99. Peterson Acquired by Laudisi Enterprises

As it seems all good things must, the “Dublin Era” chapter of Peterson pipes (1991-2018) comes to an end today. As we write in The Peterson Pipe, “It is tempting to call this the ‘[Tom] Palmer Era,’ but he resists the label, insisting “the reality is that it is a collective effort on all our parts. My role is to stimulate interest and bring out the creativity in the folks at Sallynoggin.” Tom, CEO of the company since 1991, is the most gracious and affable businessman it has been my pleasure to know. Like Tony Dempsey and Jimmy Nicholson before him, Harry Kapp and his father Henry Kapp and his father’s partner Charles Peterson before them, Tom has always believed the heart and soul of the company is in the craftsmen and women, its shop keepers and office personnel.

The company has been acquired by Laudisi Enterprises (parent company of Smokingpipes.com), Tom said on the phone yesterday, and he believes it could not have fallen into more capable hands: “Sykes Wilford,” he said, “lives, breaths, and smokes pipes, and I couldn’t ask for a better successor than that.”

Peterson Announcement

Joshua Burgess, Vice-President for Retail Sales at Smokingpipes, has been in Dublin for about six weeks as Laudisi sets up its Smokingpipes.eu operation, which has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Dublin had already been selected as the site for their European operation when Tom Palmer made the decision to retire earlier this year, so setting up headquarters at Peterson’s Sallynoggin factory made perfect sense with the acquisition.

Conor Palmer, Tom’s son and Commercial Director at Peterson, as the releases indicate, will stay on for a period during the transition, while Damian Maguire, who has been Peterson’s financial director since August of 2015, will step in as managing director. Joshua forwarded me this official press release, which Smokingpipes has also issued today:

Press Release(1)

While change is inevitable and often painful, today’s acquisition will be far less so than any in living memory. Peterson’s management changes in the 1970s and 80s came at a difficult time in the world-wide pipe community and were potentially ruinous to the company. But the company’s strong heritage as an Irish family business carried it through until a management buyout by long-time Peterson employees Jimmy Nicholson and Tony Dempsey, which was shortly succeeded by Tom Palmer’s acquisition of the company.

Tom’s interest in Peterson as part business and part heritage is, thankfully, shared by Sykes Wilford. In his blog post this morning, Sykes writes: “Laudisi is about pipes and pipe tobacco. I don’t simply mean that it sells pipes and pipe tobacco, which of course is true, but that the very soul of the business is steeped in the product. There are plenty of companies that do something. They, as institutions, might even know a fair bit about it. But they don’t love it. Institutionally, Laudisi Enterprises loves pipes. That love informs every decision we make. It’s the reason that other serious pipe people like to work with us: we understand what they do; we share their passion. Peterson then, as an organization serious about its tradition, its history, and its pipes, is a rather perfect fit within the Laudisi tent.”

We explore the remarkable achievements of the company during Tom’s direction in the “Dublin Era” chapter of the Peterson book, but I invite you to take a few minutes now to take a look back at Tom’s innovative Pipe of the Year series, the Dublin Era’s unique B shapes, the 4 Antique Collection reproduction sets, and the13 special collections released under his direction. Two favorites, apropos of the day, are the 2010 Writer’s Collection quartet seen at top, and one of Tom’s favorites, the 2002 Great Explorers collection below. Life is such an adventure, and to reflect on it and learn from it is one of its greatest and most difficult joys.

As for the Peterson book, well, as our layout designer pointed out, this gives us a rather tidy ending—the Dublin Era is complete. There will be a few minor changes, but with a little luck these won’t postpone the book launch at the Chicago show next spring.

So good luck to Sykes, Joshua Burgess (may you soon find the brew pub of your dreams), and the newly-formed Peterson – Smokingpipes crew.

Raise a pipe (and a pint, if you’re of a mind) to Tom and Conor Palmer, for their uniquely Irish contribution to the world of pipes and the international pipe-smoking community: Saol fada agus breac-shláinte chugat! Long life and good health to you!






98. A Carved Shamrocks Billiard from the Irish Free State Era (1922-1937)

Irish Emblem pipes, known in the 1896 catalog as “Irish Carving Shamrocks” and in the 1906 catalog as “Irish Emblems,” are scarce and were carved in the factory at Lion Street and later St. Stephen’s Green, as well as sometimes being outsourced to local artisans, perhaps into the 1950s. While carved in all grades, typically they are seen on the estate market in either the 3rd grade System or the 101straight billiard.

The emblem on the front of the bowl was usually a harp, although both the wolf hound and round tower could be ordered. The 1896 catalog actually illustrates a pipe with all three emblems, although the vast majority of pipes simply feature the Irish harp.

The significance of the three emblems lies in their deep ties to Irish culture: the Irish harp (the Brian Boru or O’Neill harp) is seen on Ireland’s heraldic emblem. The Irish wolfhound was a breed developed for hunting and guarding. The round tower is a paradoxical or as contemporary spiritual practitioners would call it, non-dual place of peace and power, signifying Ireland’s unique Celtic religious heritage. All three emblems were stamped on the nickel mounts of Peterson pipes from 1896 until about 1963.

When we were at the Chicagoland Show last May, as my wife and I were walking through the tent on the morning of the swap & trade event, she handed me a Peterson to look at. It turned out to be the oldest Peterson “Irish Emblems” pipe that we have so far documented, going back to the Irish Free State Era (1922-1937).

One of the things that was so unbelievable about it was that it was still unsmoked. Unsmoked Petersons are easy to identify, unlike some other marques, because of the chuck marks inside the chamber. It seems to be a kind of unspoken identification tag for Peterson, and as far as we can tell, it goes back to the beginning.

Not only did it have its chuck marks, but the remnants of a paper price tag—typical of the era of brick & mortar pipe shops—is in evidence. The clean mortise also gives testimony to the pipe’s unsmoked condition.

I can only imagine how labor-intensive these were to carve. Think of the time spent on the best sandblasts you’ve seen—J. T. Cooke’s, perhaps. Now look at the detailed knife work here. Did it take as long? I don’t know. I do know third grade briar was typically used, because the grain was not an issue and would not be visible. The bowls were stained fairly dark to highlight the chiseling of the carver.

Many of these pipes feature Irish county names below the front emblem or in a phrase above and below it, as on this pipe (see PPN #77, “Crossmolina” for another Irish Emblems story). I can only hypothesize that a Westport tobacconist ordered several of these from Kapp & Peterson for sale in his shop.

 Westport, County Mayo, at the Octogon Square, c. 1898

Westport, known on the internet these days as “Destination Westport,” lies at the southeast corner of Clew Bay and owes its perennial popularity as a tourist town because it lies about five miles from the famous pilgrimage spot, Croagh Patrick.

Pilgrims ascending Croagh Patrick, Reek Sunday, July 1928

Both tourist and pilgrim have ever shared a natural-enough desire to bring back a bit of something from their visit, and I can imagine a pilgrim either before or after he ascended Croagh Patrick stopping in a Westport tobacconist’s shop, perhaps to replenish his supply of Gallaher’s famous Rich Dark Honeydew.

Espying the Kapp & Peterson pipes and simultaneously noticing this very pipe and the money in his pocket, the pilgrim asked to see it. If it was, as I suspect, rather expensive, he probably took it home fully intending to smoke it, but never quite got around to it as a bit of a sacred relic. As Neil Archer Roan once remarked in one of his great A Passion for Pipes blogs (and as I have observed in my own life as a pipeman), this is not an uncommon experience with expensive pipes.

The 101B (tapered stem) billiard is first seen in the 1906 catalog and has been in continuous production ever since, although it’s not seen as frequently as many other shapes in the catalog. As you can see, it is stamped on the obverse of the bowl as K&P over DUBLIN over the unusual [Celtic] Irish Carved, suggesting Westport in the 1920s hosted international as well as Irish pilgrims. The nickel ferrule features the maker’s mark K&P. [period after “P”] over Irish Emblems nickel marks over DUBLIN.

Both the orifice-style mouthpiece and the early nickel marks (identical to those used on the IFS nickel wind cap pipes) confirm it as from the IFS era (1921-1937) when non-P-Lip mouthpieces first came into production. The nickel marks feature a distinctive high-necked wolfhound not found in iterations from the 1930s and 40s. The nickel band was silver-soldered (the silver solder being visible unless the ferrule is highly polished) by hand, and the band turned-down by hand on both sides to meet the bowl.

We were so excited by the find that we featured it as part of a trio of Irish Emblems pipes in the display cases at the front of the exhibition hall at the 2018 Chicagoland Pipe & Tobacciana Show, in conjunction with a presentation about the forth-coming book.

Length: 5.78 in./146.91 mm.
Weight: 1.30 oz./37.0 g.
Bowl Height: 1.86 in./47.32 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.58 in./40.30 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.754 in./19.12 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.39 in./35.26 mm.


Pipe from the collection of Kevin Vandrak
Pipe photos and “Tin Talk” courtesy Chas. Mundungus



97. The New Kerry Line

When I attended my first Chicagoland show a few years ago, I had the good fortune to sit next to a gentleman who loved Peterson pipes, and as we began to talk about them and he shared his favorite shapes and lines, it quickly became apparent that he represented what is probably the vast majority of pipemen in the hobby today: guys who don’t buy artisan pipes, guys who don’t pay $200, or even $150 for a pipe, or at least not often. It was kind of disappointing to me that the show didn’t have much to offer us in the way of Petersons (estate or new), as the old swap ‘n’ sell days of estate pipes had mostly been displaced. But he didn’t mind. Like me, he was just glad to be there and be enjoying the company of pipe-minded folk. But he did get me to thinking just how important it is to have good pipes available at prices we can all afford.

The Kerry 338 and X105

The entry-level Kerry line just now appearing at various places on the internet is the latest installment of Peterson’s long-standing commitment to the Everyman pipe-smoker, a commitment that goes back the company’s earliest days. As we discuss in the book, Peterson has never split up its lines as distinct high, mid-, and entry-level marques, and sometimes pipemen don’t know that Peterson does indeed make pipes at every level.

As an entry-level line, however, I’d have to say Peterson has upped their game in comparison with the entry-level lines of the past twenty years. The tri-part brass and nickel band perfectly complements the gold-cream swirl acrylic mouthpiece and its silver hot-foil P. The dark chestnut stain is also a knockout.

The Molly Malone Cockles and Mussels Collection (2011)

The nearest thing in the back catalog to the Kerry line, and perhaps a bit of its inspiration, comes in the 2011 Molly Malone collection, which featured a sterling band and faux-horn acrylic mouthpiece.

The dozen shapes have been judiciously chosen (as you can see below), with a great lineup of solid-smokers in all sizes, both straight and bent. The XL16 shape (seen at the top) is the collector’s piece in the Kerry dozen, and old hands will remember it as the 6th release in the original Sherlock Holmes series as “The Professor” (Moriarity), originally released about 1990. It has been in continuous production ever since, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it except in the Kinsale series, aside from a few released as army-mounts for the Smokingpipes Arklow line.

Smoke in peace!




96. The Peterson 3-in-1 Pipe Tool

I happened on a Peterson-branded 3-in-1 pipe tool a few months ago and sent it to my Dad, who said he loved it: the heft, the utility, the design. I’d been using my Gratis with Peterson’s Patent System Pipes 3-in-1 for several years and couldn’t see how the new one could beat it. I forgot about the new one until Kerry at the Black Swann sent me one with a Peterson I’d ordered. I took the new tool with me to the Chicagoland Show, not wanting to risk my old Gratis tool and found myself falling in love with it for just the reasons my Dad enumerated.

I saw the same tool for sale at the Chicago show, but without the Peterson branding. When I returned home, now pretty enthusiastic about it, I got in touch with Conor Palmer, commercial director at Peterson, to ask whether it was something proprietary or not, and how long the company’s been offering it. He replied:

That pipe tool has been around for a number of years—I’m going to say at least fifteen. There is no difference between the one that is branded Peterson and the plain one without any branding – There have been a number of occasions when the tools arrived to us without the branding when we asked for it to be branded (!), and as it’s sourced in the Far East, it’s simply not worth our while sending them back.  In fact, the specific shape of pipe tool isn’t unique to Peterson and I believe there are others using it.

We use them primarily for promotional purposes (such as with a high-grade pipe) but they are also available for sale with any distributor and in turn retailers.  The problem is that there are plenty of varieties and options on pipe tools and more often than not its some locally-sourced tool that people go for on account of cost.

“The Thinking Man Smokes Bach’s Pipe”

Now as long as there have been pipes, there have been tampers. If you haven’t used your finger as a tamp, you probably haven’t smoked more than a bowl or two, because along about the second or third burned finger, you learned to keep a tamper handy.

In the beginning (as you may know), tampers were called “stoppers,” and Johann Sebastian Bach (a man who loved his pipe), had this to say about them:

 How oft it happens when one’s smoking:
The stopper’s missing from its shelf,
And as one goes with one’s finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doeth dwell,
How hot must be the pains of Hell! *

 By the mid-19th century, well before briar became the norm, smokers seemed to have arrived at a consensus that there’s three basic operations that may need to be done while smoking one’s pipe: (1) the aforesaid “stopping” or “tamping,” (2) clearing clogs from the draft hole with some kind of pick and (3) unloading smoked or unsmoked tobacco from the chamber.

Charles Peterson, who was not only a great inventor and carver but a guy who smoked like a freight train, knew from the get-go that his pipes, and particularly his Patent System, needed to be clean to function correctly. Accordingly, K&P provided tutorials in both their 1896 and 1906 catalogs. But realizing that charity consists more in actions than good advice, the company followed up by providing every single Patent pipe they made with a “Gratis with Peterson’s Patent System Pipes” 3-in-1 pipe tool, and did so until sometime in the early 1960s.

As those who frequent the Peterson listings on eBay have probably noticed, these tools keep turning up, most in remarkably good condition, usually stamped BRITISH MADE, but once in awhile (as seen above) with a MADE IN GERMANY around the ring.

From K&P’s end, after “The Thinking Man” icon and logo, it was undoubtedly the best advertising they ever did: every time a pipeman picked up the Gratis tool, he remembered his System pipe.

The Gratis pipe tool is known these days as a “Czech Tool,” because all the good ones say MADE IN over CZECH REPUBLIC on the tamp stem (and representing fully 1/3 of that nation’s export economy, I am told by unreliable sources). But as my eye strayed from my Gratis Tool to my Czech Tool, the thought finally occurred to me that maybe the Czech Tool really ought to be called a Gratis Tool, since Peterson’ version dates all the way back to the 1896 catalog.

Now I’d like to be able to say that Charles Peterson invented the thing, but as it turns out, the 3-in-1 had been around for a good while before the System pipe.

One of the first patents I traced for a 3-in-1 was by Gustavus Matile, and dates from 1864. In his patent letter he writes that “it is well known that devices of similar kind have been used long since by smokers; but they were not so complete as mine, and they lacked the spring, which constitutes the essential part of my improvements.” He may have learned about the spring from the Aubrac folding knives of France, which had been around for thirty years by the time of his patent.

I found another 3-in-1 pipe tool patent from George Walker, of Newton, Massachusetts, filed in 1905. Like Miller before him, he states that the three parts of the tool “are well known to pipe-smokers,” his patent covering a fourth tool, a flexible cleaning rod concealed in the bore of the tamp (#6).

One of the great gurus of the hobby in recent years has been Fred Hanna, and if you haven’t read his deliciously satirical essay on “The Hidden Benefits of the Expensive Pipe Tamper,” I suggest you immediately do so. You can find it in his book The Perfect Smoke (2012), or at the TobaccoDays blog at http://tobaccodays.com/2015/07/the-hidden-benefits-of-the-expensive-pipe-tamper-by-fred-hanna/ .

Hanna seems to be able to get along with just the tamper, with no need of either pick or spoon. There will be those who suspect he wasn’t brought up with tools or say he doesn’t go in for the manly D-I-Y aspects of the hobby. But they’re wrong. It’s because he is a kind of Jedi Knight of the pipe-smoking world and never has clogged airholes, never packs his pipes too tightly, and certainly never finds his straight-grain artisan pipe’s chamber with ash clogging the unsmoked tobacco beneath.

If you’ve looked at all at the expensive tamp market, you’ll notice there is what I would call a “double-function” tamp, made rather like a sword-stick, with a tamp and a screw-out poker. And you might think that Hanna occasionally sneaks out the poker to unclog the draft hole. Fie! Not likely.

While anyone who’s encountered the frustration of a clogged draft-hole knows the value of the poker, only army-mount and System users have the ability to actually remove the mouthpiece during smoking and unclog the draft. All others—that is, most of the smoking world—have to set down their traditional mortise-and-tenon “navy mount” pipe until it cools and go pack another pipe, perhaps more carefully this time.

I, on the other end of the world from Mr. Hanna, am one of those poor sods who often enough packs his tobacco too tightly, and so must sometimes scoop it all out and begin again, or through some malignant agency find the airhole clogged and unable to draw about midway through an otherwise perfectly idyllic smoke. I couldn’t live without the poker.

At the Chicago show, my co-author Gary Malmberg taught me a trick with the poker that I’m sure everyone in the hobby knows but me, but in case there’s just one guy who doesn’t know it, allow me to share it here. (Everyone else just take a breath and skip over the next paragraph.) This tip is for those who routinely smoke their bowl of tobacco down to the bottom, not for those who smoke the top third or half, then set down the pipe and are done with it, or empty out the dottle to smoke another day, Sherlock Holmes-fashion.

When I get about 3/4ths the way through my smoke, it inevitably happens that I tamp the surface, but can’t get a good relight. I poke my finger down and can tell I’ve still got a quarter of a bowl or more left, then try another three or four relights. When Gary saw me doing this, being the wise man he is, said, “That’s one of the reasons you’ve got a pick in the 3-in-1 tool: take the pick and gently poke two or three air holes down through the layer of ash and the tobacco beneath to the bottom of the bowl, being careful not to push the pick into the chamber floor.” Well, I tried it, and presto, as they say. Problem solved. Merrily I smoke along, until I’ve smoked the bowl to the bottom.

I think Charles Peterson liked the 3-in-1 because he knew that sometime, someplace, it was going to be needed. I don’t know if he was a boy scout back home in Riga, Latvia, but you get a sense that “Be Prepared” was not an unfamiliar notion to him.

One could wish the tradition hadn’t ended in the early 1960s, and Peterson Systems were still packaged with this fine old tool. I’ve suggested as much to Peterson—and how cool would it be if it were made in Ireland rather than the far East?

But for all that, Peterson’s more recent branded version of the 3-in-1 is actually a step above the old one, even if it is almost as hard to come by. There’s a few places in Europe that sell them, and a few that offer them as a promotional gift with the purchase of a high-grade Pete. The tamper base is a good size, the pick is longer than the old Gratis tool (a good thing), and the reamer serves just as well as the Gratis shovel / spoon with the additional bonus of the slight serration for lightly reaming unwanted carbon. The stainless-steel sides, which accidentally resemble the 406 and 408 catalog shapes, give the whole thing a decent heft. They also give your fingers something to hold onto while tamping, which neither the old Gratis tool nor most of the expensive tamps I’ve seen do.

I’m a little surprised that Leatherman hasn’t come out with it a version that also includes a bottle opener (useful for us craft-beer types) or wine bottle corkscrew (for our French counterparts) along with a few other useful items. But until they do, check out the ne plus ultra 3-in-1 Laguiole Calumet (with briar handle) from Aubrec in France. I don’t know if it’s still in production or not, but they still list it on their official sites:

It’s not inexpensive (about $180 if you can find one), but the craftsmanship is impeccable, the beauty is beyond compare. Like a classic Peterson pipe, it’s got loads of history behind it, including the story of the bee engraved on it as well as the shepherd’s cross (see the little dot-thingies in the shape of a cross in the handle?), which I won’t spoil for you. You can find out more about the remarkable history and production of these knives in a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvnKaFFA8qc.


Thanks to Chas. Mundungus for
“The Thinking Man Smokes Bach’s Pipe”
and to Smokingpipes for the photo of the Laguiole Calumet.


Smoke in Peace!


* From “Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker,” by J. S. Bach, in Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel, The Bach Reader, rev. ed. (1966), pp. 97-98.