By Katherine Taylor-McBroom, Curator of Exhibits and Collections
The meerschaum pipe in the current exhibition 200 Years—200 Objects is a unique carved figure of Admiral George Dewey. Meerschaums pipes are made from the mineral sepiolite usually found floating in the Black Sea. The German word for sea foam is meerschaum and the porous material is useful in providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke for pipes. Meerschaum pipes have been made as early as 1723 and are highly collectible. The unique pipes are carved, turned, and polished. Older pipes turn shades of amber from the base upward because of the material. The darker the shade of amber indicates that the pipe was heavily smoked.
Admiral George Dewey was born in Montpelier, Vermont, and entered Norwich University at 15. He attended the university for two years and left to enter the Naval Academy in 1854, graduating four years later. George Dewey is the only person in the history of the United States to achieve the rank of Admiral of the Navy, or the equivalent of a six-star admiral. He is best known for his heroic actions during the Battle of Manila Bay and the Spanish American War. The museum has many wonderful artifacts in the collection related to Admiral George Dewey, many of which are commemorative pieces because of his heroism and Naval service.