Monday, 30 August 2010

The Peterson Patent Era.


If I was asked if there was one single reason that motivates me to collect Peterson pipes, I would most probably respond that it was their evocative and marvellous design history.Which to my mind,as a self confessed old romantic! opens a portal to more elegant times past and established Peterson as one of the forerunners of the classic pipe designs of today.

In 1865 Charles Peterson opened a small tobacco shop in Dublin. Ten years later in 1875, Peterson approached the Kapp brothers, with a completely new innovative pipe design and with this, a very long-lived partnership was formed, Kapp & Peterson. Their new pipe design resulted in the now famous Peterson Patented System Smoking Pipe. By the 1890's , Kapp & Peterson were one of the most respected pipe and tobacco manufacturers in Europe and America. In 1898 another of Peterson's innovative pipe inventions became available, the Peterson-Lip (P-Lip) mouthpiece, designed to offset the ihaled smoke to the roof of the mouth,thus avoiding tongue bite.

On May 1, 1894, U.S. Patent 519,135 was issued to Charles Peterson for his unique construction of a pipe and mouthpiece, described as a “certain new and useful Improvement in Tobacco-Pipes,” that’s come to be known as the Peterson System pipe; the text states that the original patent was issued in Great Britain and Ireland on Aug. 8, 1890, and in France on Jan. 22, 1891.

The Patent Era appears to have been from the issue of the original patent in 1890, until the expiration of the patent; through to approximately 1915. The late Mike Leverette extended this period to 1922.
There are various schools of thought on this cross-over period.Personally I am not convinced that the pipes produced after 1915 are truly 'Patents',there has been great debate among collectors over the years, as to whether pipes issued during that seven year period 1915-1922 ,could have been given old patent silver ferrules,stems and markings.I am sure that the debate will continue for years to come.
 Peterson pipes made during the majority of this period had no "Country of Manufacture" (COM) stamped on them. However, later in this period, say around 1915/16, they began stamping their pipes "Made in Ireland" in a block format.

I must admit I am really into this period of Petersons pipe production.When I go through the old catalogues, it is like being a big kid all over again,drooling over illustrations and line drawings of pipes which I long to hold and admire.I know ,go see a phsychologist and get help,however I do not want help, I want my 'fine madness' to continue.

Here is a little beauty of mine, a 1913 Full bent deluxe.

Another of mine, it is a 1901 unsmoked Deluxe in pristine condition..

My oldest patent pipe, a 1900 straight rustic system.

A beautiful elegant, pristine, 1910 large full bent Deluxe.
Patent 1910 Large full bent Deluxe.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

“Ireland's Giants”.

“Ireland's Giants”.

As well as being an island populated by mythical small people,Ireland was also famous for it's Giants.
People have always been fascinated by giants and the same holds true for me with Peterson Giant pipes.
My first encounter with these pipes was reading a reference to huge Peterson patent pipes in old Peterson catalogues.Since then I have been fortunate enough to acquire some,both old and modern.
By example here are a selection of some of mine.To give a constant idea of their scale I have placed a small patent, army mount billiard, immediately in the foreground of the picture.
The first photo shows the two oldest pipes both pre republics, on the left is a pre republic Magnum standard system.To the right is an XXL standard system.

The second photo shows the two different stem versions of the Charles Peterson 140th Anniversary pipes.

The third photo is of two versions of the famous Peterson 'House' pipes, a smooth and a rusticated bent.The 'House' pipes are all large hand made pipes and are primarily for house use,considered by some, not to be of a practical size for smoking outdoors.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The New Darwin Series.

The New Darwin Series of Pipes.

The new Darwin series of pipes are large,sturdy, stout and feature the same military mount and ingenious moisture-trap found in other Peterson System pipes.
Recently released, just in time, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of the Species" Darwin pipes come in the Sandblast,Ebony,Rustic, Smooth, Deluxe and Premier finish.The shape form is the B42; a handsome and muscular bent apple that appears to have been specially created for the series.

I have to admit that I am smitten by this new series from Peterson.They epitomise my ideal pipe, both in looks and functionality.The deluxe in particular is a very handsome specimen.I also enjoy how tactile these pipes are,they snuggle in beautifully in the hand.I am a big guy so it may be something to do with scale.Being so big I would imagine they will not be to everyone's taste.
Darwin B42 shape Deluxe Smooth.

There are currently some strange anomalies with the introduction of this series,the Deluxe in particular has been very difficult to source since it's introduction nearly a year ago.I was very fortunate to acquire one, but I know other collectors who are still waiting for one, almost 1 year on.
From enquiries it would appear that the problem is blamed on sourcing suitable quality briar.That is starting to ring rather hollow after such a long period from its initial publicity and introduction.
The official Peterson web site lists only four types,Deluxe,Premier, Rustic and Smooth.Yet I have managed to source two others ,Ebony and Sandblast. It would seem once again that Peterson appear to be missing the opportunity to maximise both accurate marketing and publicity,coupled to poor production targets for the introduction of a new series. I would suggest that the loyal world wide Peterson collectors deserve better. A great pity to stigmatise a brilliant new series.
Darwin Series Rotation:- L to R. Premier,Standard Smooth,Deluxe,Rustic,Ebony and Sandblast.

My Darwin rotation,left to right,Premier,Smooth Standard,Deluxe,Rustic,Ebony and Sandblast.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Irish Seconds.

Irish Seconds!

A few years ago I acquired an Irish Seconds, no not a Peterson Shamrock, Kinsale, Captain Pete or any of the other sub group entry level Petersons which are also widely reffered to as 'seconds'.
The stamping never included the Petersons brand name,simply “Irish Second” made in the Republic of Ireland. This was a large half-bent model, which felt right at home in my hand. It proved to be an absolute delight from the first puff.
Irish Seconds were started at the Peterson's workshop in Dublin, but were rejected when a flaw was found in the briar. As seconds, they were finished roughly, and given a standard vulcanite stem instead of the Peterson System, "P-Lip" stem. Their natural, aged briar was usually light in color, and looked very good, despite a few sandpits. These pipes smoked great for the price, from the first bowl and with minimal break-in period.

I still have that pipe and smoke it regularly. All of them had a natural briar finish with no stain.I stained mine a dark walnut which has darkened even more over the years.It is as good as almost any mid-grade Pete. I am not bothered with the minor visual imperfections, plus the substantial feel in the hand and in the mouth, are a source of joy any time I sit down for an undisturbed hour of contemplative puffing.

Unfortunately, true Irish Seconds have become difficult to find as new pipes.I acquired mine new on e-bay, though the supply of estate pipe examples more than satisfies .

Their affordable price, in the range of $30-40 when I last bought it new , makes them accessible to people who have never smoked a pipe before and who are intrigued, but not committed and therefore don't want to spend $50 - 100 for an "experiment" that might not work out for them.

This is a photo of my pipe.

The Sherlock Holmes Series.

The Peterson Sherlock Holmes Series.

The most successful series of pipes introduced by Peterson. First produced in 1987 to honour the most famous character in fiction, Sherlock Holmes. 7 day sets made from specially selected briarwood and meerschaum in shapes most favoured by Holmes.Also available in smooth, ebony, rustic and some sandblast. All extra large bowls. Sterling silver band. Peterson lip and fishtail mouthpiece.
The series comprises of three seven day sets, complete with dedicated 7 pipe racks.

The 'Original' collection which contains the following shapes,-Original,Baskerville,Baker Street,Deerstalker,Squire,Professor and Watson.

'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' collection which contains the following shapes,- Mycroft,Rathbone,Hudson,Hansom,Lestrade,Milverton and Strand.

The 'Sherlock Holmes Meerschaum 'collection which contains the following shapes,- Original,Baskerville,Squire,Baker Street,Deerstalker,Professor and Watson.

As to the pipes in the series,here is a breakdown of the pertinent criteria to form the review.Please bear in mind that this is a general appraisal of a whole series and is not about individual pipe shapes.It is also personal to me and is based on my owning all of the pipes in the Sherlock Holmes series, both briar and meerschaum.

Construction/engineering/workmanship: well carved , drilling and alignment variable. Silver work excellent, finish good, the briar can have several fills in evidence.The meerschaum quality(block) is outstanding.

Design: They are all x large pipes, with an excellent variety of classical shapes to suite all tastes.

Smoking quality : Excellent,dry and cool. Flavour and draw is consistently good.

Aesthetics and ergonomics : Classical lines remembering times past.I find some of the shapes more attractive than others.Favourites for me are the bents.As a clench-er most are very good to hang and for comfort,excellent.

Finish: They come in a variety of colours and finishes.With the usual high quality silverware.Recent modern pipes got a bad reputation for being heavily dip-stained with occasional fills,which was a poor second to those original pipes from the eighties.

Value/cost: Given the reasonable quality finish,popularity and large size these handsome pipes are competitively priced at around $160 to $300 depending on whether briar or meerschaum.

Availability: - Widely available in BM's and online from e-bay and e-tailers.

Conclusion: The most famous range that Peterson produce, it is instantly recognisable and excellent value.However they should not be considered a high grade Pete,they do have some quality issues,particularly dip staining of bowls. They're made by the hundreds using machines.If you accept that, then they can give many years of smoking pleasure. I like them,again bang for the buck the are reasonable pipes for this quality. I would give them 8.5 out of 10 for briar and 9.5 for meers.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Peterson Quality

I often cringe at some of the negative comments made on pipe forums in regard to the quality of Peterson pipes.In some cases it is the old story of a lack of experience and knowledge of ownership of the extensive and varied choices in the range of pipes presented by Peterson. Often the negative comments are based on the writers experience of owning a basic entry level Pete. Thereafter they condemn all Peterson pipes, based on that limited poor experience.

I am privileged in that I have a good variety of high grade Peterson Pipes within my collection.In my humble opinion, Peterson have been consistent throughout their production of higher end pipes, in replicating a tradition of Celtic quality, at very reasonable price.This was born out recently with the acquisition of two new silver spigots, which in my opinion encapsulates the true reputation that they have for high quality craftsmanship.As evidenced in these silver adorned examples.

The first is an unusual XL23 Sherlock Holmes 'Le Strade' silver spigot.
High Grade XL23 Silver Sherlock Holmes 'Le Strade'.

The next one is a handsome silver spigot 68.
High Grade Silver Spigot 68.

I would suggest that these two pipes show true Peterson quality at it's finest.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Great Explorers Series

Great Explorers

One of the main attractions for me to Peterson pipes, is the sheer variety of pipes that they produce. In 2005 they issued a series called 'The Great Explorers',celebrating four great explorers of our time. All four pipes in the series have hallmarked sterling silver bands with 'Peterson Great Explorers' engraved on them. Each pipe is also stamped with the name of the explorer who inspired the model.

The special presentation box was designed to promote the Great Explorers Collection and shows the four heroes,Ernest Shackelton, Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Tom Crean with a summary of each man’s achievements.
Below the portraits are the four pipes in this magnificent set. Each of them, like the men they depict, is different in look, feel and distinctive character but the silver band on each stamped with the image of the ‘Endurance’ marks each as part of this set.

First is a half Bent Billiard. Robert F. Scott was born in the UK in 1868 and took part in his first expedition at the age of thirteen. He was the 2nd to reach the South Pole, beaten with less than a month by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

Second is a straight Brandy. Ernest Schackleton from Eire took part in one of Scott's expeditions and tried several times to reach the South Pole. He died in 1922 during the preparations for his 4th attempt to reach the South Pole.

The third one is a quarter Bent Billiard. Roald Amundsen from Norway is one of the most successful explorers ever and he was the first to reach the South Pole in 1910, only a few weeks before Scott's expedition.

Fourth one is a straight Dublin. Tom Crean from Eire travelled with both Scott and Shackleton on expeditions to the South Pole. He was awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry in 1910.

All four pipes are large and may not suit everyone.The ones I have in my collection are good thick walled briar, with no evidence of fills.The only complaint I had with mine was that the stem fitting on the 'Amundsen' was a bit loose and really should have been spotted by better quality control .Given that the sets cost around $800.However the pipes are good smokers and have the attractive looks that people expect from Peterson.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Unusual System Pipe

One of my favourite E-bay sellers is Bonds of Oxford Street.They manage to find some rarer interesting, unsmoked, older Petes from old shop stock.
I was surfing their site recently and spotted an unusual System from the 1970's.It was an unsmoked 312 Smooth Standard which had a bowl with carved facets and rustication combined.

I am told that it maybe originated from the Peterson London based factory which closed in the late eighties.
As usual the quality of briar used during this period is outstanding.I would have assumed that when a pipe is done in this style that there are probably faults or fills in evidence,however having been over it pretty thoroughly I can find none.
From a tactile point of view,it is brilliant in the hand,very comfortable to hold.
Like a few things from Petersons past,I would hope that one day,they may reconsider resurrecting this style.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Peterson Standard System Pipe.

The Peterson Standard System Pipe.

A 308 Premier Smooth Standard System

Photo:- a fine example of a Premier 308 shape.Sadly a shape no longer in production.

Perhaps the most famous and notable design from the Kapp and Peterson factory was Peterson's 'Dry System' pipes, patented in 1894. Featuring a small reservoir intended to collect moisture before it reaches the smoker, the 'System Pipe' makes for a cool smoke that minimizes tongue bite, the bane of every pipe smoker. Indeed, it is on this groundbreaking design that the worldwide reputation of Peterson grew.Coupled to the equally famous P lip stem, incorporated into the system pipes mouthpiece, directs the smoke flow through a small hole at the top of the stem,to the roof of the mouth.

Generally when pipe smokers get together and discuss the Peterson system pipes, they are divided as to whether they like, or dislike them,in particular the P lip stem which has many detractors.The main criticism being that in directing the smoke to the top or roof of the mouth, which can become tender and sore after a while through the concentration of hot smoke.
The cleaning and maintenance of the System pipes also appears to be problematic to some pipesters.Often the criticism is in regard to the 'infamous' pipe cleaner test,ie can a pipe cleaner be passed down the stem opening and out the opposite end easily and without obstruction.Of course smaller pipes are more problematic than the larger ones,coupled to the stem shape being more angular in full bent examples.I have never really found this to be too much of a problem, as I will use the smaller finer pipe cleaners, such as those made by Falcon,which seem to pass down the stem opening easily.

Personally, I enjoy my System Pipes, to me they epitomise the true essence of Petersons marvellous heritage and style.Being a habitual clencher I find the P lip ideal 'anchorage' for dangling from my mouth,particularly as the majority of my pipes are bents.I suspect that the majority of my weekly pipe smoking activity is with 'Systems',I just love em!

"A Great Day Out"

“A Great Day Out”

On Thursday 5th August,the day before my 64th birthday,my family decided I needed my annual outing to Carlisle , which is a small English City about 40 miles just over the Scottish border.
Now the main reason for the long trip, was that they knew from bitter experience ,shock and boredom, that it is the home of my nearest and favourite Peterson e-tailer, Brucciani.
As some of you may know, I have mobility problems and I do not get out very often for long day trips in the car.However the family bought me a portable mobility scooter which packs easily into our Landrover utility vehicle.This has opened up a whole new dimension to my quality of life.I have gained a great deal of independence now.
My wife and daughter -in -law decided to leave me at Brucciani's while they went shopping.Well I have to tell you guys that was an experience to relish.No, not getting rid of the ladies!
I was met by the shop owner Chris Corrieri, who gave up valuable time, to spend a couple of hours with me, talking non-stop Peterson talk.Chris took me through to the back of the shop which is a general store, newsagent and tobacconist.It was like going back in time to the Edwardian period of the 1900's.He has magnificent displays of pipes,mainly Peterson in stock.The elderly lady who assists behind the shop counter was smiling broadly at my facial expression and verbal expletives! I thought I had gone to heaven!!Chris took me through the various stock pipes he has on display,it was wonderful. However the best was yet to come.He ducked beneath the counter and brought out three long dark green wooden boxes,very similar to gun boxes, and placed these on a table.He said that these samples had just arrived from Gawith Hoggarth, the main UK distributor of Peterson pipes.
He opened the boxes to a sharp intake of breath from me, I had never seen such gorgeous pipes as these, they were one off, Pete high grades .He was told that he could select just a few for sale in his shop,the others were to be distributed to the other main UK retailers for Petersons. Each would be asked to choose a couple of these treasures for 'special customer' sales. Well I was on the point of asking for tissues to wipe away the drool!! I had never seen anything like the quality of Petes like those before me ,each one had outstanding silverwork and beautiful birdseye on the bowls. Not a fill or bowl stain in sight.Some of the spigots had the most beautiful Celtic scroll silverwork,absolutely gorgeous craftsmanship. A memorable example was a silver spigot Sherlock Holmes 'Lestrade was outstanding.I dread to think what a complete Sherlock Holmes set done to that quality would cost!!
True to form, I had forgotten to take my camera and scolded myself for the mistake.However when the Ladies returned to pick me up, they obliged by taking some shots with their mobile telephones.Unfortunately the photos do not show the Celtic scroll detail very well.They are OK,better than nothing.Enjoy.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Peterson Mark Twain Pipe.

Peterson Mark Twain Series Pipes - What better pipe to start off with than the legendary eponymous Peterson Mark Twain, especially poignant as this is the centenary year of the great man's death.( Samuel Langhorne Clemens 1835 -1910).

Here is the great man, smoking a Peterson pipe,apparently the one that is on display in the MT museum is in a very poor condition.It would seem he was not very particular about cleaning,or the regular maintenace of his pipes.As can be seen in the photo link below.
You will note that the original pipe is somewhat different from the modern production pipes, in that the bowl shape was more rounded and apple shaped in the original and the stem did not have the gap at the base to take up any wear.
For years Twain's original pipe rested, un-noticed in the Mark Twain museum in Hannibal Missouri.
Well worn,with the bowl scraped thin by numerous years of use.It had obviously been one of Twain's favourite pipes.
Then in 1980 the museum received a call from Petersons of Dublin.An old photograph had been discovered of Mark Twain smoking what appeared to be a Peterson System Pipe.A close inspection of the hallmarked silver band confirmed that it was a Peterson from 1896.A complete set of photographs were taken and sent back to Peterson in Dublin.The hallmark dated the pipe at 1896,The shape for some unknown reason had been discontinued in the early 1900's.Twain the worldwide traveller had obviously heard of the remarkable smoking qualities of the Peterson system pipes on one of his trips abroad and had added this one to his collection it had clearly served him well.
Justifiably excited by the discovery,the people at Peterson decided that any pipe that had served it's famous owner so long and well should be made available to todays pipe lovers as well.Because the pipe shape had been discontinued for so long,new measurements were needed.Exact dimensions were painstakenly recorded and at the same time aged briar blocks fine enough were carefully selected.
Peterson started production of the Mark Twain Series in 1980 with a numbered production run from 1 - 400. Then again in 1981 with a numbered production run from 1 - 1000.In 1983, Peterson started producing Mark Twains without numbers,(except the 1985 limited Gold issue),until about 1989. However, they must have had another production run later as there is evidence of Mark Twains with 1998 silver marked bands.

Size: Large.
Design/Artistry: Full Bent
Fit/Finish: P-lip tapered stem,with hallmarked silver collar.In smooth,sandblast and rustic finish.
Engineering: Deluxe system quality.
Smoking Qualities: Legendary high quality with good draw and excellent with Virginia and flake blends.
Cost / Value: $250 - $1000 plus,depending on which series and precious metal finish.
Availability:Regular E-bay and E-tailer offerings.Hotly contested at auction.
My own unsmoked, Peterson Limited Edition, Gold Mark Twain.