Wood Pipes

Posted by on Oct 29, 2008 in Dirt, Research and Engagement | No Comments

My day at work ended with a pretty exciting find regarding the article that we are working on regarding our work last spring at Faculty Row, the space used at the Michigan Agricultural College for the first faculty homes, built between 1855 and 1899. One of the artifacts that we found was a large segment of wooden water pipe, most likely made of pine. The pipe clearly had indications of iron wrappings and was pulled up by a backhoe. We are currently working on an article, and wanted to include it in an argument focusing on the correspondence relating to the distance of artifact manufacturing areas to time. Basically, in the early years of the college, materials closer to home were used, and in the latter years, materials further away were being used. Basically, as the College expanded and became a university, the distance that materials had to travel also increased. For the most part, the dateable artifacts we have correspond to this pattern. The wooden water pipe, however, we had not dated. We assumed, since no one uses wooden pipes anymore, that the pipe dates to the 19th century. We also assumed that they were of local construction, since there was plenty of lumber available. What I discovered today, however, turned our assumptions into fact.

I turned up an article online entitled “Wooden Water Pipe” from an 1886 edition of The Manufacturer and Builder, a 19th century trade journal. In it was a picture of our water pipe. Not the exact water pipe, but it might as well have been. It turns out that even in 1886 people assumed that the usage of wooden pipes had stopped, but this article points out that a certain type of wooden pipe was still being used: the Wyckoff Pipe, which uses a certain type of binding and wraps the pipe in iron straps, just like our pipe. There have been a couple instances of these pipes in central Michigan: one, in Holly, and another, in Lansing. Both date to the 1870s, corresponding with this article. However, the best part is this sentence, stating that the Wycoff wood pipe was “issued by the Michigan Pipe Company, of Bay City, Michigan”. Therefore, not only does this pipe date to the late 19th century, the time in which the Faculty Row buildings were being built, but they are also pipes of Michigan construction, corresponding directly with our hypothesis. Needless to say, I am in a happy mood. It’s the little things.