This handy little pocket tool was used to tamp, light, and clean a tobacco pipe bowl. The rounded handle terminal can be used to push the tobacco down into the bowl, the flat edge of the tong can be used as a strike-a-light to create a spark against flint, and the tong can pick up embers by which to light the tobacco.
By the late 1500s, smoking tobacco was a popular pastime among England’s upper class. It had been introduced into the country by English explorers returning from the Americas (Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and others). Early clay pipes typically had a small bowl because the tobacco of the time had a strong biting taste and was expensive.