107. The Great Explorers Collection (2002)

Chuck Stanion is one of my favorite writers in the pipe world. If you’ve followed the tall-tale exploits of Grandpa and the 10 Tobys in any of his columns for Pipes & Tobaccos or the various Smokingpipes blogs, you need no introduction to his comedic talent. But he is equally adept in discussing the genius of artisans like J. T. Cooke or, in this case, enthusing over the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. When this short piece appeared recently, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a look back at one of the great achievements of Peterson’s Dublin Era (1991-2018), the 2002 Great Explorers collection.

(1)
Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance

“The Beginning of the End,”
19 October 1915: Shackleton leaning over the side

Amazing adventures through history have been accompanied by, and sometimes even dependent upon, pipes, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s shipwreck in Antarctica aboard the exploratory vessel, Endurance.

In 1914, Shackleton led an expedition of 27 men to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. In 1914, obviously, they did not have the advantages of modern clothing or rations, electronic orienteering or GPS location, and most important, they had no radio communication, and no way to send a distress signal. Adventure was more dangerous 100 years ago.

They did it because they were manly men exploring the world, and Antarctica was there. That’s all the reason explorers needed to willingly place themselves in the most inhospitable environment on Earth: to be first to accomplish a dauntingly arduous, seemingly impossible task.

Patience Camp: Hurley (the photographer) on left,
skinning a penguin for fuel for the blubber stove; Shackleton on right

They did not succeed. They had to shift into survival mode before even trying. But if we measure their achievement in terms of sheer willpower overcoming impossible odds, their failure is among the greatest of human triumphs.

Shackleton and Wild (2nd in command), left foreground,
at Ocean Camp

The expedition found itself locked in the ice 85 miles from shore, and over the next few days, the crew watched as the Endurance was crushed and broke apart. What it must have been like to see one’s only way home destroyed before one’s eyes is impossible to understand. With no ship and no way to communicate with the world, they were on their own on the ice with only heavy wooden lifeboats and what supplies they could offload the ship.

Shackleton decided they would drag the lifeboats across the ice to open water and then sail to find help. Each man could take two pounds of personal possessions and one pound of pipe tobacco. That’s a fascinating detail regarding pipe tobacco. It was clearly seen as an essential survival tool, important enough to account for a third of every man’s possessions.

One night on the ice, camped in their tents, a fissure opened beneath them and crewman Ernest Holness woke submerged in icy water. Shackleton reached into the fissure, grabbed the sleeping bag, and hauled Holness onto the ice just before the crack slammed shut. Holness, spluttering, frozen and half-drowned, had only one complaint: “I lost my pipe tobacco,” he grumbled.

The men eventually found open water and sailed their lifeboats to Elephant Island, a deserted rock populated by little more than thorny shrubs, stones, and lichen. Shackleton then took a crew of six, including himself, in one of the boats, to sail 800 miles to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. Everyone else established a camp and prepared to survive until Shackleton’s return.

Launching the Caird from Elephant Island,
24 April 1916

Their tobacco supply dwindled to nothing, and the Elephant Island contingent of the expedition filled its days trying to find tobacco substitutes. In one experiment, they boiled all the men’s pipes with sennegrass they’d been using to line their boots. It was hoped that the residual tobacco, cake, and dottle would imbue the grasses with tobacco characteristics. They did not.

Farewell to the Caird

The expedition spent 20 months on the ice before being rescued. That Shackleton was able to navigate in stormy seas, in a small wooden boat, and achieve a rescue of all hands, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. I recommend the book, The Endurance by Caroline Alexander, in which she provides not only terrific detail of the adventure, but remarkable photos from the expedition’s photographer. It’s certainly a story all pipe smokers should be familiar with, if only because pipes were such an essential part of the expedition’s mental health.

We sometimes take our pipes for granted, but we should remember that in times of enormous stress, pipes have been excellent support systems through modern history. If pipes can make 20 months in tents in Antarctica more survivable, just imagine what they bring to our daily lives.

 

(2)
The Great Explorers Collection

Peterson always has a backstory behind their lines and collections, often connected in some important way to Ireland’s history or geography, and sometimes to its great men, as in the case of the Great Explorers collection.

In early 2002, Bernadette O’Neill, Peterson’s marketing director and the creative catalyst for the direction the company would take in the Dublin Era (1991-2018), travelled across Ireland from Dublin down to Tralee to the Kerry County Museum to soak in one of the museum’s great exhibitions, Antarctica.

The exhibit celebrated the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and “the Irish Giant” Tom Crean in particular (pictured above), whose family had recently donated many of his effects to the museum. At the time, Crean was almost unknown. O’Neill chose three other celebrated figures to complete the collection: Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. Crean was a member on three expeditions, two with Scott (1901-09 and 1911-1913), and once with Shackleton (1914-17).

O’Neill came back inspired and with an armload of books, knowing that Pete Freeks can be a little geeky about their pipes. She also knew—and so do you, now—that Crean’s descendents had for a brief time in the 1980s owned Kapp & Peterson, strengthening the Peterson tie-in even further.

If you click on each of the illustrations below you can follow Bernadette’s retelling of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration as published in The Smoker’s Guild #4 (2002), as well as get the details on the magnificent pipes celebrating Crean, Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, which would enter the catalog as shapes B16 – B19.

(3)
A Closer Look

O’Neill did her homework in the design of the collection, as well. It would appear she found a photo of the Amundsen “polar exploration” pipe in the collection of the Arctic and Antarctic Museum in St. Petersburg, basing Peterson’s design on it.

Great Explorers Amundsen

Most photos you see of Crean show him smoking a dublin, sometimes with and sometimes without a band. If he bought his briars in Ireland (and why would he not?), then what he’s clenching between his teeth must be a Peterson. Perspective can be difficult in photographs, but we do know K&P made 3 dublin shapes during this period: the 120 (still in production) and the smaller 121 and 122. The Great Explorers homage is the largest production dublin shape Peterson has ever made, a fitting homage to the man.

Great Explorers Crean

Shackleton never seems to have been photographed smoking a pipe, but the straight brandy designed given his name in the Peterson collection certainly suggests the power and optimism of the man.

Great Explorers Shackleton

Note the little straight army-mount pipe in Scott’s left hand

For Scott, Peterson designed what is, for me, the most beautiful pipe in the collection, an upswept, flowing and deep-chambered bent billiard with the promise of being a superb va and va/per smoker.

Great Explorers Scott

The pipes in the Great Explorer collection were issued as a set and singly. O’Neill’s copy leads me to believe they were originally released only in fishtail, then later (to accommodate lower-quality bowls) in P-Lips, which were stained a dark red and given a glossier finish, as can be seen in a page from the Lubinski.it catalog a few years back:

 

Average Measurements

CREAN (B16)
Length: 5.63 in./143.00 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz./56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.06 in./52.32 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.84 in./21.34 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

SCOTT (B17)
Length: 5.95 in./151.13 mm.
Weight: 2.40 oz./68.04 g.
Bowl Height: 2.12 in./53.85 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.81 in./45.97 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.81 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.

AMUNDSEN (B18)
Length: 6.10 in./154.94 mm.
Weight: 2.24 oz./63.50 g.
Bowl Height: 2.17 in./55.12 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.83 in./46.48 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in./19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

SHACKLETON (B19)
Length: 5.86 in./148.84 mm.
Weight: 2.20 oz./62.37 g.
Bowl Height: 1.95 in./49.53 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in./20.32 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.84 in./46.74 mm.

 

Thanks to Smokingpipes.com
for permission to reprint Chuck Stanion’s
“Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance”

Pictured at Top:
Probably from Hurley’s “Laying to” sequence, 14 January 1915.
Part 1 prints from the Library of Congress
Individual photos of the Great Explorers Collection by Chas. Mundungus

 

 

 

 

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103. The 2018 Christmas Pipe

The Christmas commemorative series began in 2009, marking this season’s as the 10th pipe, and it’s brilliantly understated, for all those who want a lovely entry-grade army mount that can pass under the seasonal radar while still evoking a Stille Nacht kind of  feeling with its dark ruby stain and copper ferrule.

Did I say copper? A first in Peterson history, this. But to be more precise, Conor Palmer wrote me that “They are not full copper bands but rather nickel bands that are copper-plated – Some say that copper can heat up very quickly so we wanted to avoid anyone burning their fingers. More obviously though, it’s next to impossible for us to shape copper as it’s a much stronger / tougher than silver or nickel.”

Anyone with a copper tea kettle will know that the charm of copper is its unique patina. You can see in the Smokingpipes and TobbacoPipes.com stock photos what the cap looks like polished up, but just give it a few weeks or months and it’ll turn. You can already see the incredible blues and greens in this 87apple:

A little over a year ago, Conor and I were talking about lost Peterson traditions and I mentioned how much Pete Geeks enthuse over the old nickel-marks, sometimes called “faux-marks” which are found on all nickel-mount Petes from 1896 until about 1963. He was excited to hear about them, and now for the first time in about 55 years, you can acquire a new Pete with these same marks:

I talk quite a bit about their history in the Peterson book, so I can’t say anything much about them here aside from the obvious—the shamrock, wolf hound and round tower are all important Irish symbols. It won’t take you many keystrokes on “the Google” (as my friend Clyde Logan calls it) to find out more. “The stamping on the Christmas is fantastic alright,” writes Conor, “and it’s good to be back using the traditional stamps.” Does this mean we’ll be seeing a return of the nickel marks to all Petes with nickel bands and ferrules? We can hope, right?

I like the copper hot foil P in the acrylic fish tail mouthpiece—that’s the first time the color has been used in Peterson stamping, I think. The pipes are laser-stamped, as has become the custom in this price range:

Also, be cognizant of the fact that at least two of the shapes (the 05 and the 87) have semi-flattened smooth bottoms. This is a practice Peterson has used in the past and it yields a slightly different profile.

The 2018 Pipe Collection PDF, seen below, lists a dozen shapes—somewhat of a tradition where Peterson lines are concerned, and in their first release at Smokingpipes the 87 and the 606 are MIA–maybe they got lost as they crossed the pond? For those last two days (er, pipes) of Christmas, go to TobaccoPipes.com:

I managed to snag the straight apple 87 (shown above) for review, but I haven’t sighted the 606 straight pot yet. Here’s one more non-glam photo, just to give you another non-commercial view:

Stock photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com
Thanks to Conor Palmer

 

 

 

 

TIN TALK #6:
A subversive message from CELF: *
Santa Smokes a Pipe

 

 

Next:
Lessons from A Patent-Era House Pipe

 

 

 

*The Christmas Elf Liberation Front

 

85. The New Trom Dubh Collection: A Heavy Metal Quartet

Along with other new lines and collections that will soon be available, Peterson has just announced a mid-grade set, the Trom Dubh (which in Irish means “chubby black”). Where to begin?

The first connection between the shapes, as the name indicates, is in the “chubby,” but it’s really a heavy, and by that I don’t mean grams or ounces. It’s a visual heavy, a roundness in the hand, a muscular, massive sense of proportion, like the basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway Peterson chose for the digital strut card pictured above.

Irish shapes have always been heavy-metal rebels when set against their English counterparts, analogous in the world of rock music to bands like Meshuggah, who not only play six and seven-string basses, but down-tune for a giant effect.

The heavy metal analogy works in the second part of the name as well—the dubh, a black-on-black, with just that touch of silver in the hot foil P on the mouthpiece. The retro P-Lip, now in acrylic, just makes them that much tougher.

Taken as a whole, the Trom Dubh collection represents a great juxtaposition of historic shapes and the new design aesthetic we’ve seen in the recent past. I’d probably nickname it the “P-Lip Fat Classics.”

As for the shapes:

THE B.C. is the oldest bowl shape of the quartet still in production, and is a favorite among estate collectors, where it is found as the 9BC, the BC designation indicating a tapered (B) short (C) stem. It originated in the 1896 catalog as shape 9, and most Kappnists* have at least one of these in their rotation in its various permutations—the XL90 Classic Range or 307 Standard or 9S DeLuxe System being the most commonly seen these days. The 9BC came to prominence in the US in the 1950s and seems to have been a special favorite of Rogers Imports Ltd., as most of them are found in the old Rogers Imports Shamrock line.

THE BULL is the gem of the collection, being the original John Bull or 999 shape, a bullmoose which was first cut in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was in production until the late 1970s, when it was phased out by what was originally called the 998, today’s 999, the little slipper rhodesian that is one of Peterson’s top sellers. Like the B.C., it’s an especial favorite among collectors, and given the popularity of the larger Savinelli 320 author shape (the difference between a bullmoose and an author being that bead around the crown), chances are it will be a solid hit for Peterson.

THE BALL is a shape that was introduced with several other now-classic shapes in the late 1970s as the 02 DeLuxe System, 302 System, or (as it is here) the slightly-larger XL02 in the Classic Range. With the tapered P-Lip, it is solid in the hand and has always looked to me like the “P” in the Peterson logo brought to life in a pipe. Part of the freshness of this shape is that it hasn’t been seen much in this configuration. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it as part of the Emerald line back several years ago, and in the Sterling Silver Italian-release.

THE BILLIARD is another shape introduced in the late 1970s (the 107) without much ado, but is a veritable billiard on steroids, and Peterson’s definitive statement on the subject. ‘Nuff said, as they used to say in the Marvel Bullpen.

If you’ve been watching, Peterson is slowly tooling over to acrylic P-Lips. The choice to use the P-Lip in the Trom Dubh collection is probably risky, given the smoking public’s lack of understanding of how these perform. But it certainly accentuates the “fat” character of the collection, and will deliver superior taste and less moisture over a fishtail mouthpiece every time.

I know I’ve caviled against acrylic stems in the past, but I’ve been smoking not only the 2018 POY, but a 312 acrylic P-Lip for a while now, and my reservations have mostly vanished. I don’t know whether the acrylic has gotten softer, the button a little thinner, or I’ve just gotten used to it, but I do like not having to stress over whether the stem is becoming oxidized.

The combination of gloss black bowl with anodized black aluminum band is the kind of move we’ve come to expect from the new wave of Peterson pipes. I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of band on a pipe from anyone else, and I’m anxious to see one in real life. I’m told the idea for the set came from Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the Sallynoggin artisans who hails from Northern Ireland.

It looks like there will also be some higher-grade sterling band sets, both in the Trom Dearg (red) finish and in the Trom Natural. I’d expect to see the Natural sets out of Italy first, but maybe a few from Smokingpipes.com as well. These feature the inlaid aluminum P in the mouthpiece.

I know everyone will be wanting THE BULL, and if past Peterson releases are any indication, we can probably expect this shape to appear solo before too long.

The presentation box will feature a black and white photo of the famous basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway. Collectors can expect to pay about $460 in the US. The sterling band Trom Dearg and the Trom Natural will go for about $600 and $800, respectively.

 

*Kappnist—one who studies or admires Kapp (& Peterson) pipes; a Pete Nute or “Pete Freek” with an eye for the history of the marque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lá na nAmadán
Happy April Fool’s Day!

Photo courtesy Charles Mundungus

 

84. A Visual History of the St. Patrick’s Day Pipes, 1998–2018.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! This marks the 20th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative pipes for Peterson, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by offering a visual history of the series.

 

History and Series Characteristics

Tom Palmer’s idea for an annual pipe took flight in 1997, when Peterson released its first Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year. The following year the company decided to add two annual commemoratives, a St. Patrick’s Day and a 4th of July. While the 4th of July pipe has long been gone, the SPD has given Kappnists (or Pete Nuts) many great pipes over the years, with none perhaps quite as marvelous as this year’s 20th anniversary 2018 and the original 1998.

The price-point of the series is at the solid entry-grade of the Classic Range, roughly equivalent to the Aran line in most years (with some exceptions). Another distinguishing feature of the series is that in many years a shape (or even two or three) from a special collection or high-grade series—think the Antique Collection for the former and the Sherlock Holmes for the latter—is often featured. Every Peterson high-grade issue has bowls that aren’t of sufficient quality to make the cut but must be used, and often these feature some fantastic grain. For most of the more recent years, the series has offered 12 shapes.

 

We know the series began in 1998 because Brad Weinfeld of SAG Imports was working for Hollco-Rohr, Peterson’s US distributor at the time, and during the course of our research on the Peterson book he took the trouble to send us the final sales catalog of that company, dated July 15, 1998. If you click on the image, you can see the SPD and 4th of July annual commemoratives described as “NEW,” as well as their wholesale and retail prices.

 

1998

The series began auspiciously enough, with a brass and acrylic sandwich band of the Irish colors and P-Lip. For this and most of the years, I don’t know which shapes were released, although they were for the most part taken from Classic Range shapes.

Two of the three images of purported 1998 SPDs I have show a light, matt finish. Seen above is the unique bent shape from the 1997 Racing Green / Claret limited editions. I can’t give you the shape number, because there wasn’t one stamped on the only Racing Green I have handled.

I also have a photo of a 107 SPD, probably with its original box and sleeve, with a stain that matches the RG:

As you can see from the two representatives, the 1998 SPD was released with a P-Lip. The mouthpieces featured the white impressed P standard at the time.

 

1999

Dustin Anderson and I both have XL20 SPDs (seen above) with a dark gloss finish and the tricolor acrylic and brass band. We both have assumed (at least until now) that these were first-issue SPDs for 1998. However, I have been able to find no trace of a documented SPD for 1999, nor indeed any pictures at all for this year. I’ve asked Peterson and searched all the usual places but come up empty-handed.

I have two hypotheses: perhaps the dark-stain XL20 Dustin and I companion are actually a 1999, rather than 1998 issue. This would explain the disparity of stain between this pipe and the two examples of the 1998 seen above, and also accommodate my theory that most years of the SPD feature a single trickle-down special shape. Why would the dark XL20 and the light Racing Green special shapes be released the same year? What counters this idea is the long-standing belief circulated by Pete Nuts that only the 1998 featured the acrylic tricolor band.

A second possibility is that there simply was no SPD for 1999, but that also seems rather unlikely given the series otherwise uninterrupted history.

 

2000

The Rare A3 from the Original Antique Collection

In 2000, the SPD series settled into its most familiar guise: some variant of brown-hued smooth bowl and a nickel band with Peterson’s over a shamrock over March 17 and the year. The 2000 SPDs also featured the beloved P-Lip vulcanite mouthpiece. Shown here is what must have been the collector’s piece, the A3 shape from the first Antique Reproduction series.

A Typical SPD Stamped Nickel Band

 

2001

Dustin’s 2001 SPD 408

In 2001, the SPD lost its P-Lip, never to return. Peterson seems to have changed directions at about this time, giving in to market pressure on the one hand and (perhaps) a lack of interest in promoting the P-Lip on the other. I say this based on my own hunches from research during the course of the book, and while a company must remain viable to survive in the marketplace, from a historical point of view at least, it was unfortunate.

An XL20 from the 2001 SPD

The collector’s piece for 2001 (again I hypothesize based on the assumption that there would be only one special shape for the year) was again the Return of Sherlock Holmes Rathbone.

 

2002

I would guess that the fabulous B7, pictured here, was 2002’s collector’s shape.

 

2003

An SPD 2003 X220

 

2004

An SPD 2004 X105

 

2005

An SPD 2005 03

 

 

2006

An SPD 2006 68

An unusual entry for the series from the Classic Range, the 68 brandy—this is a real handful of a pipe, absolutely magnificent to hold. More on the shape soon!

 

2007

The classy, English-style 80s bent bulldog: perfect for your favorite Latakia bomb!

 

The B10 appeared around 2002–2003 and may have been the collector’s piece for 2007.

 

 

2008

An SPD 2008 01

2008 was the first year of Peterson’s green SPD releases. I’ve included two illustrations to give you some idea of what you can expect. Craftsmen at the factory have told me they had a hell of a time in the beginning figuring out how to do a really good green.

An SPD 2008 05

 

 

2009

Here’s the undoubted collector’s piece from 2009: the oversized 502, from the short-lived 500 shape group. See what I mean about the spectacular grain sometimes found in the SPDs? Simply amazing.

 

2010

Here’s a bulldog, Irish-style! The now deleted B2, for all fans of heavy (in looks, not weight). This might well have been the collector’s shape for 2010. . .

 

. . . except that there’s also a fabulous B30! Maybe the exception proves the rule?

 

2011

The collector’s piece for 2011: a B40. . .

 

. . . or was it this D9 from the deleted D (Danish) shapes?

 

2012

The mighty 107 makes another appearance in the SPD series.

 

2013

As you can see from the 2013 electronic strut card, there were actually three special shapes released in the 2013 SPD (the B35, B58 and B60), one of the most remarkable in the series’ 20-year history, not merely in the shape selection, but also in the smoky-matt finish.

The amazing B58, the “rocking setter” from the Iceberg Collection, was widely admired among Kappnists at the time.

 

I don’t know when Peterson began putting sleeves on the SPD series, but this is the earliest I’ve sourced, from 2013.

 

2014

You can read all about the 2014 SPDs here.

 

2015

The second SPD green release came in 2015.

The 2015 box curiously omits the year of release!

 

 

2016

The D19 (formerly LT or Large Tank) from the Mark Twain Collection was the collector’s shape for 2016.

The 2016 SPD on display at the 2015 IPCPR Show. Ten shapes? Surely not.

Flattened sleeve for the 2016 SPD

 

 

2017

Electronic Strut Card for the 2017 SPD

The B56, originally the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sylvius, was the prize catch for 2017, signaling (in this case) the impending deletion of the Adventures of SH from the catalog.

 

2018

At the IPCPR show last summer, Tom Palmer said the 2018 SPD was intended to represent the Irish flag—the green (bowl), sterling band (white) and orange (mouthpiece). What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the pipe? It’s certainly the highest-end since the first issue.

An SPD 2018 X220

 

 

Paddy Larrigan’s 304 barrel-setter, ready for St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Sláinte!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Photos Courtesy
Smokingpipes.com
Peterson of Dublin
Dustin Anderson
Charles Mundungus