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Robert Cotton Pipe

An Excerpt by Beverly Straube From Jamestown Rediscovery 1994-2004 by William M. Kelso with Beverly Straube:

The inclusion of a tobacco pipemaker in the first groups of craftsmen is as enigmatic to researchers today as it apparently was to John Smith when Robert Cotton, "tobacco-pipe-maker," arrived on the Phoenix in April 1608.1 No other mention is made of Cotton, so it is not known how long he remained at Jamestown; he is not listed in the muster of 1624-25, so presumably Cotton had either perished or returned to England by then. With archival information lacking, the material evidence of very accomplished mold-made clay tobacco pipes, fabricated from the Virginia red clay and decorated on the stem with European stamps, provides the sole documentation for this early craftsman's work. These distinctive pipes only occur in the early James Fort features that date around 1610 and have not yet been recorded on any other early Virginia sites.

The design of the stamp on the pipe stems consists of four fleur-de-lis forming a cross within a diamond. The sides of the diamond are incurving as on the 1580-1610 pipes documented in England and thought to be the product of London pipemaker, William Batchelor.2 Robert Cotton must also have been a London pipemaker because pipemaking was almost entirely restricted to that city by monopoly, until the second decade of the 17th century.3 Other aspects of Cotton's stamp reflect decorative motifs of late 16th-and early 17th-century London pipes, which most often include incuse "diamond patterns enclosing initials, crosses or fleur-de-lis on the stems."4

1 Philip L. Barbour, ed., The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631) (Chapel Hill: The Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1986), 2:325.
2 Adrian Oswald, Clay Pipes for the Archaeologist, British Archaeological Reports 14 (1975), 76.
3 Colin Andrew Tatam "The Clay Tobacco Pipe Industry in the Parish of Newington, Southwark, London," The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe XIII. Ed. By Peter Davey, ed., BAR British Series 239, (1994), 5; D.J. Markell "The Clay Tobacco Pipes," Excavations in Poole 1973-1983, Ian P. Horsey, ed. (Dorchester: Dorset History and Archaeological Society, 1992), 159.
4 Oswald: 96

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