.

Montreal Clay Pipe Prices 1869-70


The composition of a box of Montreal pipes has puzzled researchers for some time. Sudbury (1980), in his description of the Bannerman branch manufactory at Rouses’ Point N.Y., speculated that a Montreal box contained approximately six gross of pipes. Sudbury’s speculations were based upon calculations of the possible output per employee, per annum. Based on evidence collected by this writer, and discussed below, the figure of six gross may appear to be rather high. The 1871 Federal manufacturers census for St. Marie ward, of Montreal, lists the Henderson and Son pipe factory, at 114 Colborne Avenue, as producing 22,000 boxes or 50,000 gross of pipes. The total value of Henderson’s production was $ 24,000. Rough calculations reveal that a Henderson and Son box may have contained approximately 325 pipes or 2.4 gross with an average value of $ 1.09 per box, assuming one gross was indeed equivalent to 144 pipes. A half box would thus be composed of 163 pipes. The composition of a Henderson and Son box at 2.4 gross is therefore less than the six gross calculated by Sudbury. It is not known however whether this figure represented the typical Montreal box, as all other census listings searched by this writer gave only a total box figure and not a total gross figure. The price information is in itself of interest as for the first time the relationship between imported pipes and Montreal pipes can be examined. The 1852 figures clearly show that imported pipes were roughly double the price of the Montreal product, despite a taxation rate of 12.5 %. Unfortunately it is difficult to attribute the price fluctuations during November and December of 1852 to any specific event, other than the seasonal closing of the shipping season. Therefore they may reflect a readjustment of market prices based on demand or seasonal availability. The 1856 prices indicate a decrease in the cost of the imported product, again despite a taxation rate of 12.5 %. The increase in mid February, late March may once again be a seasonal readjustment. The 1869 and 1870 prices show that the locally produced Henderson product was comparable in price to its imported counterpart, but that it fell into the mid range of the imported prices. The prices quoted for Henderson pipes seem rather high, and may refer to fancy pipes rather than the plain TD variety. Average values for boxes of both Bannerman and Henderson pipes were calculated from the 1871 Federal manufacturers census. Bannerman pipes averaged 85 cents per box and Henderson pipes were slightly more expensive at $ 1.09 per box. It would appear therefore that the taxation rate of 15 %, a drop from the 20 % rate at the time of Confederation in 1867, may have been the major factor in making the imported pipe comparable in price with the Montreal product despite a cheaper landing cost. The overall picture one gets from the price information may explain the taxation increase towards the end of the century to 35 %. During the early 1850’s pipes were probably imported in small quantities and because of shipping costs, wharfage dues, and insurance, were double the cost of the locally produced product. The downward trend in the prices of the imported products appears to have continued during the depression of 1856. By the late 1860’s and early 1870’s the prices appear to have stabilized some what. The trend that probably developed was that of imported pipes becoming cheaper and cheaper despite the increasingly higher rates of taxation. The low cost of the product may have reflected the increased capacity of the Scottish and English manufactories and their ability to supply the Canadian market. By the late 1880’s and 1890’s pipes were taxed at a rate of 35 % ad valorem as they undoubtedly became cheaper and cheaper. Unfortunately no price information has been obtained for this time period. The last Montreal manufacturer, Bannerman Brothers closed their doors in 1902 largely because of an inability to compete with the Scottish imports as well as the newer smoking media.


Anonymous, 1900, Associated Tobacco Pipe Makers’ Society of Scotland and Ireland. Price List. Labour Literature Society, Ltd.

Montreal Gazette, 1845 – 1856. Microfilm, McGill University Library.

Montreal Herald, 1869 – 1871. Microfilm, McGill University Library.

St. Marie Ward, Montreal – Manufacturers Census, 1871. Microfilm, Montreal Municipal Library.

Sudbury, B. 1980, A Preliminary Report on the R. Bannerman Eagle Tobacco Pipe Manufactory, Rouses Point N.Y. Volume 1, Historic Clay Pipe Studies.


Originally Printed in the Ontario Archaeological Society’s publication Arch Notes.

May/Jun 1994 Arch Notes 94-3 pages 23-27

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