22. Peterson Chubbies, Part 2: The Old 9BC

A few weeks ago I began thinking about my favorite Peterson Chubbies, beginning with the John Bull 999. Today I want to look at another old-timer, the 9BC. Like the John Bull, the 9BC is something special among Peterson collectors, perhaps because it is hands-down the most sensuously curvy bent billiard Peterson has ever put on the market. You don’t have to take my word for it—Allison Rose Harrell’s photograph for Smokingpipes.com says it all:

9BC Pre Republic9BC Shamrock Natural Finish
(Photo Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

 So where did it come from, and where did it go?

The shape number of the 9BC tells us that it’s a classic “9”—a Charles Peterson Patent shape that’s been in the catalog since 1896. In the 1906 catalog it was first identified as a 9, which by the late 1940s would become a “307” in the Standard System numbering or 9S in the DeLuxe. It remains a standard in the Peterson catalog and is routinely found in the Classic Lines as the XL90s as well as in its original System versions as the 9s and 307.

This is a big pipe, at least in the traditional sense of the word, with a chamber geometry hovering at 20mm x 42 and a weight of around 65-68 grams. The shape was the largest of the regular System offerings until the B42 / Darwin slightly eclipsed it a few years back.

The “BC” in the shape number designates something special—it refers to the stem style and length, respectively. No other instance in the Peterson catalog is known of a pipe stamped “BC,” although both the 1896 and 1906 catalogs make it plain that a customer could custom-order any Peterson pipe with a BC stem. The “B” tells us the 9BC has a got a tapered, rather than saddle, stem style. The “C” means it’s got a shortened stem, which gives the 9BC pipe its distinctive chubby character.

9BC 1953 Rogers ImportsThe 9BC from the 1953 Rogers Import Catalog Shape Chart

We owe the existence of this shape, apparently, to the enthusiasm of Harry L. Rogers, Peterson’s incredible importer here in the United States from the late 1930s through the 1960s, as it appears nowhere other than in the Rogers ephemera.

The first appearance of the shape I’ve been able to track down is in the 1953 Rogers Imports catalog’s shape chart. It reappears in their “Chat With the Smoker” pipe-box brochure, also issued sometime in the 1950s, as well as their 1957 catalog. In all three cases, it is shown as an unmounted pipe, although the only 9BCs one is likely to run across these days are in its Shamrock dress and, sometimes, in the Sterling line.

The Shamrock was the least expensive of the Rogers Imports “individually boxed” lines during the 1950s and retailed at $3.50, while Peterson’s top of the line, the unmounted Supreme, cost $15.

At some point during the 1950s or early 1960s, I think Shamrocks were given a lighter finish, as can be seen by comparing the following two photographs:

 9BC Shamrock Early Stain Color
Early 9BC Stain Color

 9BC Shamrock Later Stain Color
Later 9BC Stain Color

 I’m quite willing to be proven wrong on this, but if you look at enough Shamrocks, you’ll begin noticing there’s two stain colors, and the earliest catalog descriptions and illustrations are always of the darker stain.

The lighter-finished 9BC’s stem illustrates one problem in sourcing one of these beauties: whoever restored this pipe thinned down the button, and in the process the pipe lost a bit of its chubby charm.

The current production XL90[B]—the pipe with the tapered stem, not what would traditionally have been stamped the XL90s for “saddle” but is not currently so stamped—is for all intents and purposes the same shape as the old 9BC, as a comparison of their measurements reveals. It doesn’t have quite the delirious curve at the button, but is in other respects nearly identical.

For those wanting the original 9BC, Ebay has them on offer almost monthly. Right now there’s a 9BC Sterling whose only problem is a sawed-off P-Lip stem and the need for a bit of reconditioning. The former, of course, can be taken care of by dropping it in the mail to Peterson. For the latter, if you’ve never restored a pipe, you can find all the help you need at Steve Laug’s www.rebornpipes.com blog.

 XL90 Supreme
XL90 Supreme

Next:
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
What’s the chubbiest straight of all?”

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23 thoughts on “22. Peterson Chubbies, Part 2: The Old 9BC

  1. Wowzers, great article! Yes I have both stains and was wondering if the lighter one had been a re-stain. Still chomping at the bit for THE book!
    What is the shape number for the straight chubby?!? I didn’t know they existed.

    • That would be telling. Hope to have it for you next weekend. The manuscript is now with the publisher before it bounces back to us, so I’m turning to some last-minute photography and hope to have time to do something fun here on the blog for a few weeks.

  2. On reading the blog entry Steve recently reposted to the Reborn Pipes blog, I immediately put this shape on my “Holy Grail” list. While watching some pipe auctions end last night, darned if a pre-Republic didn’t show up with 45 minutes to close. I won within a few dollars of my maximum bid. It is a Premier Selection. The stamping picture isn’t very detailed but the owner says he thinks it is a 9BO, which is most likely a 9BC? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Peterson-039-s-Premier-Selection-Pipe-/111650850329?nma=true&si=PFxJlfv%252FZVyIkuJj3xxl4IRtpnI%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

  3. That’s a beautiful piece! It is a 9BC (there was no 9B0)–and Premiers are difficult to come by, sometimes I think they are more rare than the DeLuxe pieces, simply because it was such a fine line between them. The Premier line was first seen in the 1945 catalog, and the MADE IN over IRELAND makes me want to believe it was made between 1945 and 1949, although my co-author would quibble with that, as that COM didn’t simply disappear from use after ’49. Still, we believe what we choose to believe, don’t we? In fantastic shape–I know you will enjoy it, and if you restore it, please post to Reborn Pipes so i can repost here.

    • I sure will. The seller bought it in 2000 at the original Tinder Box, from the founder of that chain. He confirms it is a 9BC. I was thinking ’47-’49 from the pipepedia info, but as you said, it’s not an exact science (without hallmarks).

  4. Hi Al! The last appearance of the 9BC in my literature is in the 1950s-era Rogers Import “Chat With A Smoker.” It is a U.S.-only, Rogers-Import pipe and doesn’t appear in any of K&P’s own catalogs. It would have been in the 1947 Shape Chart had it been a standard international production shape in the post-war years. The first appearance of the XL90 is in a “long-stem” :version in the shape chart from Associated Imports in 1973. The versions you and I love have the shorter stem, which is almost identical to the BC.

  5. Right–the Kapruf should be smaller and lighter, as the blast pipes were “reclaimed” smooth bowls. Chamber should be same as smooth. Good looking pipe!

  6. Hey, are they making my favorite XL90 & System 307 smaller than they used to? Some I’ve bought this year are noticeably smaller than older ones!

    • Hi Rob, not that I’m aware of. Shape 9 (the 307 / XL90) hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 1896. There are some variations due to sandblasting, rustication, sanding during finishing. Sometimes a chamber will be a little smaller or larger, again usually due to being sanded out because of a pit. The new Arklow line has “topped” several of bowls used, but usually just 2 mm or so. Which lines are you looking at?

      • Yes, the three recent ones I have are all sandblasts. The 2017 Summertime and Dublin sandblast are both noticeably narrower than an older Aran or System. The narrowest by far is my new sandblast System 307, which also has a much shorter acrylic stem than my older vulcanite models. The older vulcanite stem won’t even fit into the ferrule of the new 307.
        I’m generally only adding new Pete’s with acrylic stems. I haven’t found a good way to keep all my vulcanite stems black, and I do have alot of them! I’ve got a little grinder I’ve added 4 inch pads too, but I just don’t have the hang of it.

  7. Hey, are they making my favorite XL90 & System 307 smaller than they used to? Some I’ve bought this year are noticeably smaller than older ones!

  8. Hi Rob, the blasts will be a bit smaller than the smooths. The mouthpiece size will dictate the drilling on the stummel, so no, they won’t be interchangeable. For help on restoration of vulcanite stems, see Steve Laug’s rebornpipes blog. It just takes a few steps, some micromesh pads and patience. A nice evening’s work to bring a vulcanite stem back to ebony.

    • Didn’t System stems used to be interchangeable? I remember seeing replacement system stems for sale, sold by size. Thanks for all the info!

      • Sort of interchangeable. They had a large, medium, and small stem, if memory serves. But never an fits-all, although there was an interchangeable “laxiom” device used in the 1960s and 70s, but NOT on Systems…

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