If the conversation is about gothic architecture, the city of Ulm enters the discussion, because its cathedral has the highest church spire in the world. If the conversation is about complex musical instruments in Europe, Ulm is center-stage, because its cathedral has the largest organ in the country—6,564 pipes—according to published reports. Historic Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, situated on the Danube River near the mouth of the Iller River, founded in the mid-9th century, thrived as a medieval trading and textile manufacturing center and, according to the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911, is “famous for its vegetables (especially asparagus), barley, beer, pipe-bowls and sweet cakes (Ulmer Zuckerbrot).”
By necessity, these small factories enlisted the services of horn turners. Stems, at first, were short, often of antler or bone, and were terminated in a turned horn mouthpiece that angled away from the bowl. Levárdy adds:
|Courtesy of the curiosity shop, the Netherlands|
|An exception to the above rule... Courtesy of a Private Collection|
The fitted smoking case or carrying case often accompanies this pipe bowl, which is not a convention with the wood Ulmer. To be specific, the meerschaum equivalent, while a great-looking pipe bowl, is not an Ulmer!
And, because imitation is the best form of flattery, it is known that in Germany, Ulmer-shaped bowls were also produced in both porcelain and amber. Given the meticulously precise German language, these two, no doubt, had their own unique descriptive names. Manger reports that there was at least one porcelain pipe maker, Johann Jacob Schmidt, who fabricated porcelain bowls à la the Ulmer shape. As to this variant, at a Heidelberg auction in 2000, one from a Berlin manufactory was described as a “Pfeifenkopf mit sackfömigem Kessel” (literally, pipe head with a sack-formed cauldron)…not an Ulmer in porcelain or a porcelain Ulmer!
I did not find an equivalent descriptive term for an Ulmer-shaped amber bowl, but envision such a masterpiece, the marriage of this unique shape executed in this lustrously polished resinous, fossilized gemstone! It doesn’t get any better than this, eye candy for the pipe collector, but not for the smoker, because amber would not cure or smoke well.
And I thought that I covered it all until, in October 2011, I saw an illustration of an antique pipe at a German auction, what I would have to call a bi-Ulmer: a split bowl, the lower half in wood, the upper half in meerschaum. That’s a new one on me, and given its very unusual construct, and based on what I have already reported herein, perhaps it was fabricated in some small burg situated equidistant between Ulm and Vienna.