Enjoying a smoke in a tavern, about 1625. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
The first colonists were quite familiar with the use of tobacco, and it is believed that many of them smoked clay pipes. Evidently there was some demand for tobacco pipes by the early planters as one of the men, Robert Cotten, who reached Jamestown in January 1608, was a tobacco pipemaker.
In 1611-12 John Rolfe had experimented with tobacco plants in Virginia (he used Virginia plants as well as varieties from the West Indies and South America), and was successful in developing a sweet-scented leaf. It became popular overnight, and for many years was the staple crop of the infant colony. There was a prompt demand for the new leaf in England, and its introduction there was an important factor in popularizing the use of clay pipes. After 1620 the manufacture of white clay pipes in England increased by leaps and bounds.