Which kind of pipe did Sherlock Holmes really smoked?
Easy: none… he neither existed 🙂
Ok… again… in the mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which kind of pipe did Sherlock Holmes smoked?
In the collective imagination, Sherlock Holmes is a chain smoker of calabash pipe.
And just when it is not the classic and true in calabash it’s a pipe with a stove in sea foam and with a similar shape.
But is it true that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invented a brilliant and eccentric investigator who smoked bulky and delicate calabash pipes? That pipes are moreover unsuitable for an action man?
Reading the novels of the British doctor it seems that it is not true.
Indeed, Conan Doyle, in his stories, from the famous novel “The Hound of the Baskervilles” that gives life to the epic investigator of Becher Street, wrote sometimes about briar pipes or clay: more frequently, cherry wood pipes. No reference to pumpkins or sea foam or to the very well known calabash.
It must be concluded that the most widespread and traditional Sherlock Holmes iconographic representations is entirely spurious.
But, then, where does came from the idea that the famous detective smoked a calabash?
Traditionally, it is believed, also making reference to ‘ “Encyclopedia Sherlockian” M.E. Bunson, the first to use a sea foam curved pipe like a calabash, it was William Gillette, American actor who played the role of Sherlock Holmes at the beginning of the twentieth century theater.
Gillette, indeed, stated that he found it easier to act with a foam curve pipe.
the actor William Gillette
However, there is no evidence that Gillette, during theater performances, actually held a Calabash in the mouth. The sources of the time are not enough, since there is not any direct witness or photograph.
So, the traditional iconography of origin must be found elsewhere.
Perhaps the solution is in the irreverent saga designed by Charles Hamilton and published on Greyfriars Herald and starting from 1915.
Herlock Sholmes, by Charles Hamilton
The designer, who created the character of parody of “Herlock Sholmes” wanted to emphasize almost to the grotesque of the original features, then placing in the mouth a particularly large pipe, exa
ggerated, which, together with other elements, has generated a caricature effect.
Without further assumptions, it must therefore be concluded that the widespread idea that Sherlock Holmes was inseparable from calabash pipe type cames from a grotesque representation and parody of the original character who, in the ideas of the author, was smoking pipe probably less flashy and more practical.