North Pacific, Hawaiian Islands, West Maui, Lahaina, ca. 19th century CE. A lengthy wood, pottery, and brass opium pipe brought and used by the Chinese contract laborers that migrated to the islands for agricultural work. The tubular body is a dark, lustrous wood with the protruding brass receptacle just after a carved animal head. The detachable bowl insert is made from ceramic with a brass frame on top. On the underside of the bowl are stamped Chinese characters, which are indiscernible. An inhalation hole is drilled into the wooden tip. What can only be assumed to be solidified opium tar accumulation is still present in the pipe and bowl. Often those desperate from lack of the drug would break open the pipe and consume the tar. Luckily that did not happen with this fine example! Size: 21.75" L x 1.25" W (55.2 cm x 3.2 cm)
The California Gold Rush created a demand for more agricultural goods to the west coast, which encouraged farming and exportation from the Hawaiian Islands. In 1852 nearly 300 Chinese contract workers came to the islands specifically to help meet this labor demand, and soon Hawaii developed a strong Chinese community. Opium was already used in Hawaii as a medicinal substance, but the Chinese population popularized recreational smoking. Alcohol abuse had become a widespread problem with Native Hawaiians, and smoked opium posed a serious threat to the health of the Islanders and interfered with the productivity of the sugar plantation workers. In 1856 King Kamehameha IV proposed an opium control legislation that enacted permits and licenses to limit opium sale to only medicinal pharmacies. However, that did little to prevent opium smuggling and the notorious opium dens popular with sailors and Chinese workers.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection, acquired from 1995 to 2010
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Tar build-up within receptacle and pipe bowl. Stable pressure fissures and hairline cracks throughout the wooden pipe. Chips to brass neck of bowl. Upper ceramic face has stable hairline fissures. Heavy mineral /tar buildup within and on exterior. Dark patina from age and use.