Puff the Magic Marksman or The History of Smoking in St. Mark’s

Whew, the big and unplanned hiatus is over and we’re back to our stories.

In the St Mark’s Magazine of 1935 one can find an article that described the smoking habits of St. Mark’s College in the years. The author was a student in the College in the years 1891-92. Smoking in the College was forbidden, so said an elaborate sign ‘in ancient lettering’. But as it is with all schools since the popularization of the tobacco, there was some rule-bending.

There were places and spaces that were the refugee of the smoking folk. They were unofficially permitted to smoke in the gardens and in the gym building. The gym building had the obvious advantage of gas lightning that made for a fine lighting point. They were strictly forbidden from smoking in the study room, but the clever students taught themselves the art of covert smoking by puffing into a drawer or, sitting on a hob, into a chimney.

Contrary to or barbarous times, the cigarettes were not the proper thing to smoke, unless you were engaged in a ‘ten minutes’ fag’ in a short break between lessons. Our civilised Marksmen preferred the noble pipe as paraphernalia of choice and at one point an unofficial smoking club had a rule that every member should smoke a ‘churchwarden’. It was in fashion to have your own favourite pipe. ‘The president smoked a long pipe, whose stem might have been used as a walking-stick or a map-pole’, others had briar or clay pipes and the author even recalls one interesting ‘Indian opium pipe’ that was so ornate and beaded that it barely have a bowl to put tobacco in.There was etiquette and unwritten rules that a smoking man should adhere to. Borrowing of tobacco was frowned upon as well as constant failure to provide yourself with matches. You may recall the tobacco jar that I’ve written about before. It is from a later period, when the two Colleges came together. But the rules about smoking did not change, yet still there was a ‘communal stash’St Mark College Smoking Club. I presume that's the president on the bottom right of the sign. Look at the size of that pipe!

St Mark College Smoking Club. I presume that’s the president on the bottom right of the sign. Look at the size of that pipe!

one could dip into. But the main question is: why the smoking was frowned upon in the time when dangers of smoking were mostly unknown? Was it because they thought it would bother other students or was it a fire hazard? Imagine somebody smoking in the library! Yikes!

en dangers of smoking were mostly unknown? Was it because they thought it would bother other students or was it a fire hazard? Imagine somebody smoking in the library! Yikes!

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