President Pipes at Vancouver Barracks

Photo of red clay tobacco pipe bowl molded in the figure of the head of Millard Fillmore
This president pipe bearing the image of President Millard Fillmore was found by archaeologists at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and was likely owned by an American soldier or officer stationed at Vancouver Barracks.

NPS Photo

“President” or “Campaign” pipes were used in the 1800s as campaign tools. Archaeological excavations at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site have uncovered several pieces of president pipes – one representing President Zachary Taylor, and two that represent President Millard Fillmore. Other artifacts that appear to be from president pipes but are too fragmented to identify have also been found.

Taylor and Fillmore were the 12th and 13th presidents of the United States, respectively. Taylor served in office from 1849 to 1850, when he became ill and died suddenly. Fillmore, who had been Taylor’s Vice President, served as President from 1850 to 1853.

Many president pipes, including the Fillmore pipe, were produced in Germany. German pipe manufacturers were so dependent on the American market, that most producers went out of business by 1872, after the post-Civil War decline in exports to the United States.

The pipes in the park’s collection were most likely owned by a soldier stationed at Vancouver Barracks. Vancouver Barracks was established in 1849, and was the first U.S. Military post in the Pacific Northwest. Because of the dates of the Taylor and Fillmore presidencies, it is likely that the soldier or officer who owned these pipes was one of the first to serve in Vancouver.

These artifacts give modern-day archaeologists and historians an idea of what life might have been like in the early days of the military post. The owners of these pipes would have used them to broadcast their political leanings to their compatriots, and even today, they tell us something about what was on the minds of Vancouver's earliest American residents.
Two president pipe bowls mounted in an exhibit
President pipes excavated from Fort Vancouver National Historic Site bearing the images of Presidents Millard Fillmore and Zachary Taylor are now on exhibit at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center.

NPS Photo