Something interesting for nerds like me. Scott


Annual report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the State of Missouri‎ - 1911

Worthless Corncobs Converted into a Valuable Commodity—Missouri's Output in 1909 Amounted to 27,733,260 Pipes.

Missouri's unique industry, the converting of crude and practically worthless corn cobs into a valuable commodity, known the world over as "Missouri corn cob pipes," broke all previous records for quantity, quality and value of production during the year 1909.

Missouri's production of corn cob pipes, the modern pipes of peace which make tobacco taste its sweetest, amounted in 1909 to 27,733,260 pipes, as compared with 24,671,460 pipes for the year 1908. This was the output of seven factories located at Washington and Union, in Franklin county; Owensville, in Gasconade county; Bowling Green, in Pike county, and Holstein, in Warren county. In addition there were manufactured by these same establishments 454,236 wooden pipes, 152,784 pipe cleaners and 1,881,484 extra stems.

This vast array of figures furnishes the basis for the most vivid "pipe dreams" when it comes to determining just how many corn cobs were consumed in this gigantic industry. Even allowing two pipes to the cob, it took nearly 14,000,000 cobs for the bowls, not considering the thirteen or fourteen millions of feet of reed needed for the stems. One thoroughly posted on the average yield of corn per acre could go deeper into this interesting subject and establish almost tp a certainty how many acres of Missouri's richest bottom lands were used to raise this amount of maize.

While only one of Missouri's pipe factories makes a specialty of the wooden variety, two others turn them out as a side line. As each cob pipe required a stem, it is close enough to say that at least 30,000,000 stems were manufactured in the same period, not all of reed, but a good many of bone, some of amber and several millions of imitation amber and other substances.

Value of Output.

The 1909 production of the factories, which have made returns, sold for $448,454, as compared with $431,810 for the year 1908. Early reports for 1910 indicate that the production for this year- will be worth $475,000. These figures include the value, not alone of the cob pipes, but also of all wooden ones, the extra stems and the cleaners. At retail these pipes-sell for from five and ten cents up to fifty cents, according to the design, finish and material the stem is made of.

If there are any corn cob pipe factories outside of Missouri their production is so small that their State Labor Bureaus do not herald the fact to the world. Franklin county is the center of the corn cob pipe industry of the world. Its output alone for 1909 consisted of 24,433,300 of "Missouri corn cobs," which is nearly as much as the whole State produced in 1908. In addition, 1,881,484 extra stems and 55.872 wooden pipes came from there.

Many Women Employed.

The process of converting a corn cob, rough and crude, as everyone knows it to be, into a highly finished and pretty "Missouri corn cob," with either a bone or amber mouth piece, worth from ten cents to a quarter of a dollar, is highly interesting, requiring much delicate and rapid handling, and many intricate and fast revolving machines. The workers are highly skilled, intelligent and so keen sighted that no damaged pipe bowl ever passes beyond each individual machine, regardless of the vast number turned out hourly. They enjoy the work and take great pride in producing a perfect pipe, realizing that the fame of the "Missouri corn cob" depends upon their quick, deft fingers. Time has made each so skillful that accidents seldom occur.

Each pipe goes through about a hundred operations and handlings before it is ready to be sent to the packing room, where the finishing touches, such as labeling, sorting and placing in pasteboard boxes, is done by young, neat damsels with rosy cheeks, flashing eyes and nimble fingers. All the machine work is done by male workers, each having his own little part to do. Some run machines which in the fraction of a second cut the cob into the first rough size; others operate borers which in a flash excavates the bowl; others have charge of the piece of mechanism which cuts the hole for the stem, and still others manipulate sanding, -smoothing, plastering, staining and varnishing devices.

Statistical Facts.

In all the seven factories, which reported for 1909, employed 301 male workers and 52 females, who drew in course of that year $137,327 in salaries and wages. The raw material and supplies required to produce pipes worth $448,454 cost $199,981, most of which sum went to farmers for cobs, which were formerly Considered valueless and either burned as fuel or used to fill swamp lands.

Invested in grounds, buildings, machinery, tools, fixtures, etc., the seven factories reported $199,414, a gain in working capital of about $40.000 over 1908. There was paid out for rent, taxes and insurance $2,827 and for other miscellaneous purposes $59,410.

Missouri corn cob pipes are used the world over, being as familiar on the streets of the cities of Norway and Sweden, Australia, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, not to mention England and Ireland, as they are in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and other American metropolises. A corn cob pipe may not strike the casual observer as worthy of much consideration until it becomes known that they are made of a commodity which was once considered to possess no value at all—the ordinary corn cob—an article once so worthless that it was a serious question of how to cheaply and quickly rid the farm of it. After this reflection the observer, if he has ever been fortunate enough to taste of the sweetness of a "Missouri corn cob," can catch the enthusiasm of the poet who sang:

"The pipe that grows in the hayfield, where I so yearn to be—
The old Missouri corn cob, lads, and that's the smoke for me."

The following table gives the number of corn cob pipes produced in Missouri since 1904, and the value of the total pipe production:



















In six years Missouri pipe factories have marketed 153,014.010 corn cob pipes, valued at $2,566,295—all this wealth from a side line. A. T. E.

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